Re-Logic’s Terraria has been hailed by many as a two dimensional version of Mojang’s critically acclaimed Minecraft. Terraria does indeed share similar concepts with Minecraft – dropping the player into a randomly generated world, filled to the brim with things to explore, fight, and mine – but it sets itself apart by introducing a level of depth that includes features like fearsome bosses, treasure-filled dungeons, underground jungles and even more. It’s much more than just a knock-off.
After creating your character, a process which involves selecting the style of your hair and the color of your clothes, you are able to generate a world of one of three sizes. These worlds aren’t infinite, but from my experience, not only will generating a ”large” map result a huge area to work with that it will keep your attention for quite a long time, but the random generation is extremely well implemented, and will create maps that are extremely varied (although all share similar characteristics, such as a floating islands and a dungeon). A feature that is quite enjoyable is that Terraria characters are kept separate from worlds. If your character finds rare equipment in one world, you can use it in a different world or even online.
Once you enter your new world, you are dropped in the middle of nowhere with nothing but simple tools. New players will likely find themselves utterly lost at first, as Terraria lacks a concrete tutorial of any kind. Re-Logic tries to alleviate confusion by means of an NPC Guide that will share tidbits of information with you, but the information that the player is given tends to be too vague and doesn’t clearly explain how to play. After several minutes trying to figure out why I couldn’t punch trees, I realized that in Terraria, all tools can only be used for their assigned purpose. Axes can down trees, pickaxes mine ore and dirt, and hammers are used to destroy objects in the “background”, such as walls and furniture. It doesn’t take long before you catch on, and once you do, Terraria really begins to show its beauty.
The first two things I’d like to touch on is Terraria’s graphics and its music. The 16-Bit RPG-esque graphics that Terraria brings with it are charming and skillfully done. The retro graphics are a fresh entity in today’s gaming market that has largely moved into high definition, three dimensional graphics. While not all will appreciate the tribute to retro games, Terraria definitely benefits from this particular style. Secondly, Terraria’s music is without a doubt absolutely charming. From upbeat melodies during the day to more ominous, slower tracks at night, Terraria’s music compliments its graphics with a distinctly RPG-like feel. The music seamlessly changes as you interact with the environment as well. For example, as you dig into the ground, the usual music of the over-world fades into a deep rhythm.
Terraria has a day/night cycle that vastly impacts the surface. During the day, you are free to go about your business and gather wood, stone – anything that you can scrounge up – largely uninterrupted. You’ll want to erect some sort of shelter as fast as possible, of course, as come nightfall, the surface transforms into a dangerous place. Zombies, floating eyes and more will try to feast upon you and the NPCs that occupy your village, so building shelters is an important part of Terraria. Bigger villages and more houses will, in time, attract a plethora of useful NPCs such as a merchant who sells supplies, a nurse who will heal you for a price, and the shady arms dealer who sells firearms.
Terraria’s wide range of gear and enchanted accessories is absolutely the best part of the game. While you may start with nothing but the shirt on your back and a few tools, you will, over time, be able to craft armor and weapons, or you might find a rare artifact underground or up in the sky. The enchanted items in Terraria range from the mundane, such as flippers that allow the player to swim underwater, to more fantastical items like a cloud in a bottle that lets the player double jump. There is a wide variety of unique loot to find in Terraria, and mark my words when I say that you’ll become obsessed trying to unearth it all.
All of the gear you can find really comes in handy when you decide to square it off with some of the bosses. Deadly monsters, such as the Eye of Cuthulu (a gigantic floating eyeball), can be summoned and fought by the player. By fighting and defeating these monsters, the player can gain access to rare ore that can again be used to create better tools, weapons, and armor.
In addition to it all, Terraria brings in an interesting system of random events that can be beneficial or deadly. Every single night, there is a chance that a “Blood Moon” will rise, causing monsters to spawn at twice the rate. Goblins can suddenly raid the world, swarming over your work by the hundreds. Meteors can come crashing down from the sky, bringing with it rare ore that can be used to craft advanced tools and weaponry. All of these events blend in together deliciously and they occur at the perfect rate – they aren’t too common, but they occur often enough to keep you on your toes.
Terraria also offers online multiplayer for those who wish to build, fight, and explore with a friend. Unfortunately, despite all the good things this game has going for it, the multiplayer is a bit disappointing – more specifically the method of hosting and joining servers. To actually play online, the host must launch two instances of the game, one that acts as a hosting server, the second to actually join it with your own characters. Other players can only connect to your server via IP, a frustrating limitation in this day and age. Despite this frustration, once you connect to a server the game works flawlessly. I’ve greatly enjoyed the hours I’ve spend spelunking with my friends. If you don’t feel like cooperating with your friends, you can enable PvP mode and fight to your heart’s content.
Whatever Terraria did, worked extremely well. The side scrolling adventure title sold over 50,000 copies on launch day alone, and as of the day of writing this review, 10 days later, has sold over 200,000. This game had no advertising campaign that I am aware of, and was spread entirely by word of mouth. I just can’t put it any other way: Terraria is awesome.
Terraria was released on May 16th 2011 and is available for download on Steam for $9.99.