Continued from last week! The debate continues – TERA or Guild Wars 2? This week, I try to reach some sort of conclusion! This took a long time to write, hence why it’s a wee bit late… I can in no way cover everything in this last post, but I do my best to cover what are (in my opinion) the most important bits!
Customising your Character
I’d say that both games are pretty equal on the character creation side of things. You have the Elder Scrolls/Sims level face-smushing that we’ve come to expect from these creators, but with less of the ugly than can often happen. Unlike Aion, TERA restrains users from making totally outlandish choices, while still giving a lot of freedom. Guild Wars 2 is similar.
When it comes to customising armour however, there are some clear differences. I tried the dye vendor in TERA, and there’s a lot of weird limitations. Without paying gold (which is far outside a newbie’s budget) you’re limited to watery colours that only last for a day. If you pay gold, you can have stronger colours in a better variety that last for a week. This is pretty awful, and allows for no consistency and you have to constantly return to the dye vendor to keep your gear looking how you want it. There is a vendor that allows you to remodel (transmogrify) your armour, imprinting designs of one piece of armour onto another, which is permanent.
Guild Wars 2 on the other hand lets you have about 15 dyes from the outset, and lets you find the rest as random world loot. All dyeing is permanent until changed, and you can re-dye your gear in the field whenever you want by using a button in your inventory. This is leagues beyond what TERA offers. When it comes to altering armour appearance in GW2 things get a bit trickier, as you need special stones that can either be found as rewards for completing dailies, 100% completion of area explorations, or from the store. But there are plenty of different sets of armour out there for you to mix and match when you do have enough stones.
The Travel Systems
Neither game has flying mounts and it seems unlikely that they’ll ever be implemented. TERA is very much split into individual zones with transitions, and GW2 is the same, unlike the open world system we see in World of Warcraft. TERA has land mounts from Level 11, GW2 has… nothing. You can buy speed boosters, but that’s it.
However, GW2 makes extensive use of its waypoint system – in fact it’s the only fast travel system in the game other than the portals between the capital cities. Visited waypoints can be used with a click on the map at any time and you come by them frequently, so I haven’t found running around on foot to be too annoying in GW2.
TERA uses a slightly confusing combination of teleport faeries (yes, faeries) and flying unicorns, which work like flight points from WoW but slower. You use the unicorns to reach the main quest hub (town or camp) of a zone, and then use the teleport system to go to side hubs within that zone.
You probably already know about this, but a side note on Guild Wars 2 – if you dislike platforming, like me, it may put you off that this game involves a LOT of it. Yes it’s an MMORPG, but the platforming gameplay is becoming so prevalent (the Christmas event involved jumping over candy canes and dodging snowballs) that it’s more like some sort of weird hybrid. I found that I got on with this all right for the most part, but some of the later stuff is pretty difficult and takes some skill to pull off. Vistas are an important part of GW2’s gameplay if you want to get at the rewards that 100% area completion offers, and these get more and more difficult to access as you go through higher level areas.
“Getting to those vistas can be a joy or a chore (usually the former), depending on the quality of the jumping puzzles that lead to them. Leaping about in Guild Wars 2 isn’t a slog–the game has perhaps the most fluid movement in the genre–but the camera has a tendency to get caught up on walls and ceilings.… In cramped environments, the camera might freak out, and you can’t see well enough to make an educated leap.” – Kevin VanOrd, GameSpot
In Guild Wars 2, informal grouping can work very well. You run around the world, and if you’re doing the same heart quest or event as other people in the area, you can seamlessly group up with other players, simply by sharing credit for kills. No need to /invite, just join in with what they’re killing. Your XP and rewards are proportional to your contribution. This is fair and works quite well, especially as player levels are scaled to the level cap of the particular zone you’re in – so you can’t have level 80s running around 1-hitting stuff. The flipside of this is that formal grouping/dungeon running feels very de-emphasised, or even a pointless distraction while leveling.
“… other MMOs have relied on the all-powerful “/invite” command, and have decreed a group of adventurers shall number only five, and only these five can claim the experience of slaying a monster. …
That’s game design, not something logical that would exist in these fantasy worlds, and Guild Wars 2 dodges those stereotypical mechanics.” – Sophie Prell, The Penny Arcade Report
In Guild Wars 2, you unlock a new dungeon every 10 levels from level 30 onwards. You get a “story mode” dungeon initially which has lots of NPC interaction and which is set to an easier difficulty. 5 levels later a harder mode unlocks with three different paths available for exploration. I have only done one dungeon with a guild in GW2, and it seemed very strange and chaotic to me, partly due to the lack of the “holy trinity”, which I’ll go into more detail about below. Also, the loot from chests is so random that you’ll rarely come away from a dungeon with equipment that’s useful. Most importantly, Guild Wars 2 currently lacks a dungeon finder, and as far as I know they’re not adding one in the Jan 28th update. GW2LFG.com offers a third party service that allows you to group, but it’s still rather silly that this isn’t in the game.
TERA Online follows much more of a WoW-type model, with dungeon queues (you can queue for dungeons from a menu once you’re level 20 or above) and gear grinds. Apparently crafted gear is a bit better than dungeon gear at the endgame, but not by enough to concern most people. There are about 16 dungeons that can be done while leveling, with six hard mode dungeons unlocking when you hit the cap. From what I’ve read on the forums, it can be beneficial to run these dungeons a few times as you level, so you won’t just be ignoring them.
An important thing to mention is that the holy trinity – that of tank, healer, and DPS – is present and accounted for in TERA Online. Party dynamics seem to work more or less like they do in most games from what I’ve seen, although it does sound like things can get a little bit interesting at times. What makes grouping in Guild Wars 2 slightly odd is that there isn’t a trinity. Everyone can do damage, self-heal, and resurrect. The Elementalist has his water magic, which allows healing of others, but I’ve never heard of anyone really making much use of it. Any class can fulfil any number of roles, in theory. But in my experience people just tend to go DPS across the board and improvise (die lots) until the task is complete. I haven’t found this a very enjoyable way to do grouping.
Of course one thing we all do a lot of in dungeons is wiping. TERA and Guild Wars 2 handle death somewhat differently.
In TERA if you die, you just die, and you take some fairly standard losses as well – there’s a chance that crystals (like cheap enhancement gems, though some are not cheap at higher levels) that are slotted into your armour and weapons will shatter on your death. This can get quite costly later on from what I’ve heard, a bit of a penalty.
Guild Wars 2 has a “fight to survive!” system, like you might have seen in Gears of War and Borderlands 2. The more times you enter this state in short succession, the less health you have the next time. The attacks available in this mode are actually surprisingly powerful, and you only have to make one kill to get back up. If you do die, you can choose a waypoint to go back to and have to pay a (very) small fee, or wait for someone to resurrect you. You also receive damage to pieces of armour, although I’ve heard that it’s quite cheap to repair. Overall I would say that TERA has harsher penalties for death, at least at endgame. Which brings us to…
I’ll admit that I haven’t actually reached the endgame in either of these games, but I have read about it.
In Guild Wars 2 the endgame consists of reaching 100% world completion (which involves doing every heart quest, every vista, every waypoint, every everything for bragging rights and a lot of nice rewards), crafting legendary weapons (which again are just for bragging rights and look cool), and completing fractals, which are like mini dungeons that gradually get harder the more you complete them. These dungeons (I’m just paraphrasing stuff straight from the official wiki at this point, I admit it) allow you to get Ascended gear as loot. This special gear can then be customised with Infusions which work like gems in slots. However, you can only get rings and back items at the moment, no other slots. So that’s a bit less exciting. There’s also WvWvW which is a big draw for fans of PvP.
In TERA, as your gear gets better, endgame hard mode dungeons can be completed with fewer and fewer members in your group, allowing for a better share of the loot. Once you have the best gear you can get, the enchanting system comes to the fore, and this is where things get controversial. This is a process involving a RNG, or Random Number Generator. You have an equal chance to give your chosen piece of equipment +1, 0, or -1. Yes you can actually cause your equipment to go DOWN a level. And you need to get all your gear to +12 if you want the absolute best. And yes it does involve using expensive materials every time. In other words, this will take a long time, and it can get very very frustrating. You can’t destroy your equipment doing this at least. Really it’s down to the sort of player you are. The super hardcore may find this satisfying, anyone less so may ragequit at this point.
So, TERA or Guild Wars 2, which is it…?
Whew. I don’t really feel like I’ve covered everything I could, but this post is already getting ridiculously long. I hope I’ve given you something of what you need to decide for yourself. If you like reflexive hardcore gameplay and don’t mind a difficult endgame, TERA Online should definitely be what you go for. If you’re a bit more casual like me, Guild Wars 2 may be the friendlier option. I know that I’ve played a lot more Guild Wars 2 than I have TERA Online, though I suspect that I’ll end up going back to TERA for another try once it goes free. You do have to pay for Guild Wars 2 initially, and it’s quite a significant financial outlay (£50 in the UK!). There’s also currently no free trial available. So if you have thrifty tendencies like me, and you haven’t bought Guild Wars 2 yet, you might wait and see what TERA Online is like in its new F2P form before forking out any green.