Sic Semper Terraria

Terraria is a game that’s been out for going on a year now, and is still probably best known as “that two dimensional Minecraft game.”  Admittedly, when it first hit the market, it was remarkably similar to the much more popular sandbox title, even having a similar release plan by coming out first in early beta.  Both games involve mining ores with pickaxes, but that’s really about where the similarities end.

Recently, Terraria just released their long anticipated version 1.1 patch, which overhauled the game to an enormous extent and brought in a storm of new features and content, but for now, let’s start with the basics.


The Basics

Mere minutes away from being consumed by slimes.

Starting a new character in Terraria starts you off with a surprisingly wide array of aesthetic options.  You’re able to customize the color scheme for four separate body parts, choose to be male or female, and then, choose what difficulty you want to play on, Softcore, Mediumcore, or Hardcore.  The character you create will be available to you across any world you choose to play on, complete with whatever items it has equipped or stocked in its inventory.  Having difficulty tied to your character and not to individual worlds is a mechanic that isn’t seen very often at all, and allows for characters to be easily transferred.  World creation goes even quicker than character creation, with only the need to select the world size to generate a fresh, untouched natural landscape to be ruined through industry.

Starting a new world drops youinto the middle of the wilderness with only some basic, rudimentary tools to get you started.  A sun slowly moving ominously across the background should tell you to get started immediately before you’re left to work in the dark, but if it doesn’t, then there’s a helpful NPC that spawns close by going by the name of “Guide.”  Guide will help you out with helpful hints, as one might expect, as well as helping you figure out new recipes.  With the clock actively ticking all the time, you need to hurry up and build some shelter for the night.

The movement and combat controls are fairly intuitive, being reminiscent of old-fashioned sprite-based action games.  Outside of Guide, there is very little in the way of any tutorials to show you the way, so the learning curve might take some getting used to for new players.  The world is set up for exploration and discovery, all of which is left up to the player to find their way through.  The game does little to indicate the sheer depth of content in the early stages, and much of the late-game content must be discovered either in-game through luck and chance or through third party sources such as the very helpful Terraria wiki.

The essence of the game, however, is simple: you gather, you build, you craft, you conquer.  Whether you choose to do so alone or set up a server and get your friends in on the action, it’s what you do once you figure out that game plan that things start to get a bit more complicated.


Getting Deeper

Wait, where the hell am I?

It will quickly become apparent that the basics of game play will be enough to meet the basics of survival in the randomly generated world before you.  Learning to swing a sword or dig a mine is only the tip of the Terraria iceberg.

Boss fights are more than just an annoyance in Terraria.  They are milestones with which to measure progress, and they will happen whether you want them to or not.  Attacks from the Eye of Cthulu, a large, flying, bestial eye with teeth, are all part of the Terraria way of life, and you must work fast and hard not to just survive them but to defeat each one in turn.  It can be argued that only when the Eye of Cthulu lay dead for the first time has the game really begun.  That has always been the first major marker on the road to dominating your world, the first time you are given access to the next level of gear and items.

For a game that is entirely player driven, that is the only true reason for progressing.  Acquiring the next level of items, or specific items that only drop in various places in the world, becomes the major drive for most players.  Tracking down and rescuing every NPC, finding and mining the highest tiers of ores, battling and conquering the depths of the Dungeon, and summoning and defeating every boss the game has to offer are the most common goals for players.  For some players, it even becomes a matter of creation, of building fantastic structures and incredible designs, taking advantage of the in-game physics to manipulate the environment as they see fit and truly become masters of their worlds.

Pixel art is an unofficial part for late-game players.  For those that already have everything, turning to the aesthetic side of things is often the logical next step.  Abandoning old, dreary buildings to build titanic castles in the sky or massive, underground super-bases becomes the new drive.  Each new castle and unnatural formation is a declaration of victory over a world that has worked hard and still failed to discourage and drive away players.  Without any true ending to the game, putting the final touches on each new super structure is the closest to ending credits that many players can reach.


What’s New?

So far, everything I’ve mentioned have been features of the game since it was first released on Steam.  The core gameplay of Terraria has changed relatively little since then, always requiring the same basic steps and commonplace themes.  When night falls, zombies still come out to eat you, etc.  But recently, the highly anticipated 1.1 update was released, and it’s being touted as a complete overhaul for the game itself.  So what actually has changed?

Most immediately noticeable are the aesthetics.  Rather than the bleak background of before, there are lush, semi-animated backgrounds that change depending on the biome you’re currently invading.  Blocks that didn’t mesh before now blend with ease, bringing a much greater seamlessness to the world.  Sprites for various items and enemies have been altered to be more pleasing.

Of course, sporting a change log longer than some user manuals, 1.1 brought much, much more to the table than simple visual changes.  As well as fixing numerous bugs as any good patch should, it easily doubled the content of the game, introducing new NPCs, new gear, new items, new enemies, and new biomes.  Very little of what was introduced was revealed by the game’s creators, leaving potentially oceans of new content to be discovered.

The amount of new content added by just the 1.1 update is downright staggering.  How much of it is useful is entirely in the eye of the beholder.  How you play will determine what you find and what you will actually use.  Acquiring everything in the game is a task only for the most hardcore completionists, almost requiring the extensive use of the forums and wikis in order to go over every inch of the game.  Without revealing anything specific that I personally have discovered so far, I can say that the amount of content is incredible.


The Negatives

Terraria has always been a solid platformer.  It came in on the heels of Minecraft, and is often unfairly called a clone and nothing else.  But while Minecraft can be sorted out in a matter of hours, Terraria, for its simplistic appearance, will take weeks.  It has all the in-game content of an RPG, but set in an entirely free-roam, sandbox world where the player sets the pace and determines the direction

The drawbacks, of course, for such a game are similar to the benefits.  Many players hear of the amazing gear and items that can eventually be theirs, but find the task of actually getting such things to be too daunting.  The scope of Terraria is difficult to grasp until actually experienced, and actually claiming the wonders of the world requires an unexpected amount of dedicated effort.

The two dimensional interface is something that should be mentioned here as well.  While the most popular of games run with three dimensions, Terraria is constrained to only being able to move in the style of much older platformers.  While Terraria does utilize the two-dimensional field to great effect, it is still a detriment for players used to being able to wander in whichever direction they please.  It gives an overall feel of being trapped in a world, negating much of the open-world feeling that other games, *cough*Minecraft*cough*, can offer.

Bugs, of course, are another major challenge to be overcome.  Compared to other indie games on the market, Terraria is very clean in this aspect, but still encounters its fair share of troubles.  The 1.1 update brought with it a host of problems, from creating difficulties with reclaiming old worlds to causing problems between multiplayer server connections.  Having so many problems goes hand in hand with such dramatic amounts of content, and the devs will likely have their hands full sorting out the problems for some time.

The learning curve that’s presented is largest of the immediate problems with the game, besides the Minecraft connotations.  The game is difficult to get into for players used to linear worlds, and while the promise of great treasures is highly appealing, the work and effort required to achieve such wonders can be very daunting.  In the indie market, Terraria is a cut above the rest for sheer size and quality, but that means little when compared to the rest of the gaming industry as a whole.  This can be a serious turn off for people who have no interest in games that take more effort than some part time jobs.



Really, there is little reason why not to give Terraria a try that isn’t based around personal preferences.  It has multiplayer, far more content than the vast majority of AAA titles, and costs less than a fifth of those very same games.  Being released over Steam makes it easily accessible, and the low hardware cost from the simplistic style makes it possible to run even on older computers.  For the sheer amount of content offered, the ten dollar price tag is difficult to beat.

Terraria is certainly not a game for most casual gamers, and can be real a diamond in the rough for the more hardcore.  This is a game that clearly has drawn its inspiration from the giants of the industry, but has worked out the kinks and delivered an excellent gaming experience for those that are willing to put forth the time and the effort.

After all things considered, I can confidently give Terraria version 1.1 a very solid 7 out of 10.  This game is well worth your time, and even more worth the effort.