Review by Ateas
"A delightful adventure game that plays like an unlikely cross between Metroid, Castlevania, and Minecraft."
It's easy to look at the premise of Terraria and dismiss it as a 2D Minecraft ripoff, but that would be doing the game a serious injustice. Terraria has much more "game" in it than sandbox. If Metroid, Castlevania, and Minecraft made a baby, it would be Terraria. It's an adventure game at heart, and a sandbox game second.
In Terraria, you're thrown face-first into a colorful, randomly-generated 2D world that looks like something straight out of a Super Nintendo game. You have an axe, pickaxe, a sword, and absolutely no direction whatsoever. Unless you look up FAQs or information on a Wiki beforehand, there's a good chance you'll either wander into a dangerous area and get killed, or get slaughtered by the zombies that come out at night. Sound familiar? Well, yes, Terraria has loads in common with Minecraft. You gather resources to build equipment and structures, and dig ever-deeper into the world where even more valuable resources await you. However, as I mentioned earlier, there's more "game" in Terraria. By that, I mean there's progression and goals, even if it's not apparent at first glance.
There's a lot to do in Terraria. You'll be spending most of your time underground, fending off baddies and collecting valuable ore and other materials. Adventuring underground feels a lot like Metroid. You'll be navigating platforms and hazards, and occasionally finding treasure chests with useful items in them. There are increasingly-powerful sets of weapons, tools, and armor to make (many more than were present in Mincraft at this time of writing), and you can collect Heart Crystals Zelda-style to increase your maximum health. You can also find accessories that provide stat boosts and other bonuses, and weapons and accessories can have RPG-like "modifiers" on them that make them more powerful. The end result is that your character gets steadily stronger over the course of the game. The game world isn't 100% random, either; there's a certain structure and order to it. Some areas are much harder than others and powering-up your character through crafting new equipment and finding heart crystals allows you to adventure further in the world. These harder areas have better loot in them, and every area contains materials that can be used to make more powerful equipment. The game is always rewarding you, whether it's a new accessory, a fat vein of a rare ore, or an uncommon enemy drop that allows you to craft a new item.
Crafting is key in Terraria, and it's a bit more user-friendly than in Minecraft. You simply stand next to the necessary crafting station (an anvil to make swords, for example) and in your inventory there will be a list of items you can create with whatever you have on you. And if you're ever wondering what a material can be used for, there's a Guide NPC who will show you a list of recipes a given item can be used in. There are other NPCs as well, and completing certain objectives (which again, aren't made clear to you) will cause one to move into a vacant house if you've got one ready. NPCs provide different services, and there are twelve in all. By the end of the game, you'll essentially have your own little town built. Initially, there are four bosses in the game you can encounter, and you'll probably stumble across them by accident. After defeating the fourth boss, your world enters "hard mode," where the bad guys get much tougher, and new materials appear throughout the world that can be used to make better gear. In hard mode, there are three more bosses to defeat (variations of the first three from normal mode), and they drop materials to make some of the game's best items. Hard mode is extremely challenging, but ever-so rewarding. If this all sounds overwhelming and complicated, it's because it's difficult to succinctly describe the sheer amount of content Terraria has.
As you might have gathered from what I've written here, it's pretty much impossible to talk about Terraria without comparing it to Minecraft. But they're two very different games at their core, and both are worth playing. I've personally spent 130 hours in Terraria, and loved every minute of it. But if there's one big problem with the game, it's its lack of intuitiveness. It's just not user-friendly. This is one of those games where there is absolutely no shame in looking up a guide, and fortunately there are two excellent Terraria Wikis packed with information to offset the lack of in-game help. Despite this admittedly-huge flaw, I can't recommend Terraria enough. At just ten bucks, it's a steal. It starts off slow, but once you get into the swing of things, Terraria will suck you in and constantly reward you for your efforts. I can't think of a game that offers a better value for your dollar.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/05/12
Game Release: Terraria (US, 05/16/11)
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