The consensus that most gamers come to after playing Terraria is that if you want to know what it’s like, just imagine Minecraft in 2D with SNES-era graphics and gameplay. While Terraria certainly inherited its gameplay philosophies from Minecraft, it is unique enough to hold its own as a fantastic romp full of wanderlust, exploration, and danger.
Terraria does not cater to the new player and hold their hand while they learn the ropes; the designers decided that the best way to learn how to play is to just start exploring (or looking at the Wiki if you are utterly stuck). After customizing your pixelated avatar, you’re plopped onto the surface of a new world with only a few basic tools, your wits, and a wandering guide who gives you some very vague advice. This lack of direction can be disconcerting for players who aren’t used to this raw type of open-world gaming with no plots or quests in sight to guide them along, but anyone familiar with Minecraft will feel right at home.
The entire world is destructible; you can pick or chop away at any physical matter and do with it what you will. Expect to dig down into the depths of the earth, unearthing deep chasms and shafts full of unpredictable dangers and treasures. The great thing about exploration in Terraria is that every venture into the unknown rewards the player justly. A plunge into the deep mines crawling with skeletons and worms will reap rare deposits of ore, gleaming treasure chests and access to new areas. Even when you get frustrated after falling into lava in the dark or being eaten by piranhas, you can come back armed with new knowledge and a better grasp on your bearings.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Minecraft is one of the main mechanics of Terraria as well: a robust crafting system. It works in much the same way- after digging around and collecting resources like wood, stone, and a myriad of other strange materials, you can use them to create useful tools, weapons, armor, structures, and more. It’s really quite rewarding and exciting once you get into the rhythm of going on expeditions, retreating to safety to pour over your treasures and create new ones, and then setting out into the wild again more prepared than before.
The weapons, armor, and accessories catalog of crafting recipes is impressively large with lots of interesting combinations and concoctions. You can rest assured that any especially nasty monsters that you defeat who drop strange materials can be used for some of the cooler items like guns, lasers, and lightsabers.
The day/night cycle of the surface world is taken right out of Minecraft’s playbook: mild-mannered creatures are out during the day, more fearsome baddies come out at night. The enemies in Terraria are for the most part quite varied in design and battle tactics, fighting with them never really gets old because the nature of your opponents changes with the environment. The deeper regions of your underground mines will be appropriately teeming with bats, slime, and skeletons as well as more weird and unique monsters (the eye of Cthulhu even makes an appearance as a boss, a delight for Lovecraft fans like yours truly). If you find yourself slain by one of these foes or a victim of the treacherous environment, the default penalty for death is a good-sized chunk of your money. This is hardly a very steep price to pay considering the rewards on a typical adventure, dying is usually not a frustrating experience if you don’t turn up the difficulty.
One feature that you may completely miss without a tip from the in-game guide NPC or looking around online is buildable villages full of helpful NPCs. If you collect some wood and stone and craft enough walls, doors, chairs, tables, and light sources for a proper house, a random NPC will inhabit it before long. You can build an entire village of structures for people to occupy. They have various roles like shop owners and healers that help your character out and offer you new items and opportunities. The more you build, accessorize, and expand, the more specialized your NPC village will become with upgraded item selections and abilities. While obscure and somewhat inaccessible at first, the ability to build such a village is a very welcome feature that makes the game feel more alive and less lonely.
The overall sense of mystery is the deciding factor for Terraria- if you are a gamer who likes linear progression with a cohesive narrative to structure your adventure, this sprawling and open experience may be frustrating and overwhelming. However, if you are comfortable with Minecraft and similar games that encourage exploration and self-dependence, Terraria is a home run. I give this game 4 stars out of 5, its only faults being inventory management overload and limited accessibility.
Terraria is rated RP (Rating Pending) by the ESRB.