TERA: Bastion of Lok

Last night I finally made it into TERA’s first dungeon, the Bastion of Lok. This is a 5-man instance meant for (I believe) levels 20-24. Our run took a little over an hour (no wipes, a couple bio breaks and Stamina recharge sessions).

Our party was a lancer (TERA tank class, run by Scott of Pumping Irony), priest (run by Oakstout), a sorceror (DPS, run by Scopique of Levelcapped), a warrior (DPS, he was a PUG guy) and my Slayer (DPS). Our levels ranged, iirc, from 21-23.

It was a successful run with Scott doing a great job of tanking and Oakstout being a first rate healer. We had 1 death all night, the PUG dude, who (as PUG dudes are apt to do) kind of kept running off to do his own thing. He was gracious about it, though, acknowledging that the death was his own fault.

I had a lot of fun doing the instance though it was more “spectacle” fun than “thoughtful gaming” fun, if you know what I mean. There’s not a lot of nuance playing DPS in a group, or if there is I haven’t gotten good enough to grasp it yet. Basically I was waiting for the tank to get aggro, then unloading with everything I had until I got the little “You’re about to get aggro” icon and backing off. Though that didn’t happen very often since my skill cool downs were enough to moderate damage I guess.

The only “downside” (and that feels like too strong a word) about the massive unleashing of damage on these innocent dungeon denizens is that it can be really hard to see where you’re facing in all the effect-spam. Since TERA has no enemy lock-on system you have to aim at the baddies and more than once I unleashed my best attack into empty space by accident. At least at the start.

A bit farther along I got into the habit of rushing in, hitting hard, then rolling out of the fray, lining up, and rushing in again. And I think this is how a Slayer is intended to be played. As a leather-wearing melee class I can’t stand there and take the hits. When playing solo I watch the mob and dodge away when it’s about to attack but in the flying furball battles of the Bastion of Lok I’d often miss the tells and get walloped. By rolling out of the battle I get out of the line of fire, give my skills a few seconds to cooldown, and I’d sometimes pop a potion to take some of the strain off our healer.

It’s the first time in an MMO where I felt like getting out of the battle and taking a few seconds breather was OK and not indicative of being a slacker (I always feel a lot of anxiety about people thinking I’m not pulling my weight in a group), though I dunno how other members of the party felt about it.

At the end of the dungeon I got a blue (rare) piece of Lancer armor, and Scott got a blue Slayer sword. So that was weird but we traded and everyone (well, at least the two of us) left happy, but I guess that loot drops are random and not tied to character class (unless this stuff dropped and someone was picking it up and it was just going into normal rotation. From where I stood it seemed like it just popped into my inventory).

The only bad news is that my Slayer went from level 23 to just under level 25 from quest and kill experience in one run-through. I kind of would’ve liked to do BoL another time or two without being over-level for it. But I guess I’ll just have to look forward to the next dungeon!

TERA: Buff-up via gathering

There’s never anything new under the sun, but one of TERA’s (why is it in all caps!!?) systems that is new to me at least is this idea that gathering materials for crafting gets you buffs. I haven’t made a scientific study of this so I don’t know all the details. I assume getting a buff is a random crafting event, but they happen pretty often. And I don’t know if they scale.

To be honest I’d seen the buffs pop up from early on but just assumed they were buffs to help with gathering/crafting, but I finally looked at what they did and turns out they’re buffs that will help in combat. Here’s a few…this might be all of them or just the ones I happened to have at the time I was taking screenshots. Like I said, not a scientific investigation.

These may not seem like much, but gradual magic and healing regeneration helps a lot in keeping you in the battle. (Of course that’s balanced by the time you spend gathering.) And of course the materials you gather can be used in crafting or, if you don’t craft, sold to another player (NPC vendors don’t offer much for crafting materials).

Tera, End of Open Beta

Imagine my surprise when the Tera open beta was still running this evening! Sweeeettt!!! I jumped in and took Bart to level 23.

I’ve been learning about Enchanting since my last post. Some gear can be Enchanted (it’s indicated on the tool tip) and here’s how you do it.

First you need to know that all gear is separated into Tiers in Tera. At level 23 I just got my first Tier 4 gear.

OK so to enchant an item, you open the enchanting interface and stick the item to be enchanted in the middle. To the left you have to put a piece of gear of the same type and tier. So if you’re enchanting a Tier 3 Sword you’ll need a 2nd Tier 3 Sword…it can be any Tier 3 Sword… non-magical (“White”) is fine. Then to the right of the item you have to put in 3 vials on Enchanting Juice that Merchants sell. I forget the name of this stuff…it’s the very first thing in the inventory of the merchants I’ve seen.

OK now you got all your pieces, just click the Enchanting button. Spin the wheel and wait. If you succeed, your item is now +1 and gets some small stat increases. The 2nd weapon and the juice get used up. If you fail they get used up too. You can enchant things up to 9 times and at the bottom of a piece of gear that can be enchanted you’ll see extra bonuses that you get at +3, +6 and +9.

But there’s a catch. Once you’ve enchanted an item once, if you enchant it again and you fail, there’s a chance you’ll LOSE a level of enchantment. I suspect that chance gets higher with each successive enchantment. When people get to, say, +6 enchantment on an item, a zone-wide message goes out: it’s kind of a big deal.

So that’s what I know about Enchantment so far. Back to adventuring.

At level 20 you can do the first instance in Tera, but I never got around to it. I’m really wary about joining PUGs in any game, though this is the time for me to do it if I ever am, since no one can expect everyone to be an expert already.

Instead I kept on my questing journey…until I met the Basilisks. I got a quest to get 5 Basilisk eyes and merrily went out and smacked a basilisk with my giant sword. What followed was a long and ultimately catastrophic battle. I died for the first time (other than once in the Prologue).

When you die, you can lie there in the dirt and hope someone comes along to res you, or you can Resurrect back at town. I chose the latter. My Stamina was at 0, so I had to pay a Cleric of Restoration to recharge it. I coulda waited by a fire…probably will next time. I also had a minor piece of gear break (vanish). Not something I couldn’t live without, but one of the Emblems that you can attach to larger gear. I -assume- you’ll never have your weapon or a major piece of armor break. Losing an Emblem is a minor setback (they drop all the time). Losing your sword would be heartache.

Anyway, back into the fray. I check my quest log and notice that this quest is meant for a party of up to 5 people. Doh! Also Basilisks have a little Icon next to their name to tell you that you can’t solo them. Doh! Again!

At this point I did something that I have never, EVER done in an MMO. I used the LFG tool. No one was looking for this quest so I started my own request for a party. And pretty soon someone joined and huzzah! She was a healer. So off we went after a Basilisk. It was a long fight but OMG was it ever fun, and we won. Tera combat is lots of fun solo. Tera combat with two people is GREAT, and soon enough I found out that Tera combat with 3 people is insane fun!

I only needed 5 basilisk eyes, but I spent the rest of the night fighting the beasties, with other party members leaving and new ones joining. Healers of course are awesome (in what game are they not, right?) and I learned that I really want an Archer in every party I’m a member of. They just do a great job of pouring on the damage.

I just had a hell of a good time. I’m really going to miss Tera while I wait for launch. I just can’t remember the last time I had so much fun playing an MMO. What a total surprise this game has turned out to be.

So as I say goodbye to open beta, I leave you with this, my death:

Tera, Day 3 [video]

I kind of wanted to get to level 20 before I wrote this post but alas, it was not to be. Since my last post I took Bart from level 15 to level 19. So what did I learn?

Biggest thing: skill chains. Turns out you have to set these up yourself. Hit K to bring up the skills window and at the bottom is a Skill Chains button that opens a second panel. The ‘starter’ skills seem to be predetermined but you can drag whatever ‘chained’ skill into the various slots that seem like they’ll fit your style. At my level all the chains are 2 links long.

I also learned a new skill, Overhead Smash, that ‘auto-chains.’ When I spam my main attack a few times (which IS called a “Combo Attack”) I’ll get a prompt to chain (ie, hit Space) the Overhead Smash (don’t shoot me if I have the name wrong).

My friend Gwyn, who you see commenting here now and then, formed a guild with her sister and they invited me to join. OK maybe I begged them to let me join. Either way, I’m member #3. I wanted to check out the Guild Quest system. Turns out this is very similar to the repeatable kill quests that you can get, with the one exception that you can ‘store up’ extra kills. For example there was a Guild Quest to kill 12 Foozles. I killed 12 but as I continued with other quests I had to fight more Foozles. The counter kept going: 13/12, 14/12 etc. By the time I turned the quest in I had 17/12. As soon as I turned it in, the quest reset and restarted at 5/12. I assume that others in the guild will find those same numbers and can take up the baton where I left it.

I finally stopped to do some crafting and my sense is that it’s mostly a money sink in low levels. I opted to work on Alchemy in order to make some potions. To make a healing potion I started with some leaves I’d gathered. I bought and learned a recipe that turns the leaves into an intermediate material. To do that requires the leaves and a reagant that I had to buy from a vendor. Then to make the actual potions, I needed to buy the recipe. Then I combined the intermediate material I’d crafted, another reagant I had to buy from a vendor, plus some glass vials, also from the vendor. It got expensive fast.

You can skip that first step by extracting from items that have dropped from mobs. So the question is which is more lucrative. Here’s another example, this one using metals. I can gather ore, then combine it with a vendor-sold reagant to make Ingots which I can then use to make gear. Say a pair of metal armor boots drop and I don’t need them. I can sell them to a vendor and use the coin to buy reagants. Or I could Extract Metals from the boots, which should provide an Ingot, bypassing that initial combine. At low levels you probably want to sell gear and buy the reagants since you’ll skill up making Ingots but later it’s probably cheaper to just extract your Ingots.

Last thing to hit on for today: the difficulty level of the game. Yesterday I mentioned how easy Tera is, and it has been up until now. But all of a sudden battles are becoming more intense and more interesting. Suddenly dodging and avoidance are becoming essential as I’m encountering baddies that exude poison as their special attack (all mobs in the world of Tera have the same tell; their eyes flash red before they unleash their special attack).

Granted this is just combat difficulty that is ramping up a bit. The rest of the game is still very clear cut. You always know where you need to go next, and what you need to kill. Mobs that will help you towards fulfilling a goal have an icon floating over their heads: yellow for a personal quest, blue for a guild quest.

A limitation of the Unreal engine (I think) is that all zones are essentially very wide corridors, so there’s really not a ton of exploring; it’s more like sight-seeing as you travel through the world.

And yet…I’m REALLY enjoying the game. Maybe it’s because my expectations were so low, or maybe it’s the progression hound in me who is so delighted at doing quests that give great gobs of experience and help you level up quickly. I still don’t know how much fun an alt would be, but I’m finding myself bummed to think of the open beta weekend ending and it’s going to be tough waiting for the game to re-open next week.

Here’re a few short videos I captured of me fighting. They were captured at half-size using Fraps so they don’t look as great as they might. Apologies to those who’ve already seen some of these on Google+.

Tragically, these corrupted unicorns must be put down. This fight has a good example of the great ‘staggering/falling down’ animations that mobs have. You almost feel sorry for the poor thing when it goes down. Almost.

You’ll do a lot of fighting against groups of enemies like this one. This demon thingie is surrounded by a bunch of fairies. The fairies die really quick to AOE attacks but if you don’t take them down they will suck away your health in a ‘death by a thousand needles’ kind of way:

A similar battle. I pop my Shout that gives me some MP to use, then charge into the fight. After a couple of swings I fire off Whirlwind — that double circular attack. That takes out most of the fairies and then knocks the ‘boss’ on his butt. Just before he dies you can see his eyes flash. It would’ve hurt had he gotten his special attack off in time.

I included this one because I love the creature design. Tera has a lot of really weird creatures and I’m enjoying seeing what they all do. This guy spits a nasty poison, though he never did in this battle. You’ll also see me do an overhead smash…into thin air. No auto-targeting in this game and you can get caught in a combat animation facing the wrong way. Just part of the challenge!

Tera, Day 2

Between Friday night and a couple hour session after the dog got me up early for her walk this morning, I’ve taken Bart The Slayer from level 8 to level 15.

In the course of this, I’ve left The Island of Dawn (the starter area which takes you level 1-12 or so), explored the main city of the world, the name of which just went out of my head, tinkered a tiny bit with crafting and finally moved on to the next zone.

Overall the game continues to be fun, mostly because of combat and having a new world to explore. I’m not sure how fun an alt having to do the exact same quests would be. I pine for the days when games like EQ2, WoW and LOTRO would launch with several different starting areas for different races. I suppose that’s much too expensive it today’s game development economy though.

I’ve been switching back and forth between using a controller and using mouse and keyboard. I find the controller to be a lot more fun when it comes to combat, but mouse and keyboard is much more efficient and much easier to use when it comes time to fiddle with your inventory and stuff like that. Mostly I like combat with the controller because I do a lot of moving around and moving a character (in a 3rd person game) with the left stick and moving the camera with the right stick just feels more natural to me than keys to move character and mouse to move camera. What makes the mouse and keyboard feel odd is that there’s no way to turn the character with the keys. A&D strafe and Q&E are bound to non-movement tasks. So you move the camera to turn the character. It’s hard to explain, but it all feels more natural to me with a controller.

Tip: Type /controller or hit the Back button on an Xbox controller to bring up a set of controller-specific options.

At level 15 I still only have a few skills and I think this is just the way the game is going to be. New since level 8 are just a shout that gives me 100 MP and a Retaliate command that only works when I’ve been knocked down. When that happens the game prompts me to use Retaliate by hitting the space bar (or the X key on the controller) so I don’t even think I need that one parked on a hotbar.

Once I got off the Island of Dawn I turned on general chat. Most of the idiocy was gone [side note: the new “I’m gonna prove I’m cool by telling everyone that a popular MMO sucks” target seems to be SWTOR, giving WoW a bit of a rest from the abuse] and I mostly eavesdropped on what was going on. There was a lot of talk about Chains (skill chains) and I remember Chains from the prologue but I still either don’t have them or don’t understand them. I do know the “hitting space to trigger Retaliate” is the Chain mechanic at work, and one time my Charge move ended with the option to do a chain but I missed it and haven’t figured out why it did it in the first place. So that’s a mechanic that still eludes me.

One thing I haven’t done AT ALL is customize my character. I mean I get better gear and use it and every 2 levels I go to the trainer and buy all the skills available (most of them upgrades to existing skills) but I haven’t had to make any decisions yet.

Between that and the controller-friendly combat, Tera just feels like a nicely casual MMO so far. I don’t say that in a derogatory way…sometimes it’s fun to have a game where you can just beat up on things while pretending they’re the CEO of your company or something.. 🙂

Yesterday I mentioned repeatable quests on the Island of Dawn. Once you get to the ‘main game’ you’ll get these too only so far they’ve all been based on kill tasks. Rewards for these are either a couple of Lucky Eggs (containing random loot) or some Tokens that act as a currency on special vendors. This kind of mechanic is fairly common when it comes to dungeon running in other games, I’m told (since I never group I never do dungeons/instances in MMOs) but I haven’t seen it often in the solo-able open-world parts of many games. These repeatable quests are nice “filler.” You get exp from fighting the things, exp from completing the quests and these tokens which I hope will offer nice gear. Combat is pretty fun in Tera so I was always killing random baddies anyway…now I have a reason to do it. There doesn’t seem to be any limit to how many times you can do these quests (they’re not Dailies and have no cool down), except once you out-level them they stop being offered.

I guess I should talk a little about crafting. Gathering is available from level 1 to anyone. You don’t have to train or buy tools..you just start gathering from nodes sprinkled around the landscape. Gathering gets you raw materials, of course.

Extraction lets you get raw materials from gear you don’t want. You can opt to extract Metal, Cloth, Alchemy Reagants or…um, magic bits? Or was it leather? There are 4 things anyway. Before you can extract you have to buy or find a scroll that teaches you how. There’s a scroll for each type of material and each tier of gear. So your first Metal Extraction scroll teaches you to get ore from Tier 1 gear. If you want to extract Metal from Tier 2 gear you need a Metal Extraction Level 2 scroll, which of course costs a bit more than the level 1. If you want to extract Cloth from Tier 1 gear then you need a Cloth Extraction Scroll to learn how to do it.

Finally there’s crafting. I haven’t done much of this but I believe we have Weaponsmithing, Armorsmithing, Cloth Weaving, Leathercrafting, Alchemy and Magical Essences… I think that’s right. 6 of them anyway. In order to make something you need to buy a pattern/recipe/blueprint which then teaches you to make that thing. All I can make is Ingots and leather. In both cases I have to combine gathered raw materials with a reagant I buy from an NPC.

There doesn’t seem to be anything preventing you from learning all 6 crafting skills; maybe there is at higher levels, but newbie stuff seems open to all if you’re willing to buy the patterns.

And I think that’s enough of a Wall of Text for level 8-15. If anyone has any questions, ask away, though I there’s still a ton I don’t know!

But my feeling right now is that Tera would make a great F2P game. It’s fun and easy (I died once in the Prologue but since then haven’t really felt in much danger) and pretty. I just don’t know that people are going to be willing to shell out $15/month for fun and easy and pretty.

Thoughts on Tera

Last night the Tera open beta started for people who pre-ordered the game. Today everyone can get in.

In my online community the general reaction to Tera seems to be something like “Meh, I guess I’ll try it.” I don’t know too many people who are super-stoked to play but I think people are curious since it’s been in the works for so long, and since it has such a controversial art style (female armor tends to be very very tiny).

I’ve been known to play a game just so I can slag it with authenticity and I think some of my friends are playing Tera for just that reason.

So here’s a report on my level 1-8 experience.

Developer En Masse has added a prologue to the game. They labeled a blog post about it “Improved Early Play” and boyo, did they get that wrong.

The Prologue is done really poorly in my experience. You’re thrown into the game at level 20 with somewhere between 6 & 10 skills that you won’t understand. You’ll be trying to read help text that pops up in different places and formats while all kinds of in-game chaos is happening.

Now in all fairness I was attempting to play with a controller at this point which probably made things worse. MMO players all know that Space is Jump, but they don’t all know that the B button on the controller is Jump (if in fact it is…I don’t remember). So I was trying to figure out that when the on-screen prompts said “Press F to speak to this scantily clad NPC” I needed to pull the Left Trigger, plus I was figuring out the skills at the same time.

Anyway it was a real mess to me and I almost quit. I’m glad I didn’t though. The Prologue lasts a few minutes and then you go back to the original start of the game where you’ll be level 1, learn all that stuff again at a more measured pace, and gain experience with the skills as you earn them.

At that point I went back to mouse and keyboard but tonight I’m giving the controller another go. Any time I can avoid a lot of mousing it’s good for my arm.

I decided to play a Slayer. That’s a melee class carrying a sword that’s taller than he is. He’s pretty fun to play. Early on I just had a basic attack and a dodge. I found I can dodge through enemies, so what I’d normally do is smack the bad guy until I saw he was going to unleash an attack, then dodge through him. The mob would then land his attack on empty space and I’d attack his back. Fairly frequently you’ll knock a mob down, which feels pretty satisfying.

The combat in Tera is a little different from most MMOs. You don’t lock on a target (maybe you can, but I never did). Instead you have to aim and swing. It can take some getting used to but I felt a little more engaged in combat than I normally do. On the other hand, it’s no Kingdoms of Amalur. This isn’t super-fast-paced arcade combat.

The Slayer generates MP by attacking, and then expends it by firing off skills. I have my main attack on left mouse button, dodge on the right, and by the end of the night I had skills bound to 1, 2 & 3. They were a knockdown attack, a forward dash and a whirlwind area of attack skill.

I have the feeling ranged classes will feel a lot different than melee classes, but we’ll see.

Beyond the combat, Tera is an Asian MMO. You’ve got Story Quests that unlocked every few levels, and side quests to fill in the gaps. So far I haven’t had to do any “grinding” but I’m already seeing a lot of mob model reuse. Y’know “Fight 4 Young Foozles” then “Harvest the spleens from 5 Foozles” and then “Kill 4 Elder Foozles” and then “Bring me the pelts of 5 Ancient Foozles” and all the mobs look the same except for the name over their heads.

Everything so far has been pretty linear but it’s early days yet.

There’re systems I haven’t really dug into. Your health is related to your Morale. You improve Morale by hanging out at a Campfire. As Morale drops, you max health and MP drop too. You can find pre-existing campfires or you can carry them in your inventory.

While you’re gathered around a campfire you can toss in Charms that you get as drops and quest rewards. When you do this, you get some kind of buff…and so does everyone else at the Campfire with you. I guess the idea is to encourage people to gather together to max out buffs.

Likewise gathering with friends is supposed to get you more materials. Stuff like that.

We’ll see. So far Tera feels like exactly the ‘tourist game’ I thought it would be. I’ll play it to ogle the beautiful landscapes for a while, but don’t expect it’ll be a game that holds me for more than a few weeks. In a year it’ll go FreeToPlay and I’ll come back and do it all again. 🙂