Monday, July 18, 2011

REVIEW- Terraria

Man, I wish I could write clever titles. But if I tried, I'd probably always get stuck on the title writing part and never actually write anything, so I'm going to stick with my simple, if boring, title method. Anyway, today's topic is Terraria!

The long version:
For those of you that don't know, Terraria is a 2D sprite based game that I've seen best described as a wonderful mixture of Minecraft and Metroidvania games. You can go around digging and building homes to your heart's content, or you can venture into the underground (or one of the more dangerous overworld biomes, like the corruption or the jungle) in hopes of finding materials to craft better equipment, or accessories that supplement your character's movement abilities. This allows you to explore farther and get even better materials, and so on.

As far as story goes, there is none, at least at the moment. Terraria is still getting worked on, with frequent updates to the gameplay, combat balance, items to use, enemies, etc., so there might be an overarching story added on later, though probably not for a while. I'm going to be talking almost entirely about the gameplay. Technically, I haven't finished the game yet, as I've only beaten one of the game's 3 bosses, but I decided against putting the 'INCOMPLETE' tag in my post title because I think that I've experienced enough that taking the time to go through and 'beat' the game would not provide me with any more insights to the game's experience.

Now, the gameplay. Terraria starts players off by throwing their characters into the middle of a mostly randomly generated world, with barely any hints as to how to proceed. The controls are pretty simple, WASD for movement and spacebar for jumping, select an item from the inventory hotbar to equip it, and then click with the mouse to use it. The Guide (an NPC) also spawns with the player and will offer some advice, but I didn't find him particularly helpful. The game isn't very friendly to newcomers, and it starts off giving them almost no hints at all as to how to play the game, I had to learn through trial and error before finally resorting to online wikis. There is a lot to do in Terraria, but the game never tells you your next objective, you're free to explore and die at your own whim. And there is a lot to explore (and a lot that will kill you) in Terraria.
Fighting off zombies during a blood moon
Every night, zombies and demon eyes roam the world hoping to kill you, and most new players will probably get killed at least once. Thankfully, the only penalty to death is losing half your money, and at the start of the game you don't have much to lose, and later on you can store your money in safe places so you won't lose it when you die. Every night there's also a random chance of a blood moon, during which enemy spawn rates increase and zombies gain the ability to open doors to get into your base. After fulfilling certain requirements, players unlock goblin invasions, another random event where the player's base is attacked by hordes of goblins with different abilities. There are 7 different NPC's, each with specific requirements that must be met before they will make their services available. The guide is available by default, but the merchant requires you to first acquire a certain sum of money. The nurse, who you can pay to heal you, only arrives after you increase your max health. The arms dealer and demolitionist only arrive after you acquire guns and bombs, respectively, and the dryad and clothier require beating bosses.

As mentioned before, there are three bosses (the Eye of Cthulhu, the Eater of Worlds, and Skeletron), and for the most part the player can also choose when to fight the bosses (though the Eye of Cthulhu has a chance of randomly spawning). There are multiple biomes for the player to explore, including floating islands, jungles, the underworld, and corrupted zones, each with different enemies and materials for you to acquire. There are close to ten different sets of equipment with varying uses and strengths, and numerous accessories and tools that make traversing the world easier. After beating all three bosses, a dungeon on one side of the world opens up for the player to ransack for more treasures. And of course, the player can always ignore all of this and just work on building the ultimate base (players can build essentially anywhere, though it will take a bit more effort to establish a base at the bottom of an ocean or in the sky). There is basically no end to what the player can do, and the player can also switch between any of the options easily.
Fighting the Eye of Cthulhu with a friend
Thinking back, it's a blessing that Terraria makes it so easy for the player to switch between any of the possible activities. I've been more or less addicted to the game for the past two weeks, which I think I can mostly attribute to the fact that there was always something else I could do in the game whenever I got bored with what I had been doing. When I got tired of mining underground, I built my base with the materials I had obtained, and crafted myself some new equipment. When I couldn't expand my base anymore, I went back to mining for a bit, and then set out across the world to see if I could survive the other biomes. When I reached one end of the world, I built a base at the bottom of the ocean, and then built a room for luring and trapping sharks so I could obtain an elusive piece of equipment. After finally getting the equipment (which I then realized I didn't actually need), I tunneled into the earth in search of treasure, and continued until I reached an underground jungle and got killed by the more difficult monsters. After that, I returned to my main base and built a shaft upwards into the sky, creating a small outpost at the top and then building an arena above that, in which I finally fought the Eye of Cthulhu, and after beating him set out to see the other end of the map. And now I'm probably going to start digging downwards again. Boredom just never happened, though I think it could and would have if I tried to stick to one thing too long.

That said though, there are a few problems. At the moment, combat mostly just involves click spamming for most of the melee weapons in order to swing the weapon as fast as possible to drive attackers away. Other weapons like ranged weapons and spears require aiming with the cursor, but still involve clicking the mouse like mad. At its core, the clicking does get a little repetitive, but that's usually not a problem since the other tasks at hand are usually more absorbing.Thankfully, using tools and placing blocks are automatic when the mouse button is held down, otherwise the game would be almost infuriating with the amount of clicking that would need to be done.
Me in my ocean base. Unfortunately, no chests in this ocean
EDIT: Another problem with Terraria came to me just now while playing. Because the worlds are mostly randomly generated, this sometimes causes problems. For example, I've read on the wikis that the oceans at either edge of the world usually have some chests in them, containing accessories that help with movement and breathing underwater. I've explored both oceans in my world, and was unlucky enough that neither of them held a single chest. In chests I came across while exploring, I have found the same accessory four times, while most other useful accessories not at all. Overall this should average out for players so it's not a huge problem, but at times it can be a bit disappointing to discover a chest after spelunking for a long time, and finding an accessory you already had.

I can't think of anything else to say about Terraria, so I'm going to stop here and go back to playing. I highly recommend Terraria to anybody who enjoys Minecraft or Metroidvania games, and suggest you try it even if you don't. It's currently only $9.99 on Steam, which is a steal for the amount of time you can spend playing the game. And again, it's still being updated frequently by the developers, which means even more content to play with.

Short and simple:
Terraria is fun because it offers the player a plethora of things to do at any time, and never restricts the player to any one. There's almost always somewhere new to go, or something new to find or craft.
Pros: Addicting sandbox gameplay with more of a goal. There's always something new to do so you never get bored.
Cons: Game is not very friendly to new players, online wikis will need to be used for almost everything. Clicking gets boring if you're not absorbed in other tasks. Randomly generated maps can sometimes mean players are unlucky with their loot.

My 'Score': 50 (hours Steam says I've played in the two weeks or so I've had Terraria)

2 comments:

  1. This reminds me of SimAnts :)

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  2. Interesting. I haven't played SimAnts, but I did just go and watch a few videos. There are a few similarities, I guess? Both games seem to focus a lot on gathering resources until you're strong enough to take on the next challenge, though putting it that way makes it sound like a lot of games. Terraria lets me build a fortress with lava pits to keep out invaders though. If only actual enemies would fall into the pits, rather than harmless bunnies.

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