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SummaryAddictive gameplay and tons of content. What more do you need?
- accessible gameplay
- exploring is genuinely fun
- lots of items to discover and craft
- charming simple graphics
- no clearly defined plot or direction
- difficulty is punishing at times
- music gets repetitive way too quickly
The Bottom LineTake the core ideas of Minecraft, mix in a little Castlevania, then dress it up in the brightest-colored sixteen bit pixels you can find, and you'll have something that looks and plays a fair bit like Terraria. This side-scrolling explore-and-craft-a-thon is a substantially different creature from the majority of PC titles being released these days. More importantly, the game play of Terraria is easy to get into, and the progression to the end of the game is both a challenging and addictive process.
If you've spent any time with Minecraft, Terraria's underlying structure should sound familiar: you harvest resources from various environmental sources such as tree and underground ore veins, use those resources to build new items and devices. Those items will allow you to harvest different resources or process existing ones in a way that wasn't available to you before, and doing so will gain you access to other parts of the randomly-generated map.
You start the game with nothing but a wooden hammer, a wooden axe (?!) and the clothes on your back. Oh right, and there's a guide. Yup, there's some random guy is wandering around in the remote wilderness, and he'll give you helpful advice on how to start out in the game if you talk to him. While these initial conversations will help get you on your feet and building the most rudimentary of items and structures, after the first few hours of the game, the guide's advice stagnates and you'll have learned all you can from him. From then on, you're pretty much on your own. While the side-scrolling platform-style game play should be familiar to anyone who's picked up a game pad in the last thirty years, one thing Terraria fails to convey is what the over-arching goal of the game actually is. You'll find out pretty early on that there are some bosses to fight and many an elaborate structure can be created using the resources you harvest from the ground, but there's no actual plot here -- no character conflict, no grand quest to undertake, no ultimate goal to strive for. Though I love sandbox games for the freedom they provide, some kind of simple storyline to motivate me in a forward direction would have helped Terraria feel like a complete experience as opposed to a series of set pieces arranged randomly for my amusement.
That being said, the set pieces provided are very well done indeed. Exploring the various tunnels under the surface of Terraria's landscape is really addictive -- hours will fly by as you mine ore, discover chests, fight monsters and generally try to stay alive against the ever-increasing difficulty of the pitfalls Terraria throws at you. And believe me, this game will get tough. Venture into the wrong area ill-equipped and the game's evil minions will make short work of your character, sending him back to your home point to rethink your approach. Luckily, the game allows you to set your difficulty from the outset -- death can cost you as little as a cut of your gold, or as much as your entire inventory. The truly crazy among you can even play hardcore mode, where death is permanent.
The graphics of Terraria are colorful, charming, and intentionally pixelated. All the sprites are well designed and work well for the game's style. The sound effects work well enough, but the music gets pretty repetitive after a few hours. The problem isn't quality, but quantity -- there's only one track for when you're exploring the surface, and two or three for the underground, depending on how deep you are.
The game had an impressive inventory of items you could find and craft upon its initial release, and developer Re-Logic has been diligent about releasing patches for the game, both for bug fixes and additional content. As of the 1.1 patch, the game's monsters numbered over 70 and you have access to hundreds of craftable items.
At first glance, Terraria looks like a relatively simple platform game, but it's cartoony presentation and easy-to-learn gameplay conceals a hefty amount of depth and a surprisingly challenging difficulty curve. Casual gamers will enjoy Terraria's addictive exploration, but hardcore completionists will stick around to discover all the crafting recipes and conquer the difficult boss fights. Whichever camp you fall into, Terraria is excellent value for your dollar -- a true indie gem.