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Another year, another humongous list of MMOs to sift through. Right on the heels of Blizzard’s own Diablo III, worldwide Korean MMO TERA is on a mission: to tear you away from whatever MMO you’re playing now, and earn the right to collect your subscription fee at the end of every month.

At first glance, TERA‘s main selling points are beautiful landscapes, controller support, and action oriented gameplay that forces you to manually aim your attacks, as well as block and dodge enemy assaults. But how well does it work? Is action-adventure gameplay viable for an open world MMO?

As previously mentioned, without hesitation, the biggest draw of TERA is easily the combat system. While other dungeon crawler titles such as Phantasy Star, Vindictus have adapted a less traditional method of combat, those games are heavily instanced: full action combat isn’t exactly a stand-out mechanic in open world MMOs. Immediately when you boot up the game, you have the option to utilize native 360 and PS3 controller support, as well as your typical mouse and keyboard MMO staple.

Imagine conflict in your favorite action RPG, from Amalur to Dark Souls — that’s basically how combat works in Tera. Although it isn’t as nuanced or twitch as those few titles, it does get fairly deep the more you level up, as you gain a number of different skills that both complement, and literally chain off one another. On the screen is a small reticle, which allows you to aim all of your attacks despite what direction the camera is facing.

I ended up choosing the Warrior class, and using a 360 controller: to my surprise, the experience translates perfectly, as it felt like I was playing a typical console action title.  It also helps that my class lends itself incredibly to a controller, given that it isn’t your prototypical manifesation of “MMO Warrior”. TERA‘s Warrior is actually more akin to a rogue, opting for quick movements and attacks — the Lancer, Slayer, and Berserker classes are more slow and deliberate in terms of melee interaction.

By pressing the back button, I was able to map pretty much everything I wanted to every button on the controller. My setup uses LT to initiate conversations/pick up items, “A” to jump,  “LB and RB” to change my list of skills, “X, Y,” are mapped to attacks, and “B” initiates an awesome Spider Man-like evasion flip.When I hold LB, RB, or LB+RB, I can switch to different pages of skills, and use those by pressing A, B, X, Y, or LT/RT with the aforementioned bumpers held down.

Using a 360 controller is great for leveling, but will it be viable long term? While I can’t imagine using a controller at end-game for serious raiding, TERA does make concessions to potentially make the tactic feasible. For instance, it is possible to deliberate choose certain attacks and combo them into other attacks, meaning you don’t have to list every single skill on your controller map. Not only does this help for end-game controller fans, but it’s also a really fun way to help more casual fans not get overwhelmed by a large amount of skills.

TERA also makes a number of concessions for people who don’t normally play MMOs. For instance, you get your first mount for free once you reach level 11 — no questions asked. Typically in MMOs, you have to wait until at least some point in mid-game (around 20 or later) to have the right to pay a ton of in-game gold for a means of travel — thankfully TERA lets you start chugging along fairly easily. Flight paths (nodes which are used to easily travel across the game’s world) are also significantly shorter than most MMOs, as they have a Star Wars “warp speed” type clip that expedites travel across long distances.

Keep in mind though, that at it’s core, TERA is very much a traditional MMO. It has the holy trinity of classes, people can steal your quest items and kills, and quests progress fairly similarly in regards to 90% of the MMOs on the market, in that they consist largely of a number of fetch/kill quests. Thankfully, TERA manages to stay engaging because of the combat system: a testament I’ve seen many players also reiterate through in-game chat. Because you are consistently involved in combat, it never quite feels like a grind — group bosses are also much more exciting given the fact that you basically have to constantly move around.

While I haven’t embarked in my first instance/dungeon (the first one is level 20), there is (thankfully) a dungeon finder tool readily available in the game (take notes, TOR!). As far as group composition goes, things are fairly traditional in terms of the “holy trinity” (tank, healer, DPS). Lancers are generally agreed upon as the “main tanks”, but Warriors can evasion tank as well, provided they’re skilled. Mystics and Priests are on heal-duty, and everything else is DPS. As a Warrior, I’m looking forward to trying my hand at tanking, but for now, I’ll keep leveling and reporting my thoughts.

All in all, TERA can be a great distraction from whatever MMO you’re playing now, whether it’s TOR, Rift, LOTRO, Aion, WoW, DCUO, or anything else. Provided you have open mind towards the decidedly anime aesthetic, TERA‘s combat system alone might be worth the price of entry.

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