The landscape for massively multi-player games (MMOs) contained some new additions in 2012, but only a few of those were high-profile titles. TERA, from En Masse Entertainment, is essentially an Asian-designed game with some changes to reflect the tastes of the North American audience.
While the character and world design sports some unique elements, what makes the game stand out is the combat. For long-time MMO players who remember Asheron’s Call 2 and players’ ability to dodge incoming attacks, that element has returned in TERA. Of course, having such a combat system suffers if there is any lag between the player’s computer and the servers. On several occasions, the game seemed to stutter and combat went from totally owning the non-player character (NPC) enemy to a scramble-to-keep-alive moment.
On the downside, TERA uses character models that fit the Asian theme—the men can look a bit effeminate, or are big and bulky. The female classes wear armor that offers only slightly more coverage than a skimpy bikini and stand provocatively in a manner suggesting they are more wanton than warriors. There are also non-human races that run from amusing child-like characters to bulky and gruff.
The classes have a few variations that make for an enjoyable experience but, more or less, stick to the basic formula of melee, ranged and healers.
The environments of TERA can seem daunting at first, especially the cities, due to perceived size. Monsters are plentiful and can attack in waves (some quests actually have players fending off waves of enemies to accomplish the task at hand), and there are some bosses that can be very tough fights. Having a ranged class, though, is a very good thing simply because you can kite tougher mobs – as long as you don’t aggro anything nearby to add to the problem.
Crafting is tedious and, while drops are plentiful, and resources abound, this can become less inviting than simply questing for drops and rewards.
Is TERA a bad game? Not at all. In fact, in small doses it can be enjoyable. Get caught up crafting or harvesting and the fun can evaporate, but there is that initial newness that is both inviting and entertaining.
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Other new titles of note in 2012 include Star Wars: The Old Republic, The Secret World and Guild Wars 2. Those three titles were designed with the Western MMO market in mind and, in the case of the first two, have had a few ups and downs. SWTOR was actually released in December of 2011, but it is mentioned here because, come November, according to a press release from EA, the game will be going free to play.
Funcom’s The Secret World has already started handing out free previews for the game (and the critics have not been overly enthusiastic about the game), and Guild Wars 2 offers some new elements to the franchise that may not have been the first to offer the free-to-play subscription model, but certainly took advantage of it.
And don’t forget that Blizzard has just released its next expansion, featuring a panda race, called Mists of Pandaria. The only problem with this is that the game is still using the same antiquated graphics engine and, while the television commercials look great, they are not even close to the actual gameplay graphical elements.
Looking forward, in terms of games slated for the remainder of the year, Firefall is one of those “TBD” games (no fixed release date), using the talents of sci-fi writer Orson Scott Card and development team members that were part of the World of Warcraft team at Blizzard.
Perhaps the most notable of the 2013 release is The Elder Scrolls Online. This has MMO fans salivating, but Bethesda Softworks has yet to announce a release date or even when beta testing might begin. And, of course, there are a host of Korean-based imports on the horizon. Warhammer 40,000 was originally slated as an MMO release, but THQ has changed that and the game will now be a single-player title.