Diggity, diggity, diggity.
Let Terraria’s meaty in-game guides be an indication of its laborious learning curve. First, there’s a ‘How to Play’ section in the menu that’ll take you upwards of ten-minutes of reading to familiarise yourself with the ‘basics’. Then, there’s a hands-on tutorial, which holds your hand as you learn to craft and destroy the world. Finally, as you begin the game itself, there’s an accommodating NPC called Jeff whose dialogue is brimming with tips.
If you missed out on the Minecraft craze, or any number of the games similar to Terraria, you’re going to need the help, because there are very few rules and exceedingly vast depth – literally and figuratively – in this retro-feeling hybrid of practical survival and explorative adventure. Like its PC partner, the Xbox Live version of this massive hit does what it sets out to do, and though novices will find themselves running for painkillers in the early stages of figuring how Terraria operates, this port is more than sufficiently operational once it gets going.
Forget about boundaries. Those who despise the invisible wall have nothing to fear in Terraria except perhaps falling off the edge of the world. Like an RPG, you begin with nothing and build your character and world. Unlike an RPG, you’re not choosing who you want to be, but the kind of world you want to live in. Nearly the entire landscape is yours to mould and melt, and if you want to make it past the game’s first day – yes, day and night cycles are frequent – then gathering resources and building a shelter, no matter how humble at first, is required.
At night, overwhelming monsters attack and only a rigid set of walls can keep the zombies at bay.
The gameplay process begins something like this. At night, overwhelming monsters attack and only a rigid set of walls can keep the zombies at bay. At day you chop trees to collect wood, and at night, within the confines of your safehouse, you can bury deep beneath the earth’s soil and mine for ore. Resources can be combined to craft furnaces, workplaces, and anvils, which in turn can be used to craft sturdier weapons and armors. Over the course of a few hours you’ll find yourself wandering further and further from your small shack and developing hardier strongholds as checkpoints over the two-dimensional plain.
As the game develops, you’ll eventually dig deep enough to battle fearsome enemies and populate your homes with merchants and arms-dealers. But this development happens slowly and by the time you find yourself at this point, you’ll be baffled as to how you got there, which makes you feel all the more proud at mastering Terraria’s mechanics, despite its wealth of text assistance.
Bits And Pixels
Independent games have a retrospective tendency in substance and style. Most seek to re-explore the simplicity of older generational titles, and that applies to Terraria in its art, which emulates the 16-bit graphical template. Character sprites will remind you of classics like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger, their basic animations – chopping wood, running and jumping, building walls – demanding your imagination to proactively participate in its unlimited environment.
The beauty here is the balance Terraria maintains between being a solo and multiplayer experience. Both are highly enjoyable and both have their merit. Forging a world, enjoying the comforts of a roaring fire while the forces of evil convene outside your door, and killing hours amassing iron and gold can be intimate, personal experiences, but they can also be shared online amidst friends. Alone or with a band of brothers, micro-management has never been more fun.
And there is a lot to micro-manage. Building settlements takes time, as does molding the landscape to your design. So also does collecting all the resources required to do so, but thank God there’s an ingredient option in the game that allows you to see what’s needed to craft each item – such luxuries never offered in earlier, similar titles like Minecraft, without which you’d be broken with nothing less than an online walkthrough.
A review copy of Terraria was provided courtesy of 505 Games. The game was reviewed on Xbox 360.
Terraria is an incredibly enjoyable and comforting indie game, and one of the best in its category. For Xbox 360 and PS3 owners who now have the chance to lose themselves in this lauded PC hit, by all means, lose yourself. Some of the greatest video games of all time have stemmed from a minimalist philosophy, from Pong to Shadow of the Colossus, and Terraria boasts all the same virtues. It gives you all the tools to break down every wall but an invisible one. Thankfully, Terraria is to the invisible wall as Pac-Man is to hunger.