Forgive me for the late report on Terraria. After being assigned to the region, I rightly got lost in the adventure and didn't want to leave. The experience was jarring and alien at first, not to mention I'd lost control more than a few times, but once I came to my senses and got control of the situation by enlisting the help of an experienced family member, I was able to truly enjoy everything Terraria had to offer, from its bountiful materials to its grandiose adventuring. Now, I don't want to leave; I was barely able to pry myself away from its splendor to write this report!
Terrarria has been around for a while, so most people tend to understand what it is on the surface: a 2D Minecraft clone. While it certainly appears to be such upon first glance, Terraria offers so much more than that. You mine your way through the world, building a home, making your bed, and inviting NPCs into your complex to sell you goods and offer you services, but there's also a bunch of different weapon types, accessories, and magic! In addition to the basics, Terraria has more pointed goals, boss battles, and a lengthy item trading/upgrading/finding system that makes it function not only as a 2D platformer, but also an RPG and adventure game. One could almost pin the 'Metroidvania' tag on it due to its insistence on having you trek across the land dozens of times, back and forth to find items, unlock bosses, get stronger weapons and armor, and find NPCs to trade with and invite into your home.
Where Minecraft has no real direction outside of your own imagination, the adventure elements of Terraria give it purpose. It is open ended, in that you don't have to follow those directions and can just build a home and populate it with NPCs if you wish, but the missing third dimension does limit what you can build appropriately, and you still have to figure most of the game out on your own. There is a tutorial teaching you the basics, like how to move, navigate menus, mine for ore, and use work benches, but it's really only an introduction to what the world has to offer. That's okay, though, since you still have access to plenty of materials and building options, which is great because in Terraria you just need to be near the proper crafting table and have the materials to make your clothes, accessories, weapons, spells, and decorations; they just show up on a list when you have acquired at least one of each material needed, the rest is completely up to you. You are, however, going to need to look up the combos online if you want to learn all of the recipes, combos, and options.
One major omission from the tutorial is the presence of bosses and events, and an explanation of how to summon them. For example, to summon one boss, you need to travel to the corrupted area of the map, dig down deep, and destroy three orbs to summon a massive worm creature. There are also other items that need to be crafted at certain locations in the world, such as beside a demon altar that can't be destroyed until after you defeat the end boss. You need to be at these altars with a series of items to create the item that will summon the Eye of Cthulu. Much of the game revolves around exploring, finding what you need, and making new items to upgrade farther, or to create summoning items. The end boss requires the weirdest thing to summon: you must find a voodoo doll of the guide you arrive with, and sacrifice said doll to a pit of lava in the underworld, which will summon a demonic end game boss that shoots lasers out of its many tendril'd eyes. There are hints and suggestions at the main loading screen, but none of this really tips you off. In fact, many of the summoning requirements remind me of the ridiculous “Unlock Reptile” cheats from the original Mortal Kombat or the various Aeris cheats said to exist in Final Fantasy VII; this is just one of the many ways this game feels like a throwback to an era of the past while also being its own thing.
Luckily I conscripted the help of my brother, once again; he's been featured in a few of my previous reviews and has spent over 300 hours on the Steam version of Terraria, so he knew what he was doing. He helped me learn the various crafting recipes, helped me to find and understand the nature of summoning the bosses, and even helped me pinpoint all of the little additions the PlayStation 3 version has received, such as new enemies, crafting supplies, and, above all else, split-screen co-op for up to 4 players and an in-game map.
Sadly, the online function doesn't work at all, but hopefully it will in time. One thing we disagreed about was the fidelity of the controls. I felt the controls were incredibly hard to figure out and use fluidly due to the fact that you use both analog sticks and the D-pad to move and aim, but the control schemes change depending on what menu you're in, what aiming mode you're using, and what you're trying to do. For example, when in the item menu, the D-pad can be used to hotlink up to 4 items for instant use, and naturally that also equips them when playing and exploring. However, on the crafting menu, the D-pad can move your cursor. It's confusing at first, and took me a few hours to really settle into, but once I did the controls proved to be quite ingenious. Take for example aiming for mining. In one mode you'll have to specifically point to the individual block you want to mine, whereas in the other you can just aim in a general direction and destroy everything in front of you, giving you simplicity or complexity at your discretion.
While the 2D sprite graphics do take away from the freedom to create, limiting your options, they do a lot to help out in other ways. For instance, the game seems much more polished than Minecraft, which is quirky and cute, but pretty simple and basic by design. Terraria, on the other hand, has some truly marvellous and sometimes gruesome sprites, the bosses in particular are quite impressive to look at. The sound is also a pleasant throwback to the SNES era, offering tunes that certainly fit in the highest tier for catchiness and hidden depth. The Jungle theme, in particular, won't leave my head any faster than I wanted to leave Terraria, and would be right at home in a game like Donkey Kong Country. Once you've beaten the game and unlocked the post-game content, such as new materials, crafting options, enemies, biomes, and bosses, the soundtrack changes to a more techno beat, remixing the tracks to sound glitched or corrupted, much like how the corruption and hallow fight to take over your world. It's a pleasant touch and I don't think most people noticed it, but I really appreciated it.
I spent over 25 hours just beating the first mode of Terraria, not including the post-game content and the time I spent porting my character from my brother's world to my own. Yes, you can take your character and start a new world from scratch, losing all of your progress as far as exploration and house building/populating are concerned, but you can travel with whatever weapons, armor, accessories, and items are in your inventory. This is a nice way of keeping things fresh, since unlike Minecraft, Terraria has a limited world scope, the map ending with giant oceans on the right and left that cannot be traversed. Given the sheer length of time it takes just to rush through and beat the first wave of bosses, not to mention the amount of time it would take to uncloak the shroud that covers the world, explore the skies to find hidden floating islands, and unlock all of the special events, I have a hard time not recommending Terraria.
The fluidity and ease of which you can create and explore new worlds means that, like Minecraft, Terraria's value proposition is as good as you want it to be, and the added bonus of actually having RPG and adventure elements makes Terraria a much more enjoyable game than its three-dimensional counterpart. What it lacks in depth and freedom, it more than makes up for in adventure and unicorn slaying. This is a must have for anyone who loves adventure, exploration, or fantasy RPGs. I would not hesitate to say that Terraria brings together some of the best elements from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Metroid, and Minecraft into one 2D combo RPG/action/adventure/building simulator. It's only $15 - for that price you can't say no! So join me and many others in Terraria, adventure awaits around virtually every corner, and if you run out of corners, simply make some.
This review is based on a digital download of Terraria for the PlayStation 3.