Exploration is one of the key driving forces behind all of civilisation. If our ancestors had never wondered about what was over the horizon, we wouldn’t live in the world as we know it today. History has been full of famous explorers, from Marco Polo to Roald Amundsen and, even now, humans are exploring with the aid of machines. As I’m writing this Voyager 1 is coming close to leaving the Solar System, venturing into parts unknown. The majority of us won’t explore Space, but we can still explore digital worlds with the help of consoles, PCs, and Terraria.
Terraria is a title with a retro feel, thanks to its old school graphics, where exploration is digitised. It’s a title which expertly manages to tap into our basic instinct to explore. The game is a simple affair in that you create a character and Terraria crafts a world for you to explore, with some RPG elements thrown in. The console version differs from its PC counterpart, which was released almost two years ago, as it includes a tutorial. The tutorial is quite short and teaches you the basics, like building shelter, gathering resources and crafting.[drop]Once you’re done with that, you will enter a world with just one real aim, beyond simple survival: to explore. The console version also has a world map which shows just how much of Terraria has been explored. After several hours of playing I decided to see just how much of the world had been uncovered. It was a small percentage, meaning that even a medium sized map will take hours to explore.
The first hour or so will consist of creating your home base, which is best done near or on the spawn point. After that, you’re really free to just explore the world, from desert scapes to snowy mountains or digging down right into Hell. As you explore, you’ll come across deposits or resources which you can mine with your pickaxe, and enemies that you can dispatch with any of your tools, though the enemies do change in difficulty depending where you are or what time it is.
Crafting is actually very easy to get the hang of. To create a shelter, all you need to do it aim at where you want to place a block of your chosen resource and place it, following this formula until your home is complete. Crafting items is also simple, but gaining high level items takes time. You start with a crafting table where you can make basic items like doors. Eventually you gain access to furnaces, anvils and looms, allowing you to create weapons, armour and clothing. A potion table is also available to make potions.
Finding resources is what the bulk of your time will be spent doing. You can get basic elements on the surface, but to be able to craft better weaponry and equipment you need to access the more rare elements, which are deep underground. You’ll spend most of your time underground creating tunnels, some which will lead you to riches, others to dead ends. Different sets of beasts occupy these levels, not affected by the time of day.
Terraria has a day and night cycle, with the day being the safest time to explore. During this time there are mostly low level monsters occupying the world, but they are relatively easy to get rid of. It’s when night comes that the fear creeps up on you, for the night is dark and full of terrors. During the night, creatures such as Zombies and Demon Eyes come out with the sole purpose of killing you and if you’re not near shelter then Terraria becomes a game of survival.
I found myself on more than one occasion being so absorbed in exploring the world around me that I didn’t keep an eye on the sun in the background, which makes its way across the sky as an unintrusive timer, and getting stuck with monsters all around me. I died losing all of my coins. If I had been playing on the hardest difficulty then my death would have been permanent.[drop2]As mentioned earlier, Terraria also has RPG elements including dungeons, NPCs and high level bosses. The majority of NPCs you come across are there to help you and provide various items to use in crafting or battle as long as you have the coins to trade, but you can’t just initially run into these characters.
Taking inspiration from the saying “If you build it, they will come,” Terraria will only introduce these NPCs to you if you build them a shelter to live in. Personally I went for the classic castle approach, though my moat was more of a hole that I could climb out but none of the AI could, including NPCs even after I built some wooden platforms for them to use. Luckily if you stay away for a while these characters will spawn back in their rooms.
The bosses provide some of the toughest gameplay you will experience. My biggest run in was with Skeletron, long before my character was ready to face him. I learnt a harsh lesson from Terraria, and that is if you try to extend too far before you’re ready you will be punished. In this instance I died after taking just one hit.
There is also both local and online multiplayer, with local multiplayer allowing four players while online will allow up to eight players. Having additional players means you can explore faster and share items, as well as fight bosses together. However, while I did leave my game open, no one joined. Also, everytime I attempted to join a game I was met with the message “No Game Found”. Though it would have been nice to play with others, Terraria isn’t a game that needs to rely on multiplayer for longevity.
- Very addictive gameplay.
- Looks and sounds very nice.
- Has hours of playability.
- The first few hours of the game can feel a bit slow.
- Multiplayer was empty at time of writing.
Terraria is a simple game that is hard to master, and one that can easily consume your time. The only stories here are the ones you create, either by yourself or with others, and there’s a chance to construct some real masterpieces. It is a shame that the multiplayer seemed dead at the time of writing but if more people get involved it could truly be a fun experience. Terraria is a small title (only 34mb in fact) with huge potential.