As an avid PC gamer, admitting to having never played Minecraft could be considered treason and blasphemy. However, as I type this with my head resting reluctantly on the executioner’s block, I know that I will get into Indie Heaven. Why? Simply because I played Terraria.
Selling 200,000 copies in nine days is no mean feat for a 2D Indie game, but Terraria has done just that. Now, for a game that prides itself on being a game with no set goals, no objectives and no particular end-point or final boss, that’s an impressive haul. However, the comparisons to Minecraft undoubtedly helped sales, not that Re-Logic will complain too much that their masterpiece has reached a large audience on the back of this comparison. With my limited experience of Minecraft, this game is only like Minecraft in the same sense that every modern FPS is compared to Call of Duty: it’s of the same ‘do whatever your imagination lets you’ mould, but that’s where the comparisons should end, as Terraria is focused more on the action-adventure aspect than being a truly sandbox game like Minecraft. By combining open-ended exploration and customisation of the environment with Zelda-esque Action and RPG elements, Terraria is a game that encourages endless adventures within your world, either alone or with friends. Terraria also allows you to level up in a rather unconventional way - rather than letting you permanently alter a set of attributes, you instead get stronger and more productive simply by collecting and equipping better weapons, armour and accessories. Only Health and Mana can be increased permanently.
Upon opening up the game, the sense of nostalgia is almost unnerving, with the game utilizing stylized 16-Bit graphics that are aesthetically pleasing, if not technically impressive like contemporary titles such as The Witcher 2,and reminiscent of the Super Nintendo era. Nonetheless, Terraria strikes you as an innovative game rather than simply just a nod-back to the game’s ancestors. Before plunging into the game, you first need to create a character. Customization options for the character are purely cosmetic and have no effect on the game, but playing around with the RGB settings for your sprite is surprisingly addictive, if not particularly intuitive. Once your little ‘bundle of joy’ is finished to your satisfaction, and garnished with a suitable moniker, it’s time to create the world in which both you and your character will lose hours of your time in. With 3 possible sizes of world to choose from, all randomly generated like in Worms, there is plenty of scope for exploration on any scale, be it a small-scale world where resources are within easy walking distance, or a large scale Utopian woodland with plenty of natural caves and landscapes to explore and manipulate. Whatever your choice, the fundamentals remain the same: explore and survive.
What you need to survive are the many hazards that Terraria presents you. Multiple enemy types, such as the downright irritating Slimes, plague the worlds you create, draining your precious hearts, requiring you to aimlessly chop at mushrooms to regain health, and later use potions and other items as the world matures around you, affecting the amount of resources you need and can acquire. Along the way, you will meet a colourful cast of people, from the ever-helpful Guide, who provides you with snippets of information to help your in-game experience, to an Arms dealer, helping you rain down fiery destruction on those who stand in your way. You can also invite your friends to join you in your world, bringing all the equipment and resources they gathered in their world to yours, allowing you to trade and explore as a team. Not only does this add to the fun of the game, it also allows the newer players to be helped out by more experienced players by being equipped with better equipment and armour.
However, Terraria is all about letting you play the game how you want, such as an intrepid explorer slashing your way through enemies as you descend into the darkness, or as a self-sufficient homeowner trying to defend your creations against a horde of mysterious enemies, with the ever-present Guide providing only basic hints to aid your survival. The upside of this is that the game has almost unlimited re-playability, as every world is different, and you can explore the world in any way you choose without feeling hemmed in. The downside of this is that the learning curve can be pretty steep at first. It took me about 5 minutes to realise how to build a shelter, and trust me, when night comes, the new character DOES NOT want to stay outside for too long. A dedicated tutorial that runs the first time you boot the game would be beneficial here, but the lack of one isn’t detrimental to the experience provided you are willing to take a ‘trial and error’ approach to the game
Got me hooked!
All in all, with its simple but effective interface, nostalgic sounds and vast open world, Terraria is a game of almost unlimited scope and enjoyment, provided you are willing to put the hours in to get proficient at the tasks the game requires you to perform. If you have the commitment, the game will appeal to anyone who has ever played the old-school Legend of Zelda games along with those who just enjoy exploration and combat and, of course, fans of Minecraft. However, even if you don't really categorize yourself as a wearer of one of those labels, you should give Terraria a try anyway. It might just make you a fan. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got caves to explore.
Engaging gameplay with aesthetically pleasing visuals and high replay value for a great price
Steep learning curve for new players. Graphics do not stand up to contemporary titles.