TERA: Console (PS4) Review
I love a good Action-MMO, but for some reason, I never really found the time to sit down with TERA, outside of work. I did not think it was bad, I simply did not have the time. Something really felt off though, not just with TERA, but with most Action-MMOs: They need a controller. If I’m going to play an action game, using a controller makes me feel at home, even if it does seriously limit the ability to communicate with other players. That’s why we have USB keyboards though. I have been playing the TERA beta on and off since the closed beta first released, and it’s been interesting to watch it shape and grow. This version of TERA is at present an offshoot of the V50 update. Ideally, En Masse would like to catch the console version up to the PC version, or at least get as close as possible. En Masse is not planning on discussing the update schedule for console until after launch, but I’m reaching out to find just how different the console release is compared to the PC. We’re here to look at TERA’s console update on its own merits.
One of the most important things to be aware of in any f2p game, is to ask “What’s the catch”? This is a free game, so what’s the monetization practice? Is it pay-to-win? Or merely pay-to-go-faster? My early access did come with 1000 EMP (their RL currency), so I went to take a look at the shop to see exactly what that could get me. You can buy cosmetics, mounts, weapon skins, Elite Status, EXP Boosters, Strongboxes, Keys, or more bank slots. This doesn’t make you better or improve the quality of your crafting. This is an Action-RPG, and if you can’t aim your abilities and avoid stuff on the ground, you’re still going to be bad. At least, that’s what you’d expect.
There’s also the optional “Elite Status”, a subscription service with benefits. It comes with double XP, free teleporting, more broker slots, boosts to quester’s gold, gold hunter, reputation, crafting speed, and more. I can live with passive exp/gold/reputation increases, because that stuff is honestly a pain, especially if you’re leveling alts. These I would simply lable as “pay to go faster.” The major issue comes from the “Everful Nostrum”, a buff potion you gain from this subscription, that has a cooldown of 5 seconds and lasts for a half hour. It significantly increases your stats, lowers your overall cooldowns, increases the crit of damage dealers/tanks, and the attack speed of healers. That means I can refresh it before every fight if I wanted. If this were something that could be done once a day, I’d have no real gripes. But you can use it all day if you want, and it gives a very sharp edge to players who spend the money for it.
TERA is a very user-friendly experience on the console. All races and classes, except Reapers, start off in the same area and do the same tutorial quests that will teach you how to fight, move, use your inventory, and explore. This means I’ve done the tutorial area about six times and I hope to never hear that little girl’s plaintive wail again. Much of your tutorial will be spent with a little girl. Fixing her stuffed animal, protecting her, finding her friends, murdering the wildlife while she romps around. Standard fantasy stuff. The button layout for the controller is quite simple, having your basic attacks on the right buttons (R1/R2), L1 accessing your secondary buttons (L1+R1, L1+Triangle, much like you might do in another console MMO), and L2 is your guard/counterattack ability. You can place abilities where you’d like, but there are defaults for most of the powers you will acquire. You spend silver/gold to buy your skills as you level (done in the skills menu), but a more important part of this menu is the “Chained Skills” tab.
There are certain skills that, when activated, will prompt you on-screen to hit that button again for a secondary combo skill. This menu will show you every single Chained Skill-set that you have at your disposal (and if they aren’t accessible yet, what level they will be). A good example is my reaper, that has this as their first chain skill: Double Shear -> Grim Strike -> Grim Strike or Sundering Strike -> Sundering Strike. Hitting that button, again and again, will lead you through these attacks in the same vein as an auto-combo in a fighting game. Attacks will have cooldowns, and you should definitely be wary of spamming attacks, because most every enemy has at least one cone/aoe attack that you can get stuck in, perhaps because your Berserker’s slow swing leaves you vulnerable and there’s no time to roll out of the way (because that dodge has a cooldown). Thankfully, you can interrupt most attacks to block and reduce damage. Some classes have a counter-attack instead, and those will not interrupt your attack animations (at least not on the Reaper. You have to just be aware of what you’re doing). Combat felt smooth and fluid even on a controller, and whether I was questing, riding around, or running through a dungeon, it always felt comfortable. I appreciate being able to mount in dungeons too because those areas (like every other area in the game) are absolutely massive.
This is a great way to breeze through quest mobs, but I’d be careful when actually fighting bosses. Standing in their zones of damage is punishing and dangerous. On the topic of skills, unlike some more modern MMOs, a few classes are restricted to a particular gender or race. Only Elin can be Reapers (and only after hitting level 40), only Female Humans can be Brawlers (changed to include Males on PC), but otherwise, everything else is unrestricted. Valkyries on PC are Castanic Females only and I imagine that will also carry over to the console release. That is a nitpick to some players who simply refuse to play a female or male character, but it doesn’t matter to me. Those little Elin are creepy though. In TERA, you play a member of the Valkyon Federation, led by a skilled soldier named Elleon. Mysterious powers lurk on the Isle of Dawn and there’s a race to claim the secrets and power that lie in wait. A battle for the land has begun, as Humans, High elves, Amani, Castanics, Baraki, and Popori have banded together to stop a horrific menace from the Underworld: the Argon.
They’re a metallic race and will do anything to destroy Arun and Shara (the two continents that make up this world, which is on the backs of sleeping titans/celestials). This is a war, and there are casualties. Visually speaking, TERA is a lovely game. The characters are well-defined, each race certainly stands apart from the others, allowing you to play something that suits you, but it does suffer from “female armor syndrome”. A breastplate for a Castanic Female is barely more than a bikini, and it makes absolutely no sense. Sure, it’s fantasy, and a lot of people enjoy fanservice, but if that sort of thing bothers you, it will be apparent in both NPC and PCs. You have the tall, sexy, demonic Castanics; the Baraka who are kin to the giants; the very humanoid humans; Elves; the cute Dog-Panda Popori; and finally, the Elin: Never-aging diminutive girls, basically anime Loli girls.
The game itself is straightforward, with the main story and a host of sidequests. The primary downside is that there is no real indicator that an NPC has a quest. I did not find most of the side-quests unless I happened to be talking to an NPC who had a main quest, or the main quest led me to them. In addition to those types of quests, players also have Vanguard Requests. These are dailies that can be done for rewards (which also have extra daily/weekly bonuses for even more rewards), and they will automatically begin when you start a zone and kill the requisite monsters (usually whatever quest you’re already on). They’re great ways to get exp and items, but even if you’ve already completed your cap for the day, they still appear in your quest log, forcing you to hide/remove them if you want to move on and not see them anymore. This led me to discover the importance of Relics/Avatar weapons.
Areas in the game have certain relics bound to them (highlighted on the ground by a red glowing light) and when you have enough of a particular relic, you can put together a powerful weapon to equip. These are as good, if not better than standard quest rewards/dungeon drops and can be enchanted/equipped with gems (much like your armor/some jewelry slots can), making them very desirable. The drop rate is not always good, so players will find themselves farming them and doing these Vanguard Requests over and over. I wound up being very over-leveled, but it did not take away from my enjoyment of the story. At least when I hit the required level to move on to a new zone, it would show up in my quest log on the right side of the screen, indicating I can leave for more challenging prey.
Whether I was farming monsters for relics, or gathering resources for crafting, I will say that respawn timers were very generous. In fact, most times I did not even have to walk away from an item I was trying to gain for a quest (chests, sacks, piles of dirt) because it would just respawn a few moments later. It was very easy to quest and level, and though I might spend longer than I wanted in an area to complete a relic, the menu will tell me other areas I can go to for the same item. I was just stubborn and wanted to take care of them right away, lest I get distracted and forget about them. Queueing for dungeons was pretty simple, and though I would not always have the quests for them, they were still worth going into for equipment and exp. Most of the quests for a dungeon are outside of the Teleportal for that dungeon, and if you are not questing in that area, you may miss them. The dungeon wait times were not especially long, and though typing using the in-game chat is tedious at best, I had no problems completing any of the dungeons that I entered.
Dog-Boys, Lolis, and Demons, Oh My! 3.5/5:
I honestly enjoyed my time with TERA. It’s a fun action MMORPG, and one I intend to keep leveling in. I ended my playtime with a level 40 Berserker and a level 61 Reaper since I could not play a Valkyrie. The visuals and sounds are lovely, the challenge is certainly there, and playing on a controller felt far better than playing on a keyboard and mouse. It’s still very much a skill-based game since you can miss many of your attacks if you just spam buttons. Enemies don’t just stand in place and do nothing, they move and fight you, or you might go sailing overhead because you weren’t paying attention.
But let’s look back at that Everful Nostrum again. Sure, you can get the “Major Battle Solution” (an equivalent potion) via in-game methods, but the difference is those Battle Solution potions run out. The Everful Nostrum can be re-activated and placed on your hotbars to use every single half-minute if you wanted. Of course, you don’t need to subscribe, and you don’t need the Everful Nostrum: That’s a common argument for defenders of the buff. But it is still there, and subscribing does give you a significant advantage in terms of leveling speed and having a buff that never runs out. I hesitate to call it a pay-to-win advantage, but it definitely makes life a lot easier if you have access to it.
The Everful Nostrum will give that player a clear, defined advantage in End-game raiding by not having to spend gold or time on Battle Solutions, not to mention PVP. A player who has subscribed will always have stat boosts that make them stronger in PVP, whether they are on a PVP server or simply entering the battleground instances. The only other serious flaw or issue I had was anytime I entered a major town, the framerate would plummet and lag would intensify. I had a very difficult time navigating the Isle of Dawn’s city, though thankfully I did not have to go all that often. TERA is an enjoyable game with a fast-paced action, and I could have overlooked the Elite Status/Subscription, if not for the Everful Nostrum. If you can overlook that, there’s a lot of fun to be had in the world of TERA.
Note: Early access and a founder’s pack were provided for this review. Elite Status was purchased independently.
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