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Day 1 in The Exiled Realm of Arborea: Altoholicism Abounds

How did my first day seriously invested in playing TERA go?  Well, if you happened to have picked out the sentence from yesterday's textwall about how one may spend about 300 hours getting to maximum level in a serious MMORPG, it may come of no surprise to you that I have been researching which of the eight classes I would like to invest my time into.  After taking a Lancer up to about level 8, I started having doubts, it's really better I settle my altoholicism earlier rather than later.  Considering the massive time investment in a serious MMORPG like Tera demands, I want to make sure I make the right choice in class, and what's right for me may not be what's right for you.
Domeran's "Tera HD" videos on YouTube are a fantastic place to look for a class breakdown of Tera, as he has a roughly 15 minute video dedicated to each explaining each of the skills in their "arsenal" and their particular roles in the game.  This particular video talks about new "level 60" skills (essentially the last each class gets) and I think some measure of a class can be derived from just looking at those skills alone.

The main basis of my research was to first play all 8 classes through the prologue, which gives you a level 20 character to play with.  Then I viewed some of Domeran's videos on YouTube.  Between the two, I think I can render the following quick summary of all the classes (whilst omitting a great many important details, I'm sure).

There's essentially four classes in this game, and they're each split into two styles.  Note that the first line of each class from the list here is actually taken direct from the class selection screen, so if you don't agree with the "star difficulty" ranking or the listed roles, blame the developers.

Melee Tank

Unique mechanic: an "evasion" meter that recharges over time, it effectively puts a restriction on the frequency and duration that Warriors and Lancers can block or use other evasive maneuvers.  Considering 5/8 classes are qualified as DPS and 2/8 classes are healers, tanks are in short supply in this game.  Lancers are the most solid choice for the job, but a well-played Warrior will do in a pinch.
  • Warrior - Five-star difficulty, "Evasion Tank or Sustained DPS, Melee, Leather Armor"

    Warriors are the only real hybrids at level 60: you can set them up to be DPS or you can set them up to be a Tank, but you'll have an easier time doing either with a specialized class, and a lackluster player will be poor at both while a good Warrior can do either moderately well.  However, that's probably not why Warriors are ranked at the highest difficulty in the game: it's because, more than any other class (with the exception of the Slayer) the Warrior will be in melee range and expected to read enemies telegraphing their attacks and dodge to survive (even with the addition of a block ability).
  • Lancer - Four-star difficulty, "Absorption Tank, Melee, Metal Armor"

    Where Warriors are highly mobile, Lancers wear heavy armor and wield shields that grant them the most powerful ability to block, which means Lancers can be trusted to stay in one place.  Lancers may be slow, but they can bring their enemies to them with a unique "leash" mechanic that allows them to pull monsters (and presumably enemy players in PvP) to them.  In the end game, Lancers can pull a whole massive clump of foes together, and that's potentially quite invaluable in a game so prevalent with targeted area of effect attacks.
Melee DPS

Unique mechanic: these two dedicated melee DPS classes' mana bar is "rage-based," it does not regenerate on its own (like any other class), but rather builds up through executing standard weapon attacks or using certain skills.   Under normal circumstances and without something to build "rage" against, their mana will actually degrade over time until they have no mana at all to use their skills with.
  • Slayer - Three-star difficulty, "Burst DPS, Melee, Leather Armor"

    The other class besides the Warrior that has to fight at melee range while relying primarily on evading enemy attacks, the Slayer's three-star difficulty rating may be because they put out so much more damage that the enemies do not survive long enough to be as much of a threat.  (In Domeran's opinion from his guide to Slayers, they are the easiest class to play in the game.)  From my run through prologue with all the melee DPS classes, it seems to me that the Slayer is essentially a more nimble version than the Berserker, relying on dodging rather than blocking, and has a high number of abilities that can be chained together...
  • Berserker - Three-star difficulty, "Burst DPS, Melee, Metal Armor"

    ... while the Berserker's heavy armor and heavier giant axe lends itself to the class moving slower and using blocks instead of dodges to survive.  Also, most of the Berserker's attack skills are instead focused on charging skills (skills that gain potency by holding down the hotkey).  Speaking of which, the Berserker has the smallest "arsenal" of skills of any class, and tends to spend a lot of time charging up their devastating "Thundering Axe" attack, a skill so pivotal to the class that the difference between a contributing Berserker and a load on the party is how many Thundering Axe attacks they manage to successfully land.
The over-the-top monster designs in this game certainly remind me I'm playing a South Korean cyber baang game.  Still, the artwork is great, just a bit weird to my western eyes, and this video is far from the weirdest example.  It's probably intentional: these are demons, after all.
Ranged DPS

Unique mechanic: none; it might seem strange to pair an offensive mage and an archer in the same category but, if you'd tried all the classes like I have, you will see that there is a great deal of similarity in these two classes' play styles. You may notice they're both rated at two-star difficulty, and I believe this is because their range emphasis allows them to kite enemies around like no other classes, often completely circumventing the need to pay attention to enemies broadcasting, a concern that many other classes (especially the player doing the tanking) cannot.
  • Archer - Two-star difficulty, "Sustained DPS, Ranged, Leather Armor"

    Like all of the classes above this, the Archer is a physical attacker, and consequently their basic physical attack help to build their mana bar that are spent on their attacks.  In comparison with the Sorcerer, the Archer is focused more on single target damage, and is even better at avoiding retaliation via mobility, thanks in part to their ability to lay traps and their evasion skills being on separate timers.  That leather armor makes Archers slightly less squishy, but of course it's never ideal for DPS classes to be taking damage.
  • Sorcerer - Two-star difficulty, "Burst DPS, Ranged, Cloth Armor"

    Like all the classes below this, the Sorceror is a magic user whose basic attacks do not build mana.  They also all have a "meditation" like skill that helps them to regenerate mana, and the Sorcerer's is unique in that it works at all times, even in combat when the character is taking damage.  In contrast with the Archer, the Sorcerer's forte is primarily in AOE damage.  At high levels, they gain a "celerity" ability that lets them spam all but their charged-attacks at 70% faster rate when the appropriate glyphs are applied, turning them into massively powerful glass cannons.  (And, being the token mage of this MMORPG, who's surprised?)
Healers

Unique mechanic: none, other than being cloth mages like the Sorcerer who are more reliant on spending mana and generally do not biild it through attacks.  Of course, the healers are unique in that they carry the most healing skills in the game, to the point where I am pretty sure the other classes have no heals other than the occasional self-heal.  You will notice that there are five classes in the game listed as having the DPS role and the two healers are not among them: expect healers to do paltry damage in comparison to a DPS class.
  • Priest - Three-star difficulty, "Primary Healer, Ranged, Cloth Armor"

    This is "the toolbox healer," the class that has the greatest variety of means to heal other classes.  They also have the greatest healing potency; Priests may do the least damage of any class, but they're the best choice for making damage move in the opposite direction!  Priests have a lot of group utility besides just healing, including damage shields to prevent damage, skills that get characters back on their feet when knocked down and prevent them from being knocked down again, access to a wide array of traditional buffing spells, and more.
  • Mystic - Four-star difficulty, "Support Healer, Ranged, Cloth Armor"

    There is no "jack of all trades" in Tera, but this class comes the closest.  Mystics (the only class that has combat thralls) have a pet that can tank, but naturally that pet is no substitute for a real tank.  Mystics have decent damage output, but they're not really a DPS class.  Mystics are mostly useful as healers, but are not quite as good at it as priests.  As a "support healer," Mystics are actually quite good at other things, like restoring energy to group members.  Mystics have the unique ability to manifest "balls" that drop at their feet and other players can then activate those balls to heal or restore their mana.  Mystics have their own form of buffs in the form of auras, and that one of these auras doubles the potential for critical hits is sure to put them in demand for parties.
That's pretty much it and, to Tera's credit, it makes choosing a class quite easy for anyone who knows which role in the party they want to play: tanking (Lancer is the best choice, Warriors will do in a pinch), healing (Priest or Mystic), or damage per second (Slayer, Berserker, Archer, Sorcerer, or even Warrior).  DPS would be the hardest choice, but even then you could differentiate between whether you prefer to work close up or at range and, like all the other categories, be pretty much down to a choice of two or three classes that play roughly the same and you just need one must-have skill to seal your decision.

Unfortunately for me, I am such a finicky gamer that the days are long gone that I could just pick one class based on the role and be content.  I am looking for a good time, and know that the individual class or role choice is not as important as the experience that each class brings, and this will vary from MMORPG to MMORPG; a priest from World of Warcraft need not play anything like a priest from Tera despite having the same group role.  (Good thing choice of race of wholly cosmetic, and you can even purchase a token to change the race on an existing character if you want.)

As far as Tera is concerned, I could see the potential for me playing up to four characters.
  • The Warrior will be my tank, because I find the more mobile play style of the Warrior more interesting than the Lancer... granted, the Lancer does have some interesting things about it.  I believe I am up to the challenge of the only "five star" difficulty class in the game, and would like to try to stand apart as one of those "good" Warriors.  
  • The Berserker would likely be my melee DPS because I already chose the Warrior and I suppose I would want one of my characters to wear heavy armor, and I do like how self-sufficient they are (Berserkers get an attack that also restores their hitpoints).  
  • The Archer or the Sorcerer would be my ranged DPS.  I already have both cloth and medium armor characters decided upon, so that's no help.  I think I like how the Archer plays better, but that Sorcerer celerity spell is hard to pass up: that's what I call real ultimate power!  While both classes are quite evasive, I think the Sorcerer relies on their wits slightly more to survive due to be being flimsy cloth wearers and needing to work in a number of roots and snares when soloing.
  • The Mystic would be my healer of choice because I think they're a lot more interesting to play than any other class with the possible exception of the Warrior.  The Priest is really quite reliant on partying early on, thanks in part to their rather poor damage output and having no pets to keep enemies off them.
That would pretty much cover all the bases of all the play experiences the game has to offer.  Yes, each of the eight classes are distinct, but are they distinct enough for it to be worth it for a person to invest an extra 300 hours per character?  Probably not, so picking just one out of each of the four categories of characters would probably be enough to get the full experience from the game for me.
Four characters is still too many; 1200 hours of time investment really won't do: I should narrow it down to only one character or maybe two on the outside.  To these ends, I will probably go with the Warrior and the Mystic.  Tera only gives me two character slots per server (with more available with micro-transactions), and these are the classes occupying those slots at the end of the day today.  Perhaps I'll play them both and see which one I get sick of first.

Were I not so occupied with my "research" into the game, and dedicated to a single character from the start, I likely would have a level 15-20 Lancer to show for my troubles.  As it is, I now have a Mystic and a Warrior at under level 10 each.  Hopefully, this investigation time will be well-spent.  At the very least, I'll have this blog entry.

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