When people think of MMOs, they usually think of the most popular one, World of Warcraft. However, while some developers might attempt to copy it thinking that in doing so, they'll copy its success, the real secret is to separate themselves from the likes of it. This is exactly what En Masse and Bluehole Studio have done with their latest MMORPG, Tera Online: The Exiled Realm of Arborea. It claims to be the first true action MMO and it certainly looks that way. The kind folks at En Masse let us experience the demo at E3 and, to put it simply, it was one heck of a rush.
Boasting to be the first true action MMO, Tera doesn't let up in its gameplay mechanics. Our party of five comprised of characters from different classes, Berserker, Warrior, Slayer, Priest and Sorcerer. While each character had their own unique skills and abilities, the overall mapping of keys were pretty much similar, meaning that players won't have to memorize different key inputs for each class. Tera also supports the Xbox 360 gamepad, and does so surprisingly well. Unlike other MMOs, attacking isn't done via selecting an enemy and the abilities to use. Instead, it takes from elements most commonly known in shooting games. Attacking an enemy is as simple as pointing the crosshair at it and as long it's within range, the attack will connect. Main attacks are mapped to the left mouse while a special to the right. Spells are mapped to the numbers and can be chosen on the fly. Of course, there are cool downs for the more extravagant spells.
Characters also have a gauge depicting the amount of ability points available. Since I played the Sorcerer of the party - a rather sexy one I might add - that would be mana. Once again, stepping away from the usual MMO mechanics, this gauge does not replenish itself over time and does so only when main attacks are successfully used. This proves to be quite engaging as not a single member in the party was able to simply wait around and were instead forced to keep up with our attacks. It's worth mentioning that Berserkers are basically the tanks of Tera, thus they are the front lines of any party. The Slayer and Warrior follow next and although they sound similar, these classes are actually quite different. Berserkers utilize focus attacks while Slayers prefer brute force; on the other hand, Warriors rely on their lightning fast speeds and can also dual wield.
On that note, another important aspect of the battle system is the placement of party members. While the melee classes get up close and personal with a target, it's best that the ranged members of the party stay back and support with ranged attacks since these classes tend to have extremely low defence. Placement becomes even more noticeably crucial when taking on the more aggressive enemies. As the Sorcerer, I had to constantly move behind the target while keeping in tabs with the Priest in order to stay within healing range.
Bluehole and En Masse have really upped the ante with Tera as it certainly feels and plays more like an action game rather than an RPG; unfortunately, we didn't get to try the more social aspects of the MMO. In any case, the gameplay mechanics felt solid and unique. The best part of it all is that while Tera does separate itself in regards to gameplay, it still retains the familiarity of MMORPGs. Look out for the beta which will be announced later this year.