Review | 4/3/2013 at 8:30 AM

Terraria (Console) Co-Op Review

Down the rabbit hole we go

There seems to be a trend in the indie gaming scene these days. That trend involves world creation, community interaction, and character progression. Games like Minecraft have punctuated these concepts, and have gone on to be tremendously successful. Terraria is a game that also takes these concepts, but presents them in a pixelated 2D world. It evokes many genres, primarily sandbox, creation, action, and metroidvania. Many will be quick to call it a 2D Minecraft, and while they may be partially correct, it is much more (and less) than that.

Terraria is a game of progression. You will find yourself thrust into a hostile yet charming 2D world where you are left to fend for yourself. Should you elect to do so, you can play a tutorial that will outline the basics of survival. There is no true story to Terraria, only the endless drive to make it past another night. You will gather resources and build a dwelling to survive the first night. In this way, you may think that the game is basically a Minecraft clone. Later on, you will discover that the emphasis is not on creating a world, but rather item progression and exploration.

You will quickly want to start mining and get to the nitty-gritty in Terraria. You will be rewarded often for your efforts. Veins of ores and precious minerals are quite common, as are pots that contain healing potions, money, arrows, and other items. You will occasionally find chests that have actual items that seem straight out of an SNES RPG. You will become addicted to exploring the depths, eager to find endless treasure. Along the way, you will fight many different monsters, in a quest to find more treasure, relics, and gear. There is a great sense of progression with Terraria, and it is the primary motivating factor of the game. In this way, the game is more defined than Minecraft.

Unlike in Minecraft, creative elements are only a means to an end in Terraria. You will quickly realize that your dwellings seem lifeless. As you build up your home, new NPC’s will come to live in the various rooms you fashion. They peddle goods that can be bought with the coins from your expeditions, and sometimes drop a line or two of conversation. The majority of your time will be spent underground, and you rarely, if at all visit your house. That is because the house is simply a place to dump your treasure and coins, and house an NPC. Customization of the dwellings is not the primary focus of Terraria, it is simply an element of it.

All of this is old news to the PC crowd, who have been playing Terraria for years. Love it or hate, they say. So what is different about the console version of the game? There are quite a few differences, and almost none of them are positive. Right off the bat, you will notice that the interface is laborious. Where Minecraft translated well from PC to console, Terraria suffers from its native format. The screen is too panned out, making it hard to focus on small objects (and impossible in splitscreen co-op).

The controls are especially awkward. You essentially “aim” your tools, weapons, and items with the right analog stick. Initially, you will find this tedious and painful because the stick keeps “snapping” back to the player when not pressed in a direction. If you play the tutorial, you will find out that pressing in the right analog lets you use a sort of cursor, similar to a computer mouse. The problem is that there is a limited range of movement of the cursor. It is also painfully slow, and there is no option to adjust the speed of the cursor. Combat becomes a chore in the cursor mode, while building becomes a chore in the standard mode. Thus, you will awkwardly switch between the two often. It's very inconvenient, and I could never get used to it.

Terraria for the console has another problem. It is a big problem, that has the potential to be fixed. Simply put, it is a glitchy mess. There are numerous, game breaking, inconvenient, and downright nasty bugs. Some of them will force a game crash, some of them will cause you to permanently lose your items, and some are just an inconvenience to the player. Normally, a few bugs is forgivable, but due to the number of serious ones, it had to be mentioned in this review.

I enjoyed playing Terraria when the game initially released for PC. One of the biggest reasons I got so excited when I heard of the console port of the game was due to the cooperative factor. My girlfriend and I have spent countless hours in Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition, and I was hoping for the same great experience with the console version of Terraria.

Unfortunately, like the issue with the game breaking glitches, the multiplayer is a mess. Like I mentioned previously, when you try to play splitscreen co-op, the screen is almost impossible to decipher thanks to the panned out camera. This was on a 42-inch Plasma TV, mind you. I can only imagine the unplayable horror that four-player splitscreen would induce. Certainly it would not be ideal. There was also a problem encountered in local co-op that involved chugging and slowdown. The framerate can get pretty choppy when there are things going on. Like the small screen size, I am certain that four-players would experience this problem as well, perhaps more so. On an SD TV, the game would probably be unplayable.

Online multiplayer wasn’t as egregious as local co-op, however. While there is no option to browse servers online, you can join the worlds of those on your friend’s list. It is easy to invite and join a game, and I had no problems with joining in my play experience. There were some occasional lag problems however, but that varied with the person I played with. The lag was annoying, but not game breaking. While a server browser would have been nice, the fact that you can play online relatively painlessly was pretty cool.

Terraria for console was a very frustrating game for me to review. Not because I didn’t like it, but because I wanted to like it more than I did. The original PC game was a cult classic, and many gamers have logged countless hours into it. The game has loads of content, with tons of loot, and even epic bosses to face. While the creative elements are not integral to the experience as a whole, they are still present and can be used if you want to create structures.

The overall gameplay format and progression is addicting, and the ability to play on the TV with friends both on the same screen and online is awesome. There is even some new content in the form of items and bosses that are fresh with the console experience. However, I couldn’t overlook the poorly implemented controls, game altering glitches, and shoddy local co-op mechanics. Is it worth a buy? I would have to say that unless you want to be a part of what is essentially a fleshed-out beta, wait for some major patches to come along first.