By Tom Hooper aka Atomp
Terraria is not a new game by a long stretch, in fact on PC it’s actually a couple of years old now. Despite this the game has always been well supported post-release, evidenced by the huge amount of additional content provided by the 1.1 patch; including a hardmode, a variety of new materials, creatures, items and more. This support is set to continue as the PC version awaits the release of another huge content update in the form of patch 1.2. The origins of patch 1.2 lie in the recent console releases of Terraria which aside from just being ports also included a large quantity of new content in order to make the game even more attractive. The developers have decided that the PC version will also gain much of this new content in 1.2, which is suspected to be another free update much like 1.1. This is great news and the patch will apparently drop sometime this month, meaning much more Terraria for all. This review will be based upon 1.1 although the amount of progress I managed into 1.1 content was limited so it may predominantly be 1.0, which is fine because according to Steam that still racked up 70 hours.
First off Terraria often gets compared to Minecraft, which is actually a pretty poor comparison as they are significantly different games that just happen to share some elements. The crux of Terraria is the open world sandbox which will allow the player to go anywhere hey can find a way to go (within the spawned world’s limits). This means travelling into the sky is very plausible with the right techniques or equipment as much as digging down into mines and the like. The 2D perspective only hinders this in removing the Z axis and thus some of the world size and style potential. Terraria has everything that a good sandbox action adventure game has nowadays, with your standard mining and building mechanics along with crafting and exploring. The game has a massive amount of items and mechanics tied to said items, with a variety of weapons within each archetype, for example there are many many swords just as there are a variety of different ranged weapons. In some cases the weapons can only be found in world as loot or purchased with gold gained as loot, in short there is no lack of ‘phat loot’ and no lack of desire to acquire it. Alternatively the highest grade weapons and armour tend to require crafting, with one sword requiring resource gathering from different biomes and then crafting of three swords which are then combined into the final product. This sword like any can then be upgraded through a semi-gambling improvement mechanic.
Character leveling is not done on any experience based system, instead health and mana increases are found through exploration and/or crafted. The rest of the difficulty and character scaling is essentially based upon gear checks, without the adequate level of gear the bosses or just mobs will prove difficult to deadly. This form of levelling prioritises exploration, looting, mining and crafting; advancing through the various bosses, or just surviving the mobs require that search for better gear as the gear checks get ever higher. This sounds like a bit of a grind, but there is enough variation in gear combinations that choice never becomes too limited and the actual activity of mining or spelunking is fun, entertaining and in some biomes very challenging. The difficulty levels of the game vary around the consequences of player death, softcore difficulty has death resulting in a drop of half of the coins in the player inventory and a respawn, mediumcore has the drop of all of the player inventory with a respawn and hardcore has a drop of all player inventory and no respawn for that character (although the world and therefore dropped items will persist). I played my initial time in softcore however I’m very tempted by the prospect of a little more danger when I go back to the game in 1.2. It’s worth noting that the game remains fun on all difficulties, if not for different reasons and that by going with softcore you won’t miss out on anything besides excessive early game corpse runs.
The game world is split up into biomes which in some cases will behave dynamically and grow or shrink according to player actions. This means that there is normally some terraforming involved in keeping a pretty world pretty, although after hardmode activates the entire venture may be futile. Overall the biomes are varied and have different spread and distribution patterns on spawn, for example the particularly dangerous jungle biome will spawn as a full height biome spanning from the surface down to the hell layer at the bottom of the world. Other biomes have a more surface based distribution and of course the hell biome is exclusively at the bottom of the world. The biomes themselves contain different items, different plants and ingredients and different enemies making progression through the game an exercise of the correct use or exploitation of these varied biomes.
The game can be played single player and is a thoroughly enjoyable experience however it also plays extremely well in multiplayer. The game has built in co-op mechanics in order to eliminate the risk of friendly fire to those specified within your party however anyone outside of the party can take player dealt damage, meaning that whilst Terraria can be played co-op the possibility for PvP fun is still available. Co-op is great, I played through the majority of my 70 or so current hours with a buddy and the utility and fun factor of having more people contributing to mining and fighting are significant. With a good VOIP setup and more players Terraria can be a good game to play as a pair or a group and will make activities such as boss battles a different experience. In addition there is the option to run a dedicated server which is unfathomably useful when playing multiplayer compared to peer-to-peer setups where the world would only be loaded upon play.
Currently Terraria is available on PC through Steam, which is the version I looked at here as well as also being available on PS3 and Xbox 360 from their respective monopolistic store-fronts. The game will be good on all of these platforms so go with either your favourite or the one with the most friends. Prices are beyond reasonable; £5.99 (approx $8.94) on Steam although it might be worth holding out a short while as there will either be discounts come the Steam Summer Sale (ooh I’m looking forward to that) or when 1.2 arrives. Console prices seem to be a little more, £12.00 (approx $18.00) so maybe PC may be the way to go especially with the added bonus of mouse and keyboard.
1.2 Update FAQ