Terraria Xbox 360 Review
Publisher – 505 Games – Developer – Re-Logic/Engine Software – Genre – Action adventure/RPG – Players – 1-4 offline (2-8 on Xbox Live) – Age Rating – 12+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3, Vita (summer 2013)
The advertising tag line for Terraria is DIG, FIGHT, EXPLORE, BUILD. For many gamers that will draw an instant connection with the highly successful Minecraft. But can this 2D side-scrolling game with RPG overtones live up to that comparison?
The first step should be to play the tutorial. This does a good job of introducing the key concept. Using tools including a pickaxe and sword, the player manipulates the environment to create shelter, craft items and explore the world. Blocks of dirt and stone are dug up from the landscape and used to build houses. Trees are chopped down to provide wood, as well as acorns to grow new trees; wood is essential for many items including doors and platforms. Metal ores are mined to forge stronger weapons and tools.
At the start of a new game, the player can create a character. This takes ten simple steps, from choosing the gender to the colour and style of hair. Naming and saving the character opens up the world creation menu. The choice here is the size of world to explore, with the game generating a new landscape each time. The sizes are small, medium and large, with a recommendation to start small until you are more familiar with the game. Even a small world will take a long while to explore everywhere. There are save slots for up to 8 worlds, with each world featuring a similar set of environments (including desert, jungle and the spreading Corruption the player must combat later in the game).
Online play can be open to anyone or by invite only. Offline play is designed for a solo player, or splits the screen for up to four players on the same console. Multiplayer can feature optional PvP combat (player vs. player) and teams, but it is more fun to explore together. The game is governed by a day-night cycle, which takes 20 minutes to complete. It is safer to explore by day, as nasty creatures spawn overnight, but falling stars – used to earn manna for crafting magical potions – are only found at night. There is also the scary but rare occurrence of the Blood Moon to survive.
Once a house has been built and the first NPC known as the guide has moved in, the priority is to craft stronger weapons and armour before delving deeper into the world. This is achieved by building a furnace and anvil to go with the basic workbench, opening up more crafting options. In the caves and tunnels magical items are found – crystal hearts increase the player’s health, and the shadow orbs summon the bosses that need to be defeated (and should only be tackled by well-equipped characters). Water is also a hazard above and below ground, with the player’s actions able to alter its flow.
At first glance the graphics appear simplistic, but the procedural generation of the landscapes necessitates this. The day-night cycle and the darkness underground (necessitating a light source) make for some clever lighting effects. Enemy types have some basic animation but are easy to distinguish, and the creation tools make each character distinct. The built-in map is revealed piece by piece as the player explores and shows the vast scale of the landscape. Sound is also relatively simple with basic effects, but fits the action.
There is unique content for the console editions, including a new boss. The underlying RPG elements show in the damage numbers appearing onscreen and the dialogue with characters. As tasks are completed and upgrades earned, more NPCs will move in. While the guide is initially helpful when the game is first started, a to-do list or mission scroll would help players decide what to do next. The overall interface and inventory control can appear a little daunting at first, but binding items to the D-pad makes them easier to access.
One concern for players is the report of bugs and glitches, with items and coins disappearing and being unable to access created worlds. While the developers are working on a patch, this is a worry – although no problems were encountered during the course of writing this review, heavy play may prove otherwise. In a game as complex as this, such bugs are an unfortunate consequence that is difficult to completely eradicate.
Minecraft created a niche and Terraria sits comfortably in it. The freedom to explore is tempered by the need to build a character, and it will take a large chunk of time to exhaust everything the game has to offer. To some it may appear to be a grind, to others the chance to enjoy the process. There is a lot of game here for the price, and a good example of a downloadable title that may have struggled to find an audience on the retail shelves.