Friday, January 11, 2013

Revisiting TERA

One of the most basic realities of being an ADD gamer is that there's no game, no matter how good it is or how much I enjoy it, that's going to hold my attention in perpetuity. Even with games I'm as into as The Secret World, there eventually reaches a point where I've just gotta play something else for a while, before I become completely bored with what I've been playing and end up ignoring it for months on end, as I did with TSW the first time around. In that case, the decision was made for me by the fact that I just couldn't justify the $15 a month when there are so many free alternatives available. It had absolutely nothing at all to do with the quality of the game itself, but everything to do with the amount of money I had available to spend on entertainment. It was also hardly the first time I'd stopped playing an MMO because of financial issues. In fact, I'd just left another game for exactly the same reason just a month or so before TSW launched: TERA.

I'd followed the last several months of the TERA's development in the gaming press, participated in the beta and pre-ordered the game. The game time that came with my purchase gave me 30 days to decide whether or not I felt it was worth blowing $15 a month on. I played and enjoyed my time in TERA, but when it was time to pay or bail I came to the same conclusion I would come to a few months later with TSW that while I was enjoying my time playing the game, I just wasn't enraptured enough with TERA to be worth what for me is a significant chunk of my rather small monthly entertainment budget. The difference with TSW was that I was into it enough that I was motivated to get a quarterly sub to give myself a little more time to decide, but in the end I came to basically the same conclusion: Yes, I'm having fun, but no, I can't justify the expense, not with my finances being as tight as they are. Just as I had felt forced to choose not to start a paid sub in TERA, it was with a somewhat heavy heart that I cancelled my TSW sub at the end of those three months and moved on to other games.

Fast forward to a few days ago. An email arrives telling me that TERA is going free to play in February. While checking out my old account at the EnMasse website, I log in and run across a  page that tells me that my account has been reactivated and credited with a free week's game time. Since I know I'm getting to the point where I need at least a little break from TSW, which I'd been playing again since the game went buy-to-play, I re-downloaded TERA to my new 2 TB drive and logged in the next day.

I logged into one of my old toons and quickly realized that I had basically forgotten how to play this game, that there was no way in hell I was going to be any good at playing one of my old characters unless and until I got some refresher practice. To that end, I created a new Slayer very similar to one of my favorite old toons and headed out to the Isle of Dawn, the first part of the game which serves as TERA's extended tutorial.

My intent in doing this was mainly to re-familiarize myself with TERA enough to go back and play one of my old toons at a much higher level, but as I've made my way through the Isle of Dawn, I'm finding that I'm having just as much fun levelling up this toon as I did with my old ones and I'm seriously considering just continuing the process of levelling her up.

The combat in TERA is unique and challenging, but it doesn't have much of a story and large parts of the game are very grindy. Personally, I don't mind a little grinding especially if the combat is as much fun as it is in TERA, but I also want a good storyline to connect it all together, something this game really doesn't offer.

Aside from cosmetic things like the setting and overall tone and style, that's the big difference for me between TERA and TSW. TERA gives me great combat with a rather dull and simplistic storyline, while TSW gives me an engaging and intricate storyline paired with a rather average combat system. In both cases, I can have one but not the other at any one time, and yet I enjoy both.

This is actually a good thing for a gamer like me. With these games not requiring a subscription going forward, I expect I'll end up continuing to play both, switching between them as I decide I need a change of scenery for a while. And oh yeah, I'm still playing Aion too, though I haven't logged into that game in a couple of weeks now. As with TSW and TERA, though, sooner or later I know I'll get back to it.

For me, just liking a game isn't enough to keep me playing it, it has to earn my continuing interest and keep giving me reasons to play on. Even if it's successful in that, sooner or later I'm going to be taking a break for a while. When you're an ADD gamer, it's less about what you specifically find appealing in terms of overall game design and more about keeping yourself from becoming bored from playing the same game too long.