TERA: The Exiled Realm of Aborea Preview

Originally Posted on September 30th, 2009: Link.

Hoping to prove that sucker punch of a story that some of the best games might be the ones that no one really notices at first, TERA Online is an upcomng pay-to-play MMORPG from developer Bluehole Studio, whose credentials include having a CEO that led the team behind Lineage II and its numerous expansion packs over at NCSoft. It appears that Yong-Hyun Park has taken those experiences that he had (along with the Game Designer, Art Director, and Senior Programmer for L2), and ventured out onto bigger and better things with a much more ambitious project than they may have ever worked on, and one I have been keeping a close eye on for the few couple of years since it was publically revealed.

TERA is one of those games that are attempting to completely reinvent the way you think an online RPG can be played. Take all of the typical conventions we look for in this genre and throw them all out the window. No more sitting around while an invisible computer rolls the dice to see who strikes first, or taking a break to eat a sandwich while your character slices away. No, this is a game that demands your utmost attention and full involvement. For example, combat introduces omni-directional attacks that factors in coordinating distance and direction in order for weapons and spells to even work — basicaly, there is no targeting system in this game.

This also takes into account that you must always be adjusting your position in order to be effective, whether that be healers finding a better spot or tanks setting up shield barricades to defend their party from an onslaught. With the inclusion of a non-targting system and the fact that players will have to actually strategize in order to keep your party alive, this may help to eliminate the ridiculous problem of bots completely ruining the experience and stealing all the important loot.

When starting a game, players will have six different races to choose from when creating their character: The Aman (half beasts), Castanics (the sex appeal), Baraka (lizards), High Elves, Humans and Popori (bears). With each race comes eight different (seemingly generic) classes to choose from: Lancer, Warrior, Sorcerer, Berserker, Slayer, Archer, Elementalist and Priest — pretty standard fare for an MMO, although that is what we have come to expect, and the options available are intruging enough to perhaps look over that detail.

And although there isn’t a lot when it comes to actual character customization and brand new character classes, the design of the weapons, armor, and even the races themselves are so intriguing that you’ll be spending less time looking at the physical attributes of the characters (though they do focus on the sex appeal quite a bit) and more on what they are outfitting. Although being able to control a dial for each and every single part of the human body from eyes to nose to frame to hair color is nice, after a few levels in the game, I am sure everyone forgets what they look like anyway, so we don’t particularly find this to be a hindrance. The environment is what’s most important anyway.

One of the more interesting things about TERA Online is how it utilizes the Unreal 3 engine in a way that hasn’t been done before. Not only are we talking about amazing graphics and realistic physics that help strengthen the gameplay, but it gives the game a style that is all its own. Taking a look through the different screenshots and videos that have already been released, you can already get a feel for how clean, sharp and vibrant the environment certainly is, with a wide breadth of enemies you will be able to slaughter in your wake. The terrain is far and beyond the biggest factor for TERA — players will be able to feel the weight behind every attack they throw, every hit that they take (even falling over in some cases if your weight ratio differs from the enemy’s), and every magic spell that destroys a part of the environment.

There are even times where players will have to scale walls and traverse around pitfalls in order to reach their destination. This brings a new dimension to the gameplay that we are personally far more interested about, because it seems even the biggest games today have a hard time getting out of their comfort zone, and it is these small (in a sense of the word) changes that can really alter our perception of the genre, and maybe even attract a more active player base.

Speaking of vibrancy, the cities that players will run around in are certainly gigantic in scope, with towering buildings dominating the landscape and plenty of square mileage to roam around in. And best of all, with the power on Unreal 3, Bluehole is looking to scrap the whole idea of “zoning” forever with their innovative streaming landscape. All users will seamlessly move throughout the world, sharing the combat experience together. This means not having any breaks inbetween the action, making the environment that much larger in scope. They are also looking at ways to support a much larger amount of players, with their goal to have over 10,000 users per server. One must wonder how they hope to accomplish this when many of us have to go through the pain of latency issues with a much smaller amount around us, especially with a game that focuses so much on visual flair.

With a ridiculously crowded market right now and even in the future with games like Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic, Bluehole Studio and its magnum opus TERA have a lot of hard work in front of them if they hope to garner some of the masses in order to make a successful debut as a company, but from what we have seen so far, this is a game that really does have a strong appeal going for it, and with the help of an eye-catching artistic design and completely unique combat and terrain system, TERA might have what it takes to survive in this dog-eat-dog genre. One must ask, though, whether they will be able to succeed with these big changes where so many others have failed badly.

Take a look at the  trailer below showing off more of the story, and make sure to keep a close watch on this exciting new game as it nears closer to its Fall 2010 expected release date.

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