Terraria Review

Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to the Imperial Uranium Mine we go.

DisCONNECT’s traffic has taken off in recent days like someone said I was handing out free tickets to see a high class prostitute, so I suppose it’s time for some new content. Alternatively, I should just stop posting things except for game reviews, becaues they’re easily the most popular articles on the entire blog. In any case, no screenshots today. Why? Because I’m lazy. Lazy, but honest.

I love Minecraft. I make no apologies for that, either. Notch did something fantastic with Minecraft and some of the things that people far more talented than myself have come up with are nothing short of mind-boggling. Everything from massive castles complete with turrets and walls to working microprocessors, Minecraft is truly the sandbox for those who dare to dream. But as a game, Minecraft has lots its edge in some ways. One thing that pretty much annoys me is that Minecraft’s monsters are largely toothles. “But Soldant!” you cry out, jabbing a meaty finger at the screen in anger, “do you not fear The Skeleton, The Zombie, The Creeper?” to which I reply “Fear not The Skinless, The Mindless, The Combustible! For you have Walls, and they know no fear!” And that pretty much sums it up; surviving in Minecraft, even on the hardest difficulty setting, involves building a wall (any wall) that the mobs can’t jump over, setting up lighting, and that’s it, you’re safe. Notch eventually allowed spiders to climb walls, but if you put a single row of block acting as a lip at the top of the wall, they can’t get over the wall at all. Zombies stand around, staring through doors, like a rabid dog begging to be let in. You don’t have to do anything beyond that. Even then, once you strike diamonds (or iron, or pretty much learn how to time your swings) you can destroy almost anything before it poses a serious threat. Hell, you don’t even need armour. Just swing that diamond sword for eternal glory!

This really annoys me because I always hoped that Minecraft would have like an “invasion” mode (or the blood moon idea that Notch said he’d look at a while back) or an extra hard mode where zombies could break through doors, creepers could blow up holes in walls of their own volition, and spiders could climb over… well, anything really, they’re spiders for frig’s sake. I’m an Australian, so I’m pretty well versed in what a spider can and cannot do, because every spider here in Australia can kill you and will go out of its way to do so (at least the funnel webs do). Ever seen that movie where the giant spiders attack? Yeah, that’s what Australia’s like. Except also add in snakes, insects, and pretty much anything in the water. And we all wear slouch hats with shark’s teeth in the band. Even the women.

This has nothing to do with Terraria. Well the Australia part doesn’t, but the rest of it does. Terraria could probably be called “2D Minecraft” except with a boatload more content. Minecraft’s direction seems to be about exploration for the sake of it; the vistas you find in Minecraft are pretty good, and Notch seems intent on adding other realms like the Nether and floating islands. These add pretty much nothing in the form of gameplay (Glowstone STILL isn’t used for anything worthwhile!) but plenty in the way of exploration. Except the Nether, man that was a disappointment. Terraria goes the opposite way. Being a 2D sidescroller, it’s not visually impressive and there’s no terrain that makes you go “Oh wow look at that!” but there’s plenty of things that make you go “Oh shit weapon weapon aargh I’m dead!” The entire point of Terraria is to build a base, attract NPCs, craft and buy new weapons and tools, acquire armour, and man the walls at night. Terraria is a hell of a lot more dangerous than Minecraft, and preparation is key to survival.

There’s pretty much no tutorial for Terraria; there’s an NPC called “Guide” who gives you a few useless hints but you’ll need to hit up the forums or watch a video on Youtube to understand what to do. I was dumped into a world that really wasn’t suited for my first attempt; it was a cavernous land with rough terrain, but a bit of ore close to the surface. Like in Minecraft, Terraria starts you out with gathering wood from trees. Unlike Minecraft, Terraria gives you a pickaxe and an axe straight out, with the pickaxe doing the job of a shovel and a pickaxe, and the axe being used to fell trees. They don’t degrade either, once you’ve got them, you’ve got them for life. While collecting trees I ran into a bunch of slimes. These slimes can and will do their best to kill you. The green ones fall easily to a pickaxe, but the blue ones are a bit more dangerous. When you first start you can’t take a lot of hits, so even a green slime (if you let it) will kill you in only a handful of touches. Your first night (or couple of nights, depending on how you progress) pretty much leave you confined to your house, because everything has a decent amount of health and doles out a decent amount of damage.

But as with Minecraft the first order of business is to build a shelter. To do this you take your wood and lay out a house design by placing down at least two walls and a ceiling. I then deployed a crafting bench (one of a ridiculous number of items you can craft) which let me make “walls”. Walls in Terraria refer to background blocks that define the “filled in” part of a shelter. Even though you might have enclosed yourself in a wooden box, without a back wall it’s not considered a room, and monsters will spawn inside. To fix this you need to actually build the back wall, which you craft by using wood at the crafting bench. Then you basically paint the inside of the room with the walls. You need a ridiculous number of these things because even though they appear quite large, the actual area they cover is quite small, so you end up overlapping them by a large amount. It’s something that needs to be fixed or at least have a better visual representation. Right now you need to make walls en-mass just to be sure.

Obviously a house is useless without a door, so Terraria has them as well. Zombies will come knocking on your doors at night, but unless it’s a blood moon they can’t get through. If it is a blood moon though they will force open the door, invading your home. Also there are flying eyeballs that show up at night as well. Both of these guys are worth killing (as are slimes) because they drop useful stuff, whether in the form of money or crafting materials. Slimes for example are essential to making torches used to light your way (either by placing them or carrying one in your hand). For my first few nights after I’d collected enough supplies (namely mushrooms, which restore health) I actually ended up opening the doors and taking on one or two zombies at a time with my sword (another craftable item, just one of many, many weapons). I also built a little battlements arrangement that allowed me to trap the flying eyeballs and pick them off with a bow and arrow. Unlike in Minecraft the basics in Terraria are cheap. Arrows are made of wood and stone, both of which are abundant, and like in Minecraft you can plant acorns to grow new trees (which provide larger amounts of wood).

The main point of building houses (or whatever structure you want) however is to attract NPCs which show up so long as there’s a room for them and provided certain conditions are met. For example the Guide NPC which starts off with you will move into the first “room” you create. A “room” is defined as any enclosed area (including back wall) that has a table, a chair, a door, and a light source. They also need to be of a decent size. NPCs are very helpful because they will trade with you, allowing you to get better weapons, tools, or other items. The Nurse NPC will heal you for a small fee.

Exploration is still a major part of the game, although it’s for material reward as opposed to Minecraft’s aesthetic reward. You’ll need to dig out ores to bring back home to turn into bars, which in turn will be used to make new items. The deeper you go, the more danger you’ll find, and you need to go deeper to find rarer materials to obtain new equipment. You’ll also need to gather all this equipment to defeat the three bosses, which include a massive skeleton, a huge worm, and a giant eyeball. Defeating at least one boss is essential because it enables you to gain access to some important NPCs. You’ll also want to come across rare locations like shrines to find rare items. There’s a lot of things to find and the progression of items isn’t quite as easy to achieve as it is in Minecraft, so the period of upgrading goes on for quite a while. Even then the sheer volume of craftable items is massive, especially factoring in mana and spellcasting. There’s a large number of ways to beat the snot of of things in Terraria, so your playstyle is probably covered.

As if that wasn’t enough, it supports multiplayer straight out of the box, so grab some friends and get to work surviving or something. The game (much like Minecraft) is in its infancy and will receive updates (I’m pretty sure they’ll carry on for quite a while) that add new features and content. It’s definitely one to watch, especially considering how cheap it is.

GAMEPLAY: 4/4

It’s a fantastic survival-oriented 2D Minecraft. That’s at least how I’d describe it though people would disagree. There’s a huge amount of gameplay here, and it’s probably going to get better.

GRAPHICS: 2/3

It’s a 2D sidescroller so we can’t expect much, and it’s quite good (even slightly retro) but I think it’d benefit from support for higher resolutions.

SOUND: 1/2

That music quickly got on my nerves, but otherwise sound is fine.

LIFESPAN: 1/1

Assuming the developers continue to support the game, it’s going to go on for quite a while. It’s like a more action-oriented Minecraft with real danger!

OVERALL: 8/10 GOOD!

Terraria is basically what I hoped Minecraft would become; a game about actual survival as much as it was about construction. Terraria isn’t for the engineers out there; the buildings simply aren’t that impressive in 2D, I mean you can make some well designed structures but the survival element requires them to be functional, or you’ll get killed. If you’ve ever lamented the fact that Minecraft’s enemies are toothless tigers who pose practically no threat at all, this game might just turn the trick. It’s focused on survival first and foremost; spending the days gathering materials and hunting enemies, but holing up at night and surviving onslaughts. It can only get better from here.

I think it’s also something Notch should take note of. Rather than adding in pointless new realms like the floating island thing he’s doing, he should be focusing much more on the actual SURVIVAL element of the game. The enemies are simply annoyances, minor inconveniences that only do anything if you’re not paying attention to your surroundings. Even then you’d be hard pressed to suffer any major setbacks. Terraria isn’t much to look at, but it’s already got the survival aspect off to a flying start. Notch, we await your response.

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