Let's Go Raiding! En Masse Does Free-To-Play Right


Tera was a pleasant surprise during the E3 show, a free-to-play MMO that stood out as the kind of game we hope to see more often. The literal emotion I had while leaving the room where I'd spent some time raiding with our impromptu party of press boys was, "When can I play this game?!" We'll have to wait a bit for Tera, since it is currently scheduled for a 2011 release. If the extra time is being put into expanding, tuning, and polishing this game, Tera is expected to be knocking socks off next year.

There are several things we liked immediately about Tera. It gives you lots of eye candy, without cluttering the screen. Enemies are clearly defined, and sized in such a way that you constantly feel embedded in your environment. The character types you can choose from are an interesting bunch, with great attention paid to detail. We heard there are over 80 unique environments you'll have the chance to explore, and we got a thorough tour of one with lots of jungle, as we trekked out to eliminate a target. Controls for the PC are handled on either the keyboard or through a compatible console game controller. Controls are intuitive either way, with conventional movement, aiming, and hotkey layouts.

The combat experience in Tera is special. Each character class plays nicely off others and you'll find some unique elements that keep things interesting. Healing characters don't target with spells, but instead create ringed effects that party members can benefit from, if they are in proximity. Space or distance, and time, are important factors during encounters in Tera. The sorceress character I played had the expected cooldown period on special attacks, and also had to stay still while a mana-recharge spell I casted worked it's magic on my...magic? The spell effects are cool, and there are lots of specials that can help to turn the tide of a battle.

The monsters we encountered ranged from beasts that were relatively weak, to large bosses that can deal huge damage. Learning how to master party mechanics is important in this game, and a well-rounded party will make a huge difference. Balancing the different classes allows you to assign a tank and absorb attacks, while other characters dance along the perimeters using ranged weapons and magic. The progression through the demo level exposed us to one boss battle and quasi-bosses, requiring teamwork and communication between real-world team members. The bosses and regular enemies have signature moves that tip you off to impending assaults, allowing you to time and coordinate your attacks without soaking up excessive amounts of damage.

Standing out in the crowd of MMOs at E3 was no small feat, but En Masse has something good going on with Tera. About the only critique we have is that the game isn't playable on a Mac, which is a shame. Otherwise, the elements of great party-based exploration and battles all lined up for us, making Tera one to keep your radar up for through the remainder of this year.

En Masse