Friday, July 20, 2012

Tera Online

Tera... A new(ish) morg from En Masse in the US and Blue Hole Studios in Korea.  First the obvious stuff.  It’s fantasy genre with a more asian theme.  It uses a “standard” class system.  There are 7 races and 7 classes; humans, elves, castanics, barakas, popori, and elin with warrior, slayer, bezerker, lancer, sorcerer, mystic, and priest.  Humans, elves, and castanics (satyr-esque) are dual gender.  Barakas appear to be made of stone and are only male.  Popori are cute little animorphs with no obvious gender.  Elin have an extra set of animal ears and a tail and appear to be all 12 year old girls (more on this later).  All the avatars depicting humanoid anatomy are... umm... buxom.  Even the males are pretty.
But if you could sum up Tera in a word, it would “pretty”.  Everything in this game is beautiful.  Every character, every avatar, every landscape, every cut scene. The attention to detail is boggling.  They must have 10,000 Korean texture mappers working slave hours.
What isn’t obvious is a different combat system more akin to a first-person shooter than a morg.  There is no “target locking” and all abilities must be aimed with the reticule in the center of the screen.  Movement is WASD combined with always-on mouse look ala Halo.  Abilities are mapped to keys which does prove clumsy sometimes and especially at higher levels.  With both hands busy with movement and targeting and 15 separate abilities to fire off, combat becomes challenging, more skilled, and thus more exciting than the typical morg button mash.  For me, at least, this combat system is the WoW-killer.  I was utterly done with the fantasy morg as tired, overdone, and just plan over.  But Tera won me back with this new combat mechanic and it’s amazingly artful beauty.
The ugly... Well there is some controversy.  The female character models are nothing short of complete anime fan service--lots of upskirt shots, lots of impossible cleavage, lots of panties, lots of breast physics (jiggle).  While pleasing to the male eye, it is grossly sexist to the point where I am partially embarrassed to even admit I like the game.  Especially in light of recent gamer events regarding gender and trolls.  I am having a bit of a struggle with this.  But I do enjoy the game and while I’d like to discourage this type of gender bias, I am not yet ready to vote with my wallet yet.  But when I do find another morg that catches my eye, I have a significant bit of extra motivation to end my Tera subscription.
Added to this controversy is the Elin, a race of beings who all have the appearance of innocent young girls, but who are actually an old race of tricksters and malevolent fairies.  This is something of a traditionally asian trope which is lost on European/Western players.  They just see scantily dressed girls and instantly assume “pervert”.  Well... possibly yes.  But universally? No.  Cultures are different and they see things in different ways.  The Elin are not called human for a reason--they aren’t.  It’s a fantasy made-up creature.  I know it is quite easy to argue, “yes, but they look like girls!”  I don’t have any response other than, “my imagination is capable of suspending my disbelief.”  This ability will differ greatly across players.  But again, it will be another controversy I will be glad to leave behind when I leave the game.  PS: Yes, one of the characters I created was an Elin Priest.  Her name is Louy and “she’s” supposed to be a trucker that was thrown from our world to the Tera world by a vengeful goddess where he learns to be a better human being.  Does that make up for it?

The Origin of Louy

So, no shit, there I was... at the bar and there was this amazing blond down the way.  She was like Hollywood wrapped in Christmas and strapped to a dildo.  She was hot.  Me and the fellas couldn’t believe our luck.  Our crappy corner pub hadn’t seen a gal like this in... well, ever!  Girls like her didn’t even drive through our part of town where the truckers like me would shack up for few nights before hitting the road again.  
In these summer nights our street was a shimmering heat wave by day and radiated more heat all night sucking up any refreshing breeze that might have penetrated the city.  A lucky few had window unit air conditioners, but a lot of us didn’t bother since we were on the road all the time.  A girl like this tall drink of water might only be seen from the cab of my truck as a looked down on the all the rich honeys that would pass me in their fancy luxury cars.
Blondie didn’t seem too clued in to where she was.  She would cock her head as if trying to tune in single converations in the din of bar noise and bad music.  This would be followed by a sneer and then a sip from her frozen drink.  A frozen drink! I didn’t even know Al had a daiquiri machine!
Well the old pub hadn’t had this sorta action at any time I could remember.  We chatted and laughed and made up stories for what we’d do “if we got a piece of that”.  We started off tame, but as the beers rolled in I got braver.  I figured, hell there was never going to be a woman like this in here ever again, I might as well be the legendary dude to get shot down by her.  Being rejected by pretty women was practically my religion!  So after lucky beer number 14 I set out across bar.
All the locals could see my not quite straight path.  They knew the score.  But blondie was completely unaware.  I slicked back the hair, stood up straight(ish), and stepped up.
“Al! Get this *fine* lookin’ woman another fruity drink on me.  Make it a double!”
Blondie gave me a sideways glance slowly turning to face me.  Her dress was white, extremely low cut and appeared like it must be see through, but stare as I might I didn’t get a glimpse of anything good.
“Eyes up here, sailor.” She said through a smile that felt like a sneer.
You have no idea how much effort it took to pull my eyes off that rack, but then I met her eyes.  I felt my head lock as if something metal had slotted in to place.  No matter what I did with the rest of my body, my head wouldn’t move and my eyes couldn’t look away.   I felt the night’s conversations of everything I said I would do to this woman spooling out of my head like a reel.  She read it like a rap sheet while time seemed slow down.  She quirked an eyebrow as images of the beer-fueled boasts played before my eyes.  In that moment even I felt ashamed and yet excited.  She was pushing all my buttons.
On some subconscious level, in that moment, I knew she wasn’t human.  But my voice was gone.  My will sapped.  My body limp.  Her words echoed in my brain erasing all other thought.
“You will learn.” She said it casually, but it felt as if it was shouted by a hundred thousand angels.  I fell in to her eyes, a great white tunnel...
My first awareness was of a cool breeze on my exposed skin.  My legs were bare and I was laying on stone or brick.  The sun was warm and bright through my closed eyes.  I felt... small like my body wasn’t the same dimensions I remembered.  I brought my hand up to my face.  My arm felt weaker, thinner.  I opened my eyes to look at my hands.  Fair skin, long fingers, without scar or abrasion--these weren’t my hands!  I was ham-fisted and calloused with permanent grim under my nails.  These were the arms of a young girl.  I sprang upright shocked at my flawed perceptions.  I wasn’t me! I was frail, thin and short.  I could hear blood rushing in my ears.  I looked around bewildered taking in the world which was as strange as my body.  The sun was brilliant, but ringed in strange arcane symbols.  The trees were flawless, but strange and unknown.  Miles in the distance an entire ocean crashed over the most spectacular waterfall I have ever seen.  My vision clouded trying to shut out so much impossible input.  A strange signal was being processed.  Some appendage was squashed uncomfortably under my butt and demanded relief.  I staggered upright and twisted around to look at my perfect, white, fluffy, cotton, tail.
I passed out... right there on the platform to Isle of Dawn... and that’s how I came to Tera.