Okay, fine, I admit it. I have an unhealthy addiction to infinite sandbox games. Plop me down in front of a totally sweet building/digging world and leave it just open-ended enough to guarantee that there’s no real end to it, and I’ll sink countless hours building imaginary worlds and blowing up as much as the game engine allows. I’m not sure why this is. I’m no architect. I guess I just like that feeling of progress, that you’re actually accomplishing something even though you’re really just placing some pixels on top of more pixels, which is realistically done all the time.
So when Terraria was released on Steam this week, I couldn’t help but pick it up. Touted as a “2D Minecraft but not,” Terraria focuses more on crafting and exploration than straight up building, offering tons of new content to see, explore, and get pissed off at in your quest for newer and better loot.
There’s no real plot in Terraria. There’s a guide, who will tell you handy advice about how to best proceed, and a whole lot of mining to be done. Your first order of business, much like in Minecraft, is to construct yourself a base. Because once night falls, you’re going to be up to your ass in zombies and weird flying eyeballs for some reason, and the safety of your new creation comes first. As you expand your base and build new rooms (which really just need a table, a chair and a light source), new NPCs will move into your home, selling you sweet gear and items in return for money, and an unspoken agreement that they will not sell to you if you happen to let them get killed.
Building in 2D takes some getting used to. Generally, you just need to build two walls and a roof, and then fill in the background of the back wall of your choice. While in Minecraft you could make vastly different structures, you feel rather limited by your options in Terraria because the inside will always be visible from the outside. That being said, Terraria has way more options to decorate your home than Minecraft ever did. You can light your rooms with a handy candlestick or a full on chandelier if you have enough materials, craft potted plants and bottles to set on your tables and crafting benches, find books to put on shelves, and make small treasure chests to store all of your sweet loot. By the time you’re really done with your one room base, it’ll look positively cosy inside, a stark contrast to Minecraft, in which you can build a bed and, well, that’s about it. But the exterior of your buildings won’t look as nice, what with all the 2D going on in there.
Anyway, it’s not enough to establish a base, you have to defend it, too. At night the zombies start happening. They’ll gather at your base and eventually break down the door, slaughtering all the somewhat helpful friends you’ve accumulated. YOU MUST NOT LET THIS HAPPEN.
I’m not sure why, really. The few times I’ve seen an NPC get mauled, they have been replaced by a new, identical NPC almost immediately after. For me, it’s more of a pride issue. I built that base, after all. I’m not gonna let some… zombie run around in there like he owns the place. It’s just not done!
But, once things are relatively in hand, you have some options open to you. It’s time to EXPLORE. And depending on what size you decided to make the world (the end of the world eventually dissolves into ocean, wherein you drown like a bastard) you’ll have plenty to see. Each world comes complete with several biomes, from the surface world you’ve been prancing around in to an extensive cave system, to an underground jungle, and to hell. Each of these biomes is about as pleasant as you’d imagine it being, though to date I still haven’t found an underground jungle.
There is also a dungeon in every world. The dungeon (apparently) will be a different color each time it’s generated, and is home to the best treasures and the most bullshit. It’s guarded by a withered old man, who will totally flip out and murder you if you talk to him at night.
So, if building isn’t as good as Minecraft (random decorations notwithstanding) then what’s the point of going out and exploring? The answer there, my dense friend, is the loot. Better materials means more items to craft, which means better armor, weapons, mining tools and artifacts. Because while those dinky little slimes are kicking your ass now, some day you will destroy them all.
Terraria’s crafting options are staggering. Every time it seems like you’ve gotten the best armor and weapons out of flaming rocks mined out of a fallen meteorite, you come across a new biome, something new you can craft, and even better loot. Crafting a grappling hook is key, and after you finally get one made you’ll wonder how you ever played the game without it. Digging deeper also grants you a chance to find a crystalized heart, which will increase your max health if consumed.
Magic makes an appearance, too. By wandering around at night, you can find fallen stars, which can be combined into an item to raise your magic level. Magic items consume mana, and are in varying degrees of awesome. I currently have a “water rod,” which looks like a goddamn squirt gun when used, but decimates fools who get in my way.
My character, who you have seen here in these screenshots, is now decked out in some totally sweet hellstone loot. You don’t wanna know what I had to go through to get that much hellstone. You… you just don’t.
That’s the main issue I can see with Terraria. It’s speckled here and there with bullshit. The first time I noticed this was in my ongoing quest to dig deeper than anyone had ever dug before. At a certain point, I ran into a fire imp. I hadn’t ever seen one before, but I was dismayed to discover that A), they teleport, B) their fireballs will shoot through existing terrain, and C) there are a million of them shooting at me from different positions on the map. I could try to run, since I couldn’t reach him anyway, and he’d literally teleport one block in front of me, causing damage. I’d start wailing on him with my sweet lightsaber, get hit by four fireballs from behind (which causes you to jump forward a few paces) into the imp, who would hurt me more and then teleport. Discouraged, I threw a few bombs and broke through to the actual hell layer in order to escape, but realized too late that the hole was actually a long drop into pools of lava. I survived by landing on hellstone, which actually hurts you if you touch it, which in turn knocked me back into said lava, wherein I died.
But I kept trying, and eventually hell became tolerable, thanks to an item that protects against blocks that hurt you when touched. There’s apparently an artifact that protects against knockback when you take damage, but lord knows I haven’t found it. That feeling of needing to adventure elsewhere until you can handle somewhere more dangerous reminds me of good ol’ metroid, and I think is largely why I’ve played Terraria as much as I have.
If you get bored of digging ever deeper and getting mauled by imps, may I suggest trying your luck with some other insanely difficult shenanigans? There are three bosses in the game. One of them is that old murderguy outside the dungeon. The other two you can summon accidentally.
The first time I saw one of these bosses was in a server that was set up by a friend of mine. There were three of us playing, and one of us may or may not have smashed a shadowy orb found deep underground in a cursed zone. This summoned a massive NPC eating monstrosity known as the EATER OF WORLDS who quickly found our base and mauled us until we could get the situation under control.
While Terraria has been released, the dev team behind it has stated they’re not done with it just yet. More biomes are planned, along with better loot and more items to craft. If you miss those old 2D platformer games, but also wish they could act as an open world sandbox sim, you could do worse than picking up Terraria.
As always, everything is better with a friend. Even getting mauled by angry worm gods.