For once, developer hype delivers exactly what it promises. The very best thing about Tera is the action. No other MMO even comes close to Tera in bringing the pulse-pounding physical intensity of third-person console combat.
MMO veterans are all too familiar with games whose combat outcomes depend on computer-generated dice rolls behind the scenes. As a longtime pen-and-paper RPGer, I know as well as anyone that there's a place for number-crunching, but even my favorite MMOs often frustrate me with contrived and awkward combat mechanics. And as a console gamer who thinks it rarely gets better than God of War, I often long for a little more visceral thrill from my online battles.
Combat in Tera immediately disposes of decades of complaints by MMO players. You're truly taking control of your character at all times (well, save for the opening cutscene), and your success, your advancement, your very life and death depend on mastering your character's moves. There's true swashbuckling swordplay, quiver-emptying arrow barrages, and blazing arcane spellcasting, not to mention the shared challenge of keeping characters in constant motion, because enemies are always on the move too.
And speaking of enemies, many of the monsters of Tera are downright gigantic. Not quite Shadow of the Colossus gigantic, but definitely the size of the major bosses in most games. Yet many of these Big Ass Monsters (BAMs is the official name, don't blame me) roam freely, meaning that you can encounter them at any time. Oh yeah, and don't let their size fool you — they can be surprisingly fast. Even the more lumbering ones have attacks that will catch the most attentive and fleet-footed player unawares. And that's not even mentioning the actual big bosses.
Now that I've blown up your excitement balloon, I'm sorry to say that I'll have to pop it. Nearly everything else about Tera is disappointing.
Well, okay, the graphics are pretty great. Gorgeously detailed visuals include uniquely diverse characters and impressively distinct ambient / cultural / architectural differences between locations. Sometimes the graphics will make you want to soak in all of the onscreen splendor (if you're willing to risk standing still long enough). Don't even bother to investigate this game without a high speed Internet connection and some decent GPU hardware, because Tera's HD visuals are cutting-edge and put last-generation's MMOs in the dust.
Having said that, I'm a little burned out on the style. Yes, I've had good times amidst the overloaded colors, exaggerated physiques, and ludicrously oversized weaponry of Asian RPGs (and Asian-influenced RPGs, i.e., World of Warcraft. Overcompensate much?). But now I'm ready to see something a bit more original. Undoubtedly there are zillions of WoW and Final Fantasy fans who have no idea what I'm talking about, and to you I say: you'll love Tera. Go for it.
What is less subjective is the unending and unimaginative "fetch, carry, and kill" quests, tedious and largely irrelevant crafting, non-existent plot development, monotonous low-level grinding, monotonous high-level diminishing returns. I don't want to go on, or go into more detail, because it's almost heartbreaking to see a game that does a few things so right yet gets so many other things no better than the average "meh" MMO.
The action is second-to-none, the graphics are outstanding (despite my personal views), but the actual substance of Tera isn't anything that you haven't seen a hundred times before. If you are satisfied with MMOs circa 2005, and you just wish that they looked better and had console-quality combat moves, you'll adore Tera. If you've moved on to the 2010s and are expecting something truly innovative from an MMO, give Tera a try, but don't come crying to me when you find yourself unfulfilled.