Though I have spent less time than usual at my computer since late Spring, when I’m feeling burnt out and just want a simple activity to multitask while watching videos, I turn to TERA. It’s less mindless than casual gaming of the “match three” variety, yet doesn’t require the attention of Second Life.
My avatar is now level 47. I’m in no rush to move up and I spend a lot of time mining and gathering. I’ve earned enough to buy myself a pirate costume, which you can see in the photo above. I like it. It hides my mismatched armor and — with a leather vest, jacket, and pants — almost seems like reasonable clothing for a warrior. It’s a lot better than the crotchless armor I got through reward tokens after tons of grinding. I wish I was joking.
I’ve gotten to level 47 without talking to a single person or participating in any group activities. This takes effort in an MMORPG. I’ve had to forego quests that required parties for completion and have died many times taking on Big Ass Monsters (BAMs) by myself. Since I’ve played an MMO before, this is a careful and conscious choice: I don’t want to get sucked into the interpersonal drama. I’m also not interested in doing the endgame push for the most powerful gear, especially since I’m not spending any money, and gear is important for the tank in a group endeavor. So, I’ll continue to solo what I can and get my gear from drops, rewards, and the trade broker (in-world auction house).
The scenery and character design in TERA is stunning. I spend some of my time just wandering the fringe, often off the game map, climbing mountains and swimming into the distance to see what I find. The designers put a lot of work into areas that are never used. Clearly they guessed there would be players like me, because there are some in-game Achievements based on unnecessary mountain climbing and almost-hidden paths.
That said, my style of play is unconventional at best. The mindless grinding that most players complain about is fine with me. Kill 30 of these and 20 of those? Sure thing, boss! My self-imposed isolation means I don’t get to experience the large battles or multi-boss dungeons that many players would consider to be the core of the game. I miss the fun of doing challenging things with trusted friends who knew how to play their roles well, but I’m not invested enough to seek that camaraderie here.
My approach to TERA has some financial advantages. When I played PWI, I had the latest outfits, best gear, and a cool mount (creature to ride), and put about $20 into the game each month. My TERA mount in the photo above is a limited-time reward that will disappear; my usual mount is an incredibly dorky music-listening duck wearing a rainbow afro wig and sneakers. He’s not cool or cute but he runs as quickly as the more aesthetically pleasing mounts and was very cheap in the trade broker. I don’t have to equip my gear with crystals to keep monster aggro (attack focus) because I’m not grouping with others who might come under attack. TERA also has an armor slot for underwear, which boosts certain stats and raises maximum HP (hit points – life energy). I was surprised to see that the cheap insulated underwear had the same stats as the silk items that were selling at far higher prices. The insulated undies work just fine.
Choosing to play an avatar that is rhinoceros-like, with large scars crossing her face, helps free me from my own aesthetic leanings, too. I don’t worry about making her pretty or sexy: I want her tough and capable. That is clearly an unusual approach to this game, where almost all of the female avatars I see are wearing costumes to appear extremely kawaii or sultry. I don’t recall seeing another female Aman, the rhino-like race. That’s giving me a lot to think about at night as I do my mindless grinding and binge watch Luther on Netflix.