It’s morning time in the world of Terraria, as I can see the sun barely breaching the Eastern horizon. My uniquely customized avatar, the aptly named Canyoudigit, is draped in a green shirt and flesh colored pants. Why flesh colored pants, you ask? Because in the 16-bit reminiscent world of Terraria, it makes him look like he isn’t wearing any and that makes me laugh… don’t judge me.
I begin my epic journey by exploring the vast surface terrain. Wooden sword in hand, I decimate dozens of harmless gelatinous blobs in my path and harvest their precious gel. Moments later, passing a cluster of tall trees, I swiftly whip out my copper axe and proceed to furiously hack. I am motivated solely by the thought of building a wooden, pants-optional virtual village of tolerance.
After a few in-game hours of chopping, I am satisfied with my wooden stockpile. Daylight quickly begins to wane as night rolls in. I go back to my starting area and notice a mysterious man named “The Guide” whom I had not noticed previously. He spouts off some seemingly random crafting tip nonsense and I reasonably respond by attempting to chop him up with my wooden sword of gelatinous banishment… no effect. Oh well, I think to myself, it’s time to build my Utopia.
I quickly finish crafting my first house. Shortly thereafter, the screen takes on an eerie hue and the game notifies me that “The Blood Moon is Rising…”. The sky turns blood red and the music takes on a dramatic tone. Without warning, I am sieged from both sides by an onslaught of flying eyeballs and charging zombies (one of which is wearing a top hat, oddly enough). I sprint to my newly created house and securely close both doors. Then suddenly, with a sense of unparalleled comedic timing, “The Guide” opens the door to my house (with a dumb smile teeming with computerized vengeance) and stands there as the demonic flood engulfs us both. Welcome to Terraria!
The first thing you will notice about Terraria is the art style. Anyone who was gaming during the SNES and Sega Genesis era will immediately recognize the game’s colorful 16-bit sprites and tile-based architecture. Each randomly generated world can be configured as small, medium, or large; small taking approximately one game day to run across and large taking several. While exploring the world’s terrain, you will encounter jungles, deserts, lakes, grasslands, forests, and the dreaded “taint” (insert immature joke here). Each area presents unique environmental challenges to overcome and monsters to banish, including three world bosses that require actual planning to defeat. These random elements add considerably to the game’s appeal and replayability.
Another positive attribute of Terraria is the expansive crafting system. It features hundreds of items to create from a host of raw materials that you will acquire through mining, monster drops, and chests. Items include weaponry, armor, and household decorations that add a sense of design to your humble abode. The challenge intensifies as you dig deeper to harvest the rarest materials, however so do the rewards. While you have the standard copper/silver/gold adventurer faire, the game differentiates itself by displaying its humorous side with unique items like the “Minishark” (part mini-gun, part shark) and the “Ball O’ Hurt”. With no storyline to bog it down, Terraria has a lighthearted appeal that adds to its charm and accessibility.
That being said, Terraria is not a game that will appeal to everyone. It lacks a tutorial and does not direct you where to go next. It is the epitome of a sandbox game. When you die, you drop all of your money on-hand (although some can be stored in your house) and respawn on the surface. So when you go “splat” unexpectedly on to a pitch black cave floor 1,200 feet below the surface because your grappling hook wasn’t quite long enough, or you drown in a massive underwater lake, it can take hours to find your dropped money if you weren’t paying attention. In an age of GPS units and waypoint indicators, this will undoubtedly frustrate some players. Fully expect to have a “Wiki” page or forum open in the background as you play. Don’t expect this to change either, as developers have been working on making the game even harder in recent patches.
In an age of skyrocketing game budgets that rival those of major motion pictures, it’s good to see independents like this one becoming a success. In its first week alone Terraria sold 200,000 copies, beating the likes of Portal 2 and The Witcher 2 on the Steam game service in weekly total sales. While it may not be completely original, borrowing heavily from the Legend of Zelda and Minecraft series, it goes far beyond “clone” status. With dozens of hours of game play at the bargain price of $10, this game comes very highly recommended.
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