Terraria (PC review)   Leave a comment

Developed by: Re-Logic
Published by: Re-Logic
Out now
Reviewed on: 20th May, 2011.

Presentation: Simple 2D sprites very much in the style of early SNES games. The music is more advanced, but still points back to the days of the late 16-bit console war era.

Atmosphere: Very similar to Minecraft in this regard, but with more of an emphasis on dungeon crawling and exploration than on building or crafting. It’s another indie game with a distinct retro feel to it to boot.

Control and Mechanics: Mouse for interaction, keyboard for movement. It’s made more complicated by the fact that, as with Minecraft, you can’t actually bind a mouse button to jump (which I always do in FPS games) as those are reserved for interaction-based functions. I was also disappointed by the lack of mass crafting options (have to repeatedly click to make hundreds of bottles from glass rather than ctrl-click to make ten or something).

UPDATE: Mass crafting has been added in version 1.0.2: simply by holding the right mouse button on the object you wish to craft, it will craft rapidly until you run out of resources.

Who should buy this: Anyone who loved a lot of the building and exploring ethos of Minecraft while lamenting the glacial progress and thin on the ground updates. Anyone who wants more variety and regular updates than Minecraft offered. Those who preferred the exploration and dungeoneering over the building aspects of Minecraft.

Who should avoid it: Those who dislike sandbox-style games. Those who dislike the 2D nature of the game. Those who preferred the ability to create impressive structures in Minecraft over the exploration and dungeoneering.

If I have to give a score: It’s lacking a few things Minecraft has, but it does deliver on many of the things MC should have had ages ago and it promises continual free updates and has a strong spirit of sandbox adventure, building and crafting. I recommend it before Minecraft. 3/4

Review

I really need to start with, despite all the assurances otherwise, I cannot but believe this game is following in Minecraft’s footsteps. I really wish Re-Logic would admit that; not because I believe their game represents any sort of theft, but because I already see in this basic first release of Terraria much more love, attention and a better grasp of game design than I’ve seen from Mojang. A friend of mine once said that Notch wasn’t a real game designer, that he stumbled on a good idea that worked, but didn’t really have the ethic or creativity to make a truly great sandbox game. I don’t really want to start any fires, but I believe he’s right and I also think that Re-Logic do have a much stronger grasp of their game and what they intend to do with it. With that said, this review will effectively take the form of a comparison of these two games.

I will put it bluntly, I would recommend this before I recommend Minecraft to someone.  Not because I think Minecraft is a bad game, I love the game, it’s just I burnt out on it very quickly. I bought it during the alpha phase and it was cheap, lots of fun and had the promise of free content updates. Nothing much got added but then the beta rolled around and…

… Nothing much got added. Not only that, but I got this sense that Notch got a bit greedy. For people buying during the beta, there was no longer the promise that all future content would be free. Not that they were missing out on much, because now the full game appears to rolling up in a few months and very little has changed from that game I played in mid-2010.

My rant about Minecraft could fill an article itself, but I’m not here to talk about that, I’m here to talk about Terraria. It’s just hard to talk about it without drawing the inevitable comparisons that are there to make. What essentially makes Terraria a better game at this point is the fact that I believe Re-Logic on the point of free content updates.

But why is it such an important thing to get content updates? Well, it helps keep the game feeling fresh and alive. Sure, I can build my own town in Minecraft, but where are the people to populate it? Terraria has an NPC system in place already and that can easily be expanded to add more people later. I started building a vast underground fortress in Minecraft but gave up when I released I couldn’t give any real function to all but a few of the hundreds of rooms I had planned. Sure, Minecraft has dungeon crawling within it, but where are the boss monsters or the secrets? Terraria’s 2D nature does make building more limited and if Notch really knuckled down then Minecraft could really become a great game beyond what Terraria could achieve, but he won’t and it won’t. Terraria could fall into this pattern too, and if so I would recant a lot of this, but Minecraft has already fallen foul of that.

Either way, the game starts you out at the dawn of day one on a generated world with a guide NPC to give you the basics, some basic tools (no tool degradation or chopping trees with you bare hands) and leaves you to it. You need to chop wood and/or mine you get the resources together for a shelter and weapons and quickly because, while the day produces the passive but still dangerous slimes, the night has zombies and demons that actively hunt you. Already, the Minecraft influence is clear, but as your power and village expands, you attract people who perform a variety of roles in your growing community. There are a few already and the game’s currency remains limited in usefulness but that is set to expand as more updates are released.

Terraria places a greater emphasis on dungeon raids and there are several styles of dungeons, each with their own tricks and traps. There are things like the deep hell areas that have special items and a wide range of interesting monsters to discover or the spreading corruption that produces abstract, demonic entities with names like the Eater of Worlds. Compare this, if you will, to Minecraft’s relatively empty and useless Nether that is always promised expanded usefulness but never gets more than minor alterations.

What Minecraft definitely has that Terraria cannot do is intrinsic to the medium of the game. Building monuments and great buildings in Minecraft is so much better because you have the extra dimension with which to work. I found a tower was all I really needed in Terraria because zombies never jumped up to the next floor to get me or my citizens when they broke the doors down (a rare event caused by the presence of a blood moon) and a set of houses alongside each other didn’t really work as well in the 2D format or even look as nice as my central tower.

That’s certainly why Terraria simply has less potential than Minecraft, it could never achieve what Minecraft could have done in the right hands, but it has so much more variety in terms of dungeon crawling and crafting. It even has a magic system which is something completely absent from Minecraft. It does generate smaller worlds but allows you to transfer characters from world to world in order to increase the variety. If you loved Minecraft for the exploration and discovery, you’ll find this game excels at those.

Overall, I would recommend this game to most people interested in the genre before Minecraft because of this increased variety in these areas. If someone wanted building and creating impressive structures, Minecraft does beat Terraria, but doesn’t compete with what some other games have to offer. Besides that, the updates on Terraria may surprise me with what the game is actually capable of achieving, but I would be happy with just increased content.

Terraria is out now and available via Steam for £5.99

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