Terraria is a strange title. Its 2D world suggests simple fun when compared to the gritty realism that most games portray, while its quirky styling and audio lead to an often comedic atmosphere. Don’t be fooled by the aesthetics, though – this is a release that demands your time and effort if you want to get the most out of it.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the game has the potential to keep you busy for hundreds of hours. It's designed to be as dynamic and packed full of replay value as possible; you’re given the option to create brand new, randomly generated worlds at any time – you can even carry over your character and their entire inventory to boot. There’s no doubt that there’s a huge amount of content here for the asking price.
However, it all comes down to your commitment to the title which determines how much of that content you’ll actually see. There are wonders and grand adventures to be had for sure, but getting to them is a time consuming process that won’t be to everyone’s tastes. The game therefore proves to be quite divisive – you’ll either love it and become engrossed with it for days on end, or get bored relatively quickly.
That’s not to say Terraria isn’t a rewarding experience, though. You won’t necessarily have to spend hours upon hours digging up ores and various other materials while nothing exciting happens. As previously mentioned, this 2D universe is a fascinatingly dynamic one – special events, monster attacks, and random moments of chaos are frequent occurrences, and they’re largely responsible for making the charming sandbox feel alive.
This is a game where you’ll be developing your own stories naturally, rather than following threads of narrative. In fact, there’s no real plot to speak of. A few NPCs here and there might mention old artefacts or strange doings, but there’s nothing concrete. Instead, you’re essentially left to your own devices, free to do whatever you please with little in the way of punishment besides getting chomped by beasties. You can travel around the map, picking and choosing your own adventures that lead to treasures, friends, or both. You can throw a few dirt blocks together and make yourself a humble little home, or start mining your way into the depths of the underworld.
Your only real goal is one of progression. Building a bigger and grander house, forging stronger weapons and armour, defeating more dangerous and frightening enemies – these are all aspects of the game that you’ll end up committing to if you’re here for the long haul, and when combined, they create a deep and complex bulk of enjoyable gameplay.
Terraria is arguably a title made up of DIY fetch-quests, as the majority of your playtime will be spent hunting down the raw materials that you’ll need to craft new items, equipment, and home furnishings. It’s hard to describe the game’s flow without at least mentioning the mighty Minecraft, but despite the obvious similarities, calling the title a copy-cat doesn’t do it justice. There are plenty of unique ideas here, including the addition of various RPG elements, to keep the release feeling different.
The materials themselves can be found just about anywhere – chop down a tree and get wood, dig into the ground and find ores, kill monsters and take their bones and eyeballs. You’ll be keeping a constant eye on your inventory and its subsequent free space because of how frequently you’ll be picking up new bits and pieces, and micromanagement can unfortunately become a bit of a chore due to this.
The problematic inventory screen also highlights the game’s biggest flaw: inaccessibility. Because the title was birthed on the PC, every method of control is best suited to using a mouse, and trying to navigate menus with the left analogue stick, while also tapping the shoulder buttons to switch between multiple tabs, can become excruciatingly cumbersome. The same is true when it comes to building structures and placing items in-game. With a mouse, you’d simply click on the desired space while having your material equipped – but here you’ll not only have to coordinate both character and cursor movement, but also fumble your way through your inventory to add the object to your equipment slots in preparation. There’s a definite learning curve at work here – whether or not you get over it is again largely dependent on your tolerance of the game’s mechanics.
When you’re not busy making use of the relatively simple but awkward crafting system, you’ll probably be out exploring and fighting beasts of all shapes and sizes. Combat is as simple as it gets in a side-scroller – marching up to enemies and whacking the R1 button to swing your weapon until your adversary explodes is really all that's ever required, especially against standard enemies. Boss fights on the other hand provide intense battles that can rage across huge distances as you chip down their health bars bit by bit.
Even with such a simple combat system, things are kept fresh thanks to an array of unique weapons, from giant swords to deadly machine guns. And while dedicated crafting sessions can reap some powerful new toys to play with, many of the game’s most devastating pieces of equipment are found deep underground, hidden away in treasure chests at the heart of treacherous dungeons, which are bound to provide a suitable challenge for any adventurer.
Speaking of difficulty, Terraria’s inherent depth means that proceedings can be quite brutal at first – especially if you haven’t yet adapted to the game’s modular flow. Straying too far from your starting point while underprepared will no doubt lead to quick deaths, and things only get increasingly dangerous when night falls. You’ll soon learn that it’s important to plan ahead when it comes to surviving the darkness – you’ll need shelter, a good way to pass the time, and a knowledge of which abominations you’re going to have to face in order to survive. Suddenly, the title takes on the guise of something that closer resembles survival horror, as zombies claw on the door of your hastily built home.
Fortunately for the less courageous player, up to four-player co-op is available. As long as the game’s custom settings permit it, you’ll be able to invite friends or strangers into your world or join another. Questing and building with others proves to be a great way to get a feel for the title, although you’ll certainly want some form of instant communication between participants in order to help avoid the misunderstandings that inevitably occur when grabbing vast amounts of loot.
Terraria certainly won’t be appreciated by everyone. It requires a lot of time, effort, and patience if you’re to coax everything out of the experience. For those willing, there’s more than enough enjoyable, diverse content here to keep you busy for hours on end, and it can be even more fun with friends – just be prepared to wrap your head around the incredibly awkward user interface first.