It is beta-testing-palooza right now for MMO/online fans, with Diablo III and TERA this weekend, Guild Wars 2 next weekend, and The Secret World the weekend after that. Whether a beta test is actually a paid commodity or a preview weekend or a chance to identify bugs in the code, I can’t resist a good open beta and my clicky finger is a little sore today after a weekend of D3 and TERA.
I went in to the Diablo III beta weekend being absolutely certain that I had no intention of buying the game, but I came out of it thinking that if I had money to burn.. ehhh, I’d probably pick it up. I’m the most casual of hack and slash players — I’m not in it for the serious business hardcore or nightmare runs. I just like having a game I can boot up for 45 minutes to kill some dudes and loot some junk.
On that very casual scale, I enjoyed D3. The skills are certainly simplified, but I also found the permanent giant skill tree in D2 to be a little daunting. My absolute favorite change is making it so the loot you see drop in multiplayer is all yours. Maybe it’s just my Canadian politeness, but I spent a fair bit of effort in D2 multiplayer worrying whether I was picking up too much or too little loot or whether something was an upgrade. I don’t play Diablo for nuanced decisions! I play it to be a LOOT VACCUUM.
I know some people didn’t like the fact that all weapons are mere stat sticks now, although I admit I didn’t mind. It gives more room for every class to have neat spells/effects instead of melee, and I’m easily amused by playing, say, close combat melee with staves. I tried all the classes except for Demon Hunter (I agree with Spinks that her steel stilleto boots are dumb as hell), although as I’ve mentioned before the Witch Doctor has such fun spells that it really was the clear winner for me.
The difficulty of the beta — essentially the first 13 levels — was really really easy. I didn’t die once over 4 different characters. That’s okay for the first few levels, but I’m hoping it’s souped up just a bit as one progresses. I like a little risk to my reward! Also I realize it’s a beta and infrastructure in particular is subject to changes, but I hope Blizzard realizes that it is totally unacceptable to have to wait in a queue to play a single-player game. If that still happens at launch, expect a world of (well deserved) angry gamers.
Will I buy Diablo III? Probably not. It did make me appreciate the lack of a hack’n'slash game in my life, but I think that spot is better filled by free options like Path of Exile or at least waiting until I can get the brand new Torchlight 2 for something like $20.
As if all that D3 clicking wasn’t enough, I also downloaded (and downloaded.. and downloaded) the beta client for TERA Online: The Exiled Realm of Arborea. (Whew, that’s a mouthful.) TERA bills itself as the “first true action MMO”. It’s currently active in South Korea and being expanded to North America in about a week, and is apparently illicitly based on the unpublished code base for Lineage 3.
TERA is clearly heavily inspired by traditional Asian MMO design. The race models are ludcrious, including two hot slender elf races, one race that looks like a bipedal raccoon, and a catgirl in booty shorts. The gear, as far as I could tell from the beta, is also skintastic although relatively skintastic for both genders and it was at least designed with imagination and flare. (My giant anime sword in particular pleased me.)
Calling itself the “first true action MMO” is kind of silly, although TERA has obviously given more thought to active combat than most current Western titles. All models have collision detection (which totally confused me!) and like in Guild Wars 2 there is no auto-aim. By level 3 on most classes I tried I had some defensive positioning skill, like skipping backwards out of range or flipping to the back of the mob, and circle-strafing was definitely the order of the day. Even low level quest mobs had quite a bit of XP, making fights last a lot longer, so defense was important.
TERA will accept a controller input, and I can imagine it would suit the game perfectly.
So would I buy TERA? Naaaaah. Even in 6 levels or so the emphasis on quest grinding was really clear. Kill 6 regular elk. Now 6 angry elk. Now 6 epic angry elk! Repeat until level cap. I can actually sort of see the appeal — it’s not that different from grinding out levels in any hack and slash, really — but that doesn’t interest me in a subscription game. Honestly, the biggest thing I figured out from playing TERA is that I should download Aion sometimes as it recently went free-to-play and I like the Asian MMO aesthetic.
If there is one unified message from my experiences this weekend, it’s that both of these big new games are fun in their own ways but both can be (I think) easily replaced by a free or less expensive option. I’m not saying I’ll never spend money on a $60 AAA title (hi Arenanet announce a release date so you can take my money), but the game would have to really impress me or provide something entirely unique to push me into a buying decision.
Anyway, I’m going to give my clicky finger a rest, and just leave you with a few screenies from the TERA beta: