Terraria comes at a very convenient time, where the sandbox genre has built its way to the top through the ingenuity of one sensation, Minecraft. Although Terraria shares a key mechanic with Minecraft the indie developer Re-Logic has given Terraria its own identity as a 2D side-scrolling action game that shares more in kind with Metroid. The popularity of Minecraft certainly helps Terraria since these ‘mining’ games have not been hip until this past year, so I’m glad that Terraria could piggy back on the success of Minecraft. On the surface it may look like the same old “destroy and build the world as you see fit” but if you dig deeper you will see that this is no two dimensional rip off. So let’s get our hands dirty and see what Terraria has to offer.
The idea of Terraria is that you are an adventurer in a fantasy land trying to survive. There is no overall purpose or goal to the game, but you must harvest resources and build things in order to defend youself for the evil monsters that wander your world. At it’s heart it is a mining game, where you dig into the depths of the world, searching for rare metals, secret caverns, and precious materials that can be used to craft useful and exciting items. The sheer number of specific items you can build is mind boggling and even with the time I spent with the game I have probably only saw a third of the possibilities. There is a vast array of weapons and tools that you can create from swords to grappling hooks, granted that you have found the correct materials. Sometimes, if you are searching in the depths of the underground you will stumble upon a life saving sword, or one of the many treasures hidden throughout the land.
What lies beyond the dark depths of a cave?
Of course the world is made up of blocks, and each world is totally randomly generated. During the day you usually harvest resources and build your home because once the sun sets, the stronger mobs appear. Do not make the mistake I did and try and be a hero by defending the land from limitless zombies. That doesn’t end well. While adventuring I found that being able to see more of the world at a glance made me want to explore further and see what was on the other side of every rock, wall, and dirt patch. Aside from the beautiful sprites and retro-style graphics, the 2D perspective adds something that gives the game a totally different feel from anything else. Having the ability to see all around you makes digging feel much more accessible, as Terraria allows you to take in whole areas of the world at once and you are not limited to a first person view. This makes not only mining more efficient but you can also see what is coming up next, be it a precious metal, hidden treasure, or a nasty enemy. Even though this perspective allows you to see more of the world, Terraria still manages to create tension while exploring in the depths of a dark cavern.
It isn’t much, but we call it home
What is awesome is that your character is persistent and can be used in any world that exists. Where Terraria really sets itself apart is the character development, and being able to progress your character with health and mana upgrades as well as amazing weapons and armor. Even though there is no over arching goal of the game, Re-Logic has included some really interesting sub-quests that you can build towards. Within the game you can complete specific challenges that will recruit NPCs to inhabit your buildings. For example, In order to get the merchant to live in your house you need to earn fifty silver coins, as well as actually have a livable house for them to stay in. Once the characters move into your house, they will offer their services that come in very handy; the nurse heals wounds, the merchant allows you to purchase goods, and so on. Having these NPC’s become your cohabitants creates a sense of community on the surface of your Terraria world and it is eerily satisfying how much it helps to have others around you at night.
World crafting and character building aside, the one unique aspect about Terraria that kept me playing was the random events that can occur. While our group was peacefully gathering some iron or actively pursuing some slime mobs, out of nowhere a message popped up saying ‘something is watching us’ and we stumbled into a boss battle! I’ve yet to experience some of the other instances but I have heard party members tell me stories of goblin invasions and meteorite crashes. These events alone set Terraria apart from any other mining game out there as they provide the world with so much charm and character. All of the above is possible alone, but I highly recommend playing this game with as many people as possible. The camaraderie that comes from digging as a group is cathartic and I spent countless hours every night just doing “one more dig”. Having a group to co-op build, craft, and create will allow for an efficient use of time within your Terraria world and serves as a great bonding experience when you run into rare occurrences throughout your explorations.
Just one of the random encounters you may have
One thing that I have a problem with in Terraria is that it does not offer anything to players who have ‘completed’ the game. Once you have seen all the instances, have all the best loot, and you have built your amazing castle there is little to do. Maybe I was spoiled with the challenges presented throughout the game and I forgot that there was no goal to the game, but the end game gets pretty boring. A quick and dirty remedy is to hit the reset button and start a new world, but even in that all you are left to do is build bigger and better structures. I have a feeling that Re-Logic will include updates to the game that will add a constant influx of content into the world of Terraria but for now all that is left for our group to do is explore until we reach the ends of the land.
Terraria is not Minecraft, nor does it resemble the game in any way but the mining and crafting bit. Of course these are major components of the game but the loot, challenges, boss encounters, and faster paced action really sets Terraria apart from its 3d predecessor. Both games offer completely different experiences and I think they can coexist in the height of the ‘mining sim’ time that we live in. Personally I prefer the look and feel of Terraria, as it has charm and creativity oozing from every crevice. The game is a steal for ten dollars on Steam, and it is a great way to spend time with a bunch of friends. If three dimensions is too many, grab Terraria and get digging with a couple friends and explore what this world has to offer you.