Terraria Review

Our Rating
out of 5.0

Gamers love using their imagination to drift off into another world.  When real life gets stressful, it helps to have a way to jump into a universe that they can control.  Re-Logic, an indie game developer, brings us a familiar game type with all the comforts of controlling a world from the ground up.  Terraria is your typical sandbox game, with much of the theme inspired by Minecraft and a little bit of its own unique gameplay added for authenticity.  Instead of a 3D, 8-bit world, players can expect a mix of 8- and 16-bit animation on a 2D, platform-like universe.  Originally released on Steam, Terraria has moved to console, so gamers everywhere can play solo or online.  Grab a Pick, an Axe, and your imagination, as we explore your new home.

You’ll start the game off by creating a unique character and choosing the size of the world you wish to control: Small, Medium, or Large.  You can name both the character and the world, but for online purposes, your Xbox (or PlayStation) Gamertag will still be your identifier, instead of your chosen name.  The character  name you choose is really only to differentiate between your in-game toons; any online interactions or identifiers (like your tombstone) will show your Gamertag instead.

For those of you unaware of Minecraft mechanics, Terraria will be an unfamiliar concept at first.  Everything in the world you create is usable.  You can use tools like a Pick, Hammer, or Axe to break down and collect any element found in the game.  You’ll be pleased to hear almost everything is an element – from the trees, to the very ground you walk on.  Need to flatten out a section of land to build a house?  No problem!  The layout will be randomly generated, but players will be able to break through any element and actually reshape the land into the way they’d prefer.  The difficulty level you choose at the start determines what you lose when you die: Normal makes you drop all your coins; on Hardcore you’ll lose the Items in your Inventory; and Nightmare kills off your character completely, forcing you to start from scratch in a newly generated world, with a brand new toon.

While there is no storyline to drive Terraria, there are some motivational tasks in the game mechanics, such as encouraging more NPCs to move into the houses you build.  NPCs are useful, as they can sell you resources or help heal your character – giving players an added incentive to build structures and furnish them.  As you collect resources like Clay, Dirt, or Wood, you’ll be able to build houses which will attract these visitors.  There are so many different kinds of resources to collect and things you can build that you’ll be able to make impressive buildings and even fill them with aesthetically pleasing objects, like Glass Vases and Chairs.   You can even tend the landscape by planting Seeds and creating forests or gardens just by collecting and re-planting objects such as Acorns, Sunflower Seeds, and more.

There are also a lot of enemies and different ways that you can defeat them, making for an action-adventure twist to an otherwise open-concept, free-play game.  During the day, you’ll find harmless creatures (like Bunnies) that you can either leave alone or cut open with your weapons, as well as lesser enemies like Little Eaters or Green Slime.  During the night, however, you’ll come across swarms of angrier enemies such as Zombies, Demon Eyes, and more – so make sure the first thing you do is build yourself a house to hide in.

While adding enemies may seem like a challenge and an inviting change to a sandbox game, it can actually produce a level of boredom to the gameplay.  The concept is great, but there seems to be enemies that swarm in such large numbers, so that, unless you want to die outright by attempting to fight, run away to a safer area, or stick to only ranged weapons while you hide, you’ll be waiting around – a lot.  There will be several days or nights where you’ll be so swarmed with these creatures that you’ll just have to choose between waiting them out in a safe place or jumping into the mob and committing suicide.  You can build new weapons to attack your enemies more efficiently (such as a Flamethrower, Lance, or Sword), but if the resources you need are in an area crawling with baddies, you’ll simply have to take baby steps to collect what you need.  If you are lucky and find yourself randomly generated into a world with very few enemies, never fear – you can also go looking for trouble with multiple Bosses (such as the Eye of Cthulu) available at different points in the game.

The amount of times I died while trying to learn the mechanics was, frankly, embarrassing.  But to add a neat little morbid undertone to the game, each time you die there is a tombstone at the spot where you were slain, with an epitaph describing who died (your Gamertag) and how they died (which enemy got the last cut in).  Players can also take a hammer to a tombstone and remove the painful reminder of their failure to survive at any point, unless they really want to share the deaths with the world.  An added bonus is that players can also edit what is said on the tombstone, which can help commemorate each death in a fun and unique way.

If you were expecting the game to include cinematics, depth of scenery, or any elements that are beyond its 8- or 16-bit environment, you’ve missed the point.  While Terraria does have a more platform-like feel to it than you’d expect, it does not fall flat in reminding us that 2D can still be vibrant and unique.  The way that every shadow casts depending on the light and how realistic night time gets when you don’t have a torch in hand is an endearing quality about the game.   Terraria even uses both 8-bit graphics (e.g. Ore) and 16-bit graphics (e.g. Trees) to create its own individual appeal and depth.  The cartoony nature will not stop players from wanting to explore every inch of their randomly-created world and reminds us that we can have fun building our own castles in the sand (sometimes literally), regardless of the pixel quality.

While the music tries to mix your typical trumpet-blowing adventurer tone with a bit of techno, it tends to get redundant very quickly.  There is a very small selection of music, and at times, it doesn’t really sync up with what you’re doing – showing no signs of variation between building a house or hacking through a mob of Zombies.  There is no voice acting, and the best part of the sound effects is the disgusting squishy sounds that creatures like Bunnies make when you hack them apart (I swear, it was an accident).  Apart from a very basic effects scheme, you won’t find anything particularly uplifting or memorable about the sound in this game.

The multiplayer gives us the ability to play with eight players on the same world.  To add to your adventure, there is also an option to include PvP, which splits the players up into teams of four and allows them to take out the competition through a bloody massacre or by claiming a particular part of land for themselves and hunkering down to defend it against “those other guys”.  For those of you who enjoy fighting their way up the resource monopoly mountain, or just enjoy trolling people because they can, PvP will be the way to use your online access to your advantage.  There is also a split-screen four-player option to the game, though it can be extremely frustrating, as each time something is done on one screen, all the players stop until that action is completed.  It almost felt like Super Mario for the NES, when your brother could pause the game with his controller while you were mid-jump and cause you to fall to your death.

With a little more organized direction and some slightly more controlled AI, this game will be as successful on consoles as it was on the PC.  In spite of anything people may say to the contrary, Terraria is its own unique game, centered around exploration and imagination, and less concerned with the start-to-finish storyline that most games have nowadays.  The sheer possibilities of Terraria’s  gameplay are seemingly endless and will ensure that your money is well spent with its replay value.

Terraria receives a 4.25/5.0

Our Rating
out of 5.0

About This Post

April 1, 2013 - 8:01 am