A little while ago I’d seen Terraria on the PC and asked a friend what it was. The reply I got was “it’s like Minecraft, but sideways on and less interesting”. How wrong he was. Calling Terraria a less interesting version of Minecraft is a bit like calling a Ford Focus a slightly less interesting version of a moped – they both do a similar job, but go about it in such a different way there’s no real point in comparing them.
The idea of Terraria is to dig, build, mine, craft and survive. From the moment your carefully created character is dropped into the randomly generated world, you’re in a race against time to chop down some trees and build yourself a small house to stop the bad guys getting in when the sun goes down. An initial tutorial takes you through the basics of survival, and from that point onwards you’re on your own.
The beauty of Terraria is the mix of simplicity and depth. The amount of things you can do is staggering – create a series of small huts to give you more scope to safely explore the lands around you, build a huge several-storey mansion with individual bedrooms and workshops, dig down and build some underground hideouts to serve as a mining base. When it comes to putting together some living quarters your imagination is often what stops you making things any better. But finding somewhere to live is only the beginning – the true substance of Terraria comes in using the world around you to create new and interesting equipment, in turn making your explorations easier, safer and more rewarding.
The initial collection of materials will be limited to stone, dirt, sand and other easily available materials. While these have their use, you’ll quickly need to pick up the pace and start looking for the more serious stuff. Collecting iron and copper ore will open up the chance to build an anvil and a furnace, essential for creating weapons, armour and other equipment. At this point you can turn your sand into glass, bringing up the option of windows and glass ornaments. It’s very easy to get drawn into the addiction of finding out what’s coming next, what you can make with the gems you’ve just dug up, or just what you’ll be able to do with all the silver and gold you’ve just spent 4 hours finding and hacking to bits.
What makes this even better is not having to remember any recipes. What always put me off Minecraft was having to remember how to make a table, or how to layout the various materials to make a new sword. Not so in Terraria, you just scroll through the various things available and if you’ve got the relevant stuff you can make it there and then with a single button click. Easy. With some pretty high tech stuff on offer, some of which summons huge boss creatures, it’s nice to be able to relax and just make stuff as and when you feel without all the annoyance of remembering endless combinations.
The bosses are a nasty bunch, starting off with a fairly easily defeated beast which seemingly serves just to trick you into a false sense of security before the proper bad-ass creatures get involved. At this point, it’s helpful to have a friend around to help out. Luckily, the multiplayer co-op option has you covered.
By hooking up with others online or using the local split screen option, you can join others to either work together in a huge mining expedition or just do your own thing for a while, coming together just to swap resources and build bigger and better stuff. While the split screen option was a nice thing to have, the horizontal split meant the screens ended up with very tiny visuals, with menus and text being a particular nightmare. Play online though and you’ve got the screen to yourself, giving you all the comfort of the main game mode.
Ultimately, Terraria gives back what you’re willing to put in. Despite being simpler to understand there are a lot of unexplained things in here, which you either need to figure out yourself or dip into the (admittedly superb) wiki on the official site. How did I know that weird looking thing I was trying to smash with a hammer should’ve been used to craft dangerous magical items? I figured it out after it had killed me 3 times. But that and the split screen problems aside, this is a deep, involving and almost infinite game. It’s a touch over £10 which sounds a lot for a simple looking downloadable title, but try the demo and you’ll know within the hour if it’s for you.
And if you do decide to take the plunge, be prepared for some very late nights.
Reviewed on PS3