Now that I’ve played the game, I can safely say that Terraria is in no way like Minecraft.
In Minecraft, you venture throughout a sandbox world, using tools such as a pickaxe to mine and harvest resources, use those resources to construct yourself a house, tools, armor and weapons so that you may defend yourself from monsters at night.
Terraria (PC [Reviewed])
Release Date: May 16, 2011
On the other hand, in Terraria, you venture throughout a sandbox world, using tools such as a pickaxe to mine and harvest resources, use those resources to construct yourself a house, tools, armor and weapons so that you may defend yourself from monsters at night. In 2D.
Sarcasm aside, although the foundation for Terraria is deeply routed in Minecraft’s gameplay, that’s where the similarities end. While the focus of Minecraft is largely on using the sandbox world to create wondrous Lego-block marvels, Terraria has a more targeted objective — become powerful enough to take on the world’s “boss monsters.”
Terraria’s action RPG elements drive players to forge and loot better gear for themselves in order to slay the world’s diverse monsters. In this respect, Terraria is a cross between Minecraft and Diablo 2. A Diablocraft 2D, if you will.
A Tunnel Too Deep — Terraria Gameplay
After creating your first character, you are thrown into Terraria’s vast world with some simple tools, an NPC Guide, and very little direction. Based on playthrough videos I’d watched, I knew I needed to harvest lumber and build myself a shelter before nightfall, but the precise means of doing so required trial and error and eventual recourse to online guides.
While the NPC Guide dolls out tidbits of advice, attacks by the daytime monsters — which become little more than a nuisance later in the game — serve as frustrating and sometimes deadly interruptions to your efforts to learn the game and create your first shelter.
In the early game, survival is your main goal. You want to build a shelter just to have a refuge from the deadly nighttime monsters. But as you harvest lumber on the surface and dig underground tunnels to mine ores, you expand your crafting capabilities and ultimately forge yourself weapons and armor, becoming the Hunter, rather than the Hunted.
Eventually, you will want to expand your modest shelter into a home with multiple rooms, which will attract NPCs to move into your house. A nurse offers healing, a merchant sells goods, a demolitionist provides explosives… all for a price. Coins can be looted from dead monsters or earned by selling items to NPC vendors.
As you delve deeper into Terraria’s underground in search of better ores and treasures, simply navigating the various waterlogged caves and dark caverns becomes a dangerous endeavor. Drowning, falling, and being crushed by a cave-in are all risks intrepid explorers must face — risks that are mitigated by experience and by the gear you eventually craft or loot from the numerous chests that litter the world. Grappling hooks allow you to cling to a cavern ceiling, swimming flippers render water far less hazardous, and mining helmets allow for hands-free lighting.
Excited to discover the increasingly precious ores and powerful loot that Terraria’s underground contains, I dug a vertical shaft straight down through the earth — heedless of the rising dangers. Deeper and deeper did I venture, and like Tolkien’s dwarves of Moria, I delved too greedily and too deep, eventually emerging into the Underworld, a hellish landscape rife with pools of magma and demonic creatures that tore me to shreds.
Fortunately, Terraria’s death penalty isn’t severe; you drop half of the coins you are carrying and respawn. You can stash your coins in chests in your house for safekeeping and even retrieve the coins you dropped if you return to the site of your untimely demise. A Hardcore mode for players seeking a greater challenge results in the loss of everything in your inventory — and the creation of a tombstone at your gravesite to remind you of your failure.
Exploring Terraria’s randomly generated worlds allows you to progress through various biomes, both above and underground — and even in the air: forests, jungles, deserts, oceans, floating islands, dungeons, the Underworld, and magically blighted terrain known as the Corruption. Each biome contains its own challenges, rewards, and quirks, and you can track your character’s evolution based on which biome he can traverse without dying.
Digging Deeper — This Reviewer’s Opinion
While Terraria is still a sandbox game that allows you to do whatever you please — I spent far too many hours creating and tending to my tree garden — the ultimate objective seems to be to forge yourself the best weapons and armor in order to defeat the “boss monsters” and delve into the dungeon found in every world.
Using an online guide improves the gameplay experience in many ways — for one, having a list of items I could craft or find motivated me to seek out that which I coveted. I had my eye on a shiny Phase Blade, a weapon that is, for all intents and purposes, a lightsaber, and I did not rest until I created myself one. Had I not consulted with the Terraria wiki, I would not have discovered half the exciting features of this game.
I believe the greatest statement I can deliver about Terraria is summed up in the following anecdote. I didn’t expect to like Terraria. I understand how that sandbox style of play can appeal to many people — Minecraft’s huge popularity speaks for itself — but the only sandbox games I’ve ever enjoyed were from the Grand Theft Auto series, and that’s simply because I get thrills from joyriding in Lamborghinis and seeing virtual car crashes.
Fully expecting to only sink enough time into this game to write a review, I came to a startling realization when, after spending countless hours digging tunnels into the wee hours of the morn, a friend said, “You really are addicted to this game, aren’t you?”
I’m not an addictive personally type. Believe me. *scratch scratch*
Now that I have gone through rehab and have been officially clean for five days, I can easily see how people who are already predisposed to enjoying Terraria’s sandbox style — or to getting hooked on games — will be playing this game for months to come.
But Terraria addicts needn’t hide their shame — a multiplayer mode allows you to share your obsession with friends. In fact, building a house and working cooperatively with partners adds tremendously to the experience. Productivity more than doubles with just a second person helping you mine, and an entire group can efficiently harvest resources if they get their teamwork right — some diggers, some torch-bearers, and some defenders.
While multiplayer is fun, as a server host, I found myself experiencing unusual hiccups, whereas the players on my server experienced no lag-related troubles at all — the converse of what happens in most games. My friends would move faster than me (without any speed-enhancing items), and the actual position of monsters was not the same as what appeared on my screen, evidenced by how I would be killed by monsters seemingly several feet away from me.
Terraria’s strengths rely on its core gameplay. Aesthetically, there’s nothing to compliment. The graphics are functional but somewhat lacking in visual clarity — silver is difficult to distinguish from stone, for instance. The sounds are lackluster at best, annoying at worst: on more than one occasion, I became frustrated by the repetitive thudding of zombies bashing at my door, to the point that I let them in in order to put a stop to the ruckus. It’s all very 16-bit.
I understand Terraria is an indie game and that the developers were trying to keep the file size down, but I’ve played free flash games with better graphics and sound. Capsized proved that an indie 2D sidescroller can have gorgeous graphics and atmosphere.
At the end of the day, the more time you put into Terraria, the more fun it is. If you can overcome the initial off-putting qualities — the graphics, the sound, the lack of direction, and the difficulty in figuring out how survive your first night — you may find yourself addicted to the gameplay and putting off sleep until you loot one more chest, find one more gold deposit, or defeat one more boss.
Terraria comes in a lightweight 16 megabyte package, and I purchased it through Steam for only $10. Considering the number of hours of entertainment this game has provided me (to date), it was well worth the price. A special offer packages four copies of Terraria for $20 — a great way to share the game with friends.
- Addictive gameplay
- Incredible amount of content for the low price and download size
- Rewarding crafting system
- A rich world that rewards exploration
- Multiplayer hiccups
- Lack of proper instruction or direction for new players