E3 2011: TERA Impressions
I had the good pleasure of once again returning to E3 and playing TERA, something I was looking forward to after the very positive experience I had last year. The upcoming MMORPG from Bluehole Studio and En Masse Entertainment is looking better than ever, with a lot of new and interesting implementations that should excite both hardcore fans and newcomers alike. Unlike last year where we got to try out a typical battle with a boss character, this year the focus was more on the new gameplay features and most interesting of all, the unique political system that readers should pay close attention to.
For those that forget everything about TERA, this game features action-based combat that takes place in real-time. That means you don't have to rely on a roll of the die or a traditional rock-paper-scissors approach when approaching battles. Instead, you must rely on talent and skill in order to dispatch the widely varied creatures that roam the lands. Sure, you won't be able to flip on auto attack and go off to eat a sandwich or something, but at least we have a game that does a terrific job in engaging a player's full attention.
After we were brought in to the booth and myself and two others took up spots on a row of stools facing a giant screen, the producers quickly got to the meat and potatoes of the presentation for that day: the groundbreaking political system, which is taking great strides in becoming a true defining experience for players in the game.
This feature gives players a means to raise up in power within the game world and become what is essentially a dictator, which can be accomplished in one of two ways: a more noble method, which includes garnering votes from around the community for the good deeds you do as a player; or through a more brutal method, which would require you to head into the PVP arena and rising to the top of the ranks there - the stark contrast between these two directions is obviously intentional.
The producers also mentioned a few ways in which they will be helping players get the votes they need, such as creating a group on the forum, through Youtube videos, using the strong influence of guilds, and even being able to make your own electoral website from a template. Once players do become what is called a Vanarch, they will obtain unique equipment such as a special mount only they will use.
After one does Rise to Power in the first stage, the second stage is the Reign of Power. After having your name literally plastered on to the territory itself (which players can view when they enter that particular region), Vanarchs can do everything from changing taxes, open NPC shops, create their own custom-made events, and much more. During a player's reign, they will gain or lose Policy Points (think of it like some sort of regal currency that requires some decision-based forethought) based on what they do. The term of a Vanarch lasts 21 Earth days, with the ability to start an election campaign when the 14th day rolls around, ensuring that no two elections are every the same.
If you plan on being a successful Vanarch with a long-standing reign, do not plan on becoming some sort of brutal dictator or the voters will fight back - this is a democracy, after all. However, if that doesn't sound entertaining to you, one way to gain Policy Points anyway is to head out into the world and complete challenging Vanarch Quests.
This is where our group took up our stations in the room in order to take on a giant, fierce dragon called Sabranak that had been terrorizing the town. The combat was as fast and fluid as it had ever been, and I had a great time playing as the Archer class (something I had a lot of experience playing as in Final Fantasy XI). One of the new features the game includes is the ability to have to your own custom-made combos using skills and spells that can be triggered by using the spacebar when a pop-up appears. The HUD looks a lot cleaner as well; for example, instead of having a health and mana bar that fills the screen, it is now thankfully regulated to its own corner.
Fighting Sabranak was another demonstration in how a good strategy is very important in order to succeed in this game. While certain classes will be taking up their predetermined locations on the field, the fact that this particular boss loved to shoot out a massive pillar of firebreath or divebomb the shit out of us had left us scrambling left and right for the extent of the battle. There haven't been too many games out there that have left my heart racing and my mind reeling from the excitement. Make one false move and half your party will be wiped out as ours were (I was one of three left standing at the end of it all).
TERA is making all the right moves in becoming one of the landmark entries into the MMORPG genre with its expansive world, amazing character and monster designs, and its avant-garde political system sure to offer a highly immersive experience for players not seen in a long time. In what appears to be the best attempt yet by developers to bring back players both old and new to the idea of online subscription-based gaming, we should hopefully be seeing an open beta for TERA kick off in American and Europe later this year. In the meantime, you can check out our expansive Media Vault update, as well as the latest trailer you can watch below!