Terraria is a new 2D side-scroller from indie developer Re-Logic, and you’ve never seen anything like it. The best way to describe Terraria is to throw Minecraft, Super Metroid, and Castlevania into a blender and power it up. The results are truly astonishing. It mixes the creativity and scope of Minecraft with the intense action and RPG’ish elements found in the Metroidvania style games. Don’t think that it’s a simple series of rip-offs though, Terraria is a unique and rewarding experience for those willing to brave the challenges of an unknown world. Let’s take a look.
When you first start Terraria, you will be asked to create a character, and then generate either a small, medium, or large world. The game will then drop your custom character into your randomly generated world with nothing but a pick and an axe. You don’t have any idea of what’s going on, where you are, or what your goals are. There is an NPC “Guide” character you can talk to for the basics, but you’ll outgrow his expertise quickly. The overarching goal of the game is simple enough, survive. How you choose to achieve that goal is totally and completely up to you. You can go exploring overland to the far reaches of the “world”, dig a mine to find minerals and precious gems, or build a settlement to attract friendly NPC’s that will help you in various ways. The worlds generated by Terraria are quite large, and the rugged wilds of the game stretch on quite a ways. Even the small worlds are quite large, easily big enough to support 2 or 3 players comfortably; and the large worlds will have plenty of resources to support a server’s 8 player max.
The game has a basic day night cycle, with both day and night showing off different enemies. The daytime enemies aren’t typically too difficult, and serve more as a reminder to stay alert than an actual challenge; but the nights are more dangerous, as zombies and other nasties will come for you after the sun goes down.
There are objectives in the game, if you want there to be, but nothing is concrete. Let me explain, there are boss characters that you can attempt to kill if you want, but you don’t have to. In fact, you don’t have to do anything. Everything is open to you.
The creation element is fleshed out and very well done. As you collect different resources, you can call upon your trusty crafting menu by pressing ESC. Here you are given the recipe for anything that you are capable of making at the present time. There are dozens of crafting materials and hundreds of craftable items in Terraria. There is one snag however; you aren’t able to see recipes for items you cannot yet craft. This means that if you want to craft something (say a sword or a bow), but you don’t know what you need, you’re out of luck. Fortunately, the game’s community is hard at work on two separte Wikis that can be immensely helpful in certain situations.
The controls for Terraria are elegant and simple. Standard WASD controls for character movement with SPACE for jump, and the mouse being used as a cursor. Left-Click to use the currently selected item, Right-Click to interact with people and objects, and ESC. to bring up the inventory and crafting menu. Item selection sits on a quick-bar that is tied to the number keys. The controls are smooth and respond well with the only noticeable lag occuring on low bandwidth servers.
The graphics harken back to the later years of the NES in all it’s standard definition, 8-bit glory. This doesn’t just feel like a 2D side-scroller of yore, it looks like one too. Some people may be turned off by the 8-bit graphics, and even more may be turned off by the fact that it’s fullscreen (not widescreen) and standard definition, but these graphics hold their own.
The multiplayer in Terraria is a blast, and exploring caverns with a buddy or two can really be a satisfying experience. The current server maximum is 8 players, and the most that I’ve played with is three (myself and two friends). Characters are persistant and can be brought (along with their inventory) into any world. While there isn’t a “trade” system, players can easily “throw” items to each other (the items don’t go very far, but it’s a little better than just dropping it). The multiplayer also features a “group” system where players can join the Red, Yellow, Green, or Blue groups. The only real benefit to this is that all the players in a group will get a “tag” above their heads telling their group members how far away they are in which direction, but that can be very useful when you don’t know where your friends are, and you’re 2,500 ft. underground!
Sadly, while the multiplayer may be one of Terraria’s biggest successes, it is also one of it’s biggest problems. Currently, the only way to set up a multiplayer match is for one player to set up one instance of Terraria as a server, then share their IP address with everyone who wants to join. The host must then start a second instance of the game to join their own server. On top of this, the “host” is treated just like another player once in the game, they still must provide their own IP (or alternately they can type “localhost”) and enter the password to join their own game. As for everyone else, all parties need to make sure the firewalls are out of the way and the correct port is forwarded on their router to be able to join. Now, for some people this may not be too big of an issue, but for many people, that’s too much. Long story short, the method of hosting and connecting to servers needs to be improved. Also, there is the issue of griefers. If you are playing with good friends who share and share alike, this won’t be a problem, but if you have a hoarder or resource thief in your group, you may want to steer clear. The thing is, everyone on a server can access the storage chests and all their contents. This can make it hard to stockpile resources of you have a resource hog in your group. There is a special kind of chest that prevents others from accessing your content, but it has limited space, and every one that you place only provides access to the same inventory slots. Finally, if you build something, someone else can freely tear it down, and they keep the resources. This means that someone can, not only pillage your structures, but they keep all the resources which you worked hard (hopefully) to get. As I said, if your playing with a good group of friends, it shouldn’t be a big problem, but having more personal storage space that can’t be intruded upon would be beneficial.
While the game has not been officially rated by the ESRB, I would say it’s the equivilent of a T rating. Players can wield weapons (inlcuding guns), and fight off a variety of monsters inclusding zombies, skeletons, and flying eyeballs (among others). When monsters are slain, they “break” into pieces and fall apart. There are no voice overs in the game, and I don’t believe that there are any swear words in the NPCs’ dialogue.
There are monsters in the game known as “Eater of Souls” and “Demon Eye”. Additionally, certain, boss-summoning items must be crafted at “Demon Alters”, and some of the highest level gear requires a “Hellforge” to craft. On top of this one of the hardest ores to obtain in the game is Hellstone.
Finally, there is magic. It’s end game, highest tier stuff, but it’s there.
When all is said and done, Terraria is one great game. The gameplay is tremendous fun, the co-operative multiplayer is even better, and the scope of each world is almost awe-inspiring. Yes, there are some issues here and there; the multiplayer connectivity needs to be tightened up, and there isn’t much in the way of anti-griefing mechanics, but these issues pale in comparison with the rest of the game. I highly recommend this game for fans of 2D action-adventures and/or open ended, open-world games. Buy!
Resources: Official Terraria Wiki
– Chris Hayes