So I've spent a majority of the last few days with early beta access to TERA thanks to my friend. I was interested in how it was going to be a true action MMO. The good part is that it is by far the most like an Action MMO like any of the other games that claim they are (*cough* Blade and Soul *cough*). I find that TERA's grind is actually more fun than most other games with grind. That is probably due to the fact that it is actually a good Action MMO. Due to my lack of interest in PvP, I will not bother to talk much about it other than what I hear about the PvP servers.
Surprisingly, there is an overall story here, but it plays out in cut scenes. I am not going to comment on them because I found it boring and gave up after sitting through a few of them. Some people might like it because it expands on the history of their world and some of the ongoing events, but I find it rather boring.
The graphics are fairly nice. Unfortunately, my computer cannot handle the game on the highest settings so I cannot tell how great they actually are. For me, the characters still have some jagged models. Sadly, you can only modify your character's head in terms of appearance and the rest is based on equipment that you obtain. Ironically, the monster models seem to be much higher quality than the player characters are. The main problem is that when there are too many things on the screen, not everything loads. I highly recommend you make sure that you enable all names so you can see the location of everything by name at least. The skills in the game are actually very nice looking from the beginning. My only serious complaint is the limitations of the resolution choices. The text is extremely small for me and it hurts my eyes to read it.
One of the things that annoy me is all the stuff that auto plays when you start the game. Unlike other MMOs, you basically have to skip like 4 to 5 logos including the opening cutscene before you even get to the main menu. The game has a rather simple character creation system. One thing that annoys me to no end is if you fail to create a character, you are brought back to the character select menu and you have to start over. Characters are tied to the servers that they are created on. You only get to modify your character's head. The rest of their attributes are determined by their race. The races available are Human, Castanics (Demi-Humans), Aman (some greyish buff people), Popori (reminds me of chubby Ewoks), Elin (petite bunny girls), Baraka (giant monk like people), and High Elf (normal elves). The classes available are Warrior, Lancer (tank), Slayer (similar to thieves), Berserker (rage based warriors), Sorcerer (mage), Archer (ranged), Priest (healer), and Mystic (support buff). The general idea is that melee characters are harder to play than ranged ones. Most ranged characters are able to run and get away from monsters and get hit very little.
The game plays very much like an action RPG where you can avoid attacks. The problem is that you can't always tell what the range of an enemy is. It feels more arbitrary with bosses being able to hit things that are several meters away from their reach. It is best to just stand clear and run back when it looks like they are trying to do something big. You move around with WASD and you can set skills to various hot keys. It is possible to use a controller, but I believe only the PS3 and Xbox 360 controllers are supported at the moment. The game's tutorial is rather pointless. It just gives you a preview of a few of your character's skills. The rest are tool tips, but some of them go by too fast for you to read due to poor timing. It ends with a consecutive boss battle where the second one kills you horribly. I feel that the tutorial lasts too long and it would have been better to just throw you directly into the game with the tutorial there.
There are numerous types of quests in the game. There are story quests, side quests, wanted board (hunt specific things) quests, quests to gain bonus craft experience, quests for people who reach special statuses (such as PvP or elected official, i forget the actual name of it). The special quests reward a huge amount of experience and gold. The only downside is that many quests only give you a random item box for item reward. A majority of these quests become redundant once you reach the level cap though since experience is the greatest motivator for them. One quest to kill a special monster can often be equivalent to killing 100 or more monsters at your level.
Much of the early game is plain and boring. You just walk from point A to point B and complete quests. You only have 2 skills and 1 of them will most likely be you using it as a default attack and just holding down your left mouse button until the thing dies. It starts to get better once you get to level 10 or so and have access to more skills to use.The maps are quite large, but NPCs are few in between. As you level up, you will be able to spend more time grinding and farming rather than completing numerous quests. Currently, there are not enough monsters to go around and you will often find yourself competing for quest monsters due to their limited number. Once you move on in the game, it is not as much of a problem due to fewer players. However, some quests such as the early bomb tutorial mission can be annoying since you have limited numbers of items to complete a set objective and you could end up missing with your bombs and having to start over.
The two main aspects of the game seems to be Instances (PvE servers) and PvP (PvP servers). Instances all come with a cooldown timer so you cannot spam them. Completing instances gives you a chance at some excellent loot and great exp. It is just the same as any other game where you go down a fixed path killing everything until you come to a boss. The bosses usually boil down to 1 person acting as bait while everyone else beats the hell out of it. When the boss switches targets, the new target becomes the bait while everyone else continues to bombard it. You usually have to keep this up for a while cause bosses rely on their high HP and high attack to be a challenge. More often than not, a boss at your level can probably kill you in 1 hit with a skill unless you are a melee class with decent armor. You can do most dungeons in the game with even a two man team if you are skilled enough and only a few of the toughest actually require a five man team. The game tries to reward you for grouping by providing exp bonus incentives and buffs. There's also something called the Nexus which is supposed to be a big raid, but you have to be very high level to do that and I have not gotten that far yet.
Crafting is a big part of the game. It is one of the ways to get high end equipment if you are unable to defeat the strong enemies of the game. You have to grind your craft skills by repeatedly crafting or doing specific quests. You will most likely be stuck just grinding your craft skills through use though. You need to have an item recipe and the materials in order to craft. Items are divided into "tiers" that determine their overall strength. Several levels worth of equipment are in the same tier and there is a huge difference in stats between tiers.
The PvP servers have a few special PvP options. I think you can only duel on the normal servers. You can engage in PK once you reach a certain level. It is possible to organize team based death match fights. There are also some Guild vs Guild matches available, but no idea what those are like.
Guilds are a big part of TERA because it allows a guild leader to become the administrator of a region through an election system in game. It also allows them to engage in Guild based PvPs. Having a decent Guild also lets you organize instance dungeon runs a lot more easily, especially if you are in a large guild. Some quests are also only available to people in guilds.
The beginning of TERA is boring. While the tutorial tries to make things interesting to drag you into the game, it feels rather long and boring. The boss battle at the end of it feels more redundant than epic. You only spam your basic attack until you get to level 4 or so and learn your 2nd skill. You lack real variety until you start getting to 11 or 12. Bosses rely on high HP and high attack for any sense of difficulty relying on the equivalent of 1 hit kills. Group play is heavily encouraged and often very rewarding due to the exp bonuses and rewards from completing instances. The story failed to capture my interest though because it feels more like a brief overview of the world as a whole rather than a story of what is going on at the moment. The text is also very small on my screen for some reason and I have difficulty reading the text.
8/10 - A real Action MMORPG, but the early levels are extremely boring. Classes are a nice variety, but you will often be repeating a specific set of skills and abilities for up to 15 minutes or perhaps even more when fighting anything big.