And what a place it is. A dark baroque tower rises in the center, the golden light behind stained glass windows acting like beacons, drawing you closer. In the creepy Forsaken Fields, gnarled vines warn you away, as if the sinister vampires in tuxedos and top hats weren't already doing so. Tera is a great-looking game with dozens of distinct regions waiting to be explored. It also runs extremely well, deftly balancing beauty with performance. In fact, from top to bottom, Tera performs wonderfully. It isn't bug-free: there are some quest glitches and occasional spots of lag, and the chat window has a bad habit of deleting chat logs. But Tera is yet another signal to other massively multiplayer online game developers that it isn't OK to release a hobbled game suffering from major bugs and wide content gaps.
To enter the labyrinth, you have to make it through the entrance.
Not that Tera is fully loaded where content is concerned. There are plenty of quests to perform (you never grind for grinding's sake), but if you seek player-versus-player excitement, you'll want to sit this one out. There are the usual one-on-one duels, as well as team-versus-team deathmatches that function much like duels do, albeit with two teams rather than two players. Deathmatches require two willing groups; they don't take place in structured battle arenas, and there is no matchmaking, and thus no one ever plays deathmatch. If you like to deliver cruel open-world savageness to unsuspecting travelers, you can choose a PVP server, where you may also take part in guild-on-guild battles. But a more structured battlefield is sorely needed for players on all servers. The good news is that battlegrounds are planned for later this year. For now, however, it does feel as though something's missing, considering most modern MMOGs offer an easy way to fight other players without worrying that some high-level executioner is ready to intrude on your questing.
If you're in it for the camaraderie, however, Tera is for you. Group dungeons are a lot of fun. In Sinestral's manor, for example, crimson horned behemoths stand in your way, but with a talented party, you should make it past them unscathed. The final clawed horror might give you a hard time of it though, as it madly marches forward and twirls about in anger. Again, it all comes down to the combat: you can't rely on targeting these meanies and firing a bunch of arrows with abandon. You have to know how to time your swings, be ready to block or dodge, and cast the lengthiest spells only when you know you've got the time to spare. (Nothing is more disheartening than having a creature jump out of the effective area of your spell.) No matter which group role you prefer, there's a class you'll enjoy. Ranged magic, hardy tanks, healers, support classes--it's all covered, and even better, all classes are available to all races.
Once you get a handle on which attacks serve you best, you can further customize skills using glyphs. Tera doesn't have a traditional talent tree. Instead, you purchase glyphs and use them to enhance your existing skills. But you have limited glyph points, and certain glyphs cost more points than others, so you must choose which glyphs you want to equip. You can also enhance weapons by slotting in crystals, and even enchant them. And there are also typical gathering and crafting systems that allow you to collect raw materials and assemble them into better gear. The player economy is active, so whether you prefer to make and sell a fancy magical disc or are in the market for one, the player trade brokerage is a valuable tool.
Other features reveal their nature as greater numbers of players gain levels, such as a political system in which guild leaders campaign to lead a province. Otherwise, Tera has an air of the expected. Structurally, it's not much different from any other online fantasy RPG: you level up and move on to new areas, completing quests until you're ready for the next. What a difference an excellent combat system makes, and in Tera's case, it elevates an ordinary game into something more delightful than you would have expected from an MMOG. It might be all about the fight, but when the fight is this much fun, you want to keep your axe arm swinging and your mouse finger clicking.