I thought it would be best to begin by addressing the big, blocky elephant in the room. Terraria is a hell of a lot like Minecraft. The comparisons are obvious because if Notch was a bastard he could probably take the makers of the game to court and extort untold riches from them. If you enjoyed Minecraft, chances are you’ll dig Terraria. The rules are very similar, but there’s less pig riding, more adventuring and it’s lost a dimension. Think 2D Minecraft and you can’t go far wrong.
For the rest of you that haven’t played Mojang’s time-devouring world builder here’s the basic set up. You are dropped into a randomly generated map and given the basic tools you’ll need to survive; a pick axe for digging, an axe for chopping down trees and a sword for stabbing beasties, and that’s pretty much it. Have at. There’s no narrative to speak of just a vast sandbox for you to explore.
Everything you come across within the world can be used in some way; the wood you collect from trees, the stone and ore you mine from the earth can all be crafted into something useful such as weapons, armour, forges and anvils. You can even make your own town, so long as you can scavenge sufficient building materials and stumble across willing NPCs to live in it.
All of this will in turn help you in your quest to, um, live a peaceful life in the shack you made and not get eaten by zombies at the end of the night. Maybe it’s to reach the lowest strata of the world and kill the monsters that lurk in the lava infested underworld. Perhaps it’s to vanquish King Slime, the large blob like enemy that spawns other smaller blue slimes, or one of the games other randomly generated boss characters. I mean, I think they’re randomly generated, I know that they’re out there somewhere I just haven’t stumbled across half of them yet.
To call the gameplay open ended is an understatement. How you play the game and what your goal is, is entirely of your own devising, this is simultaneously Terraria’s biggest draw and barrier to entry as casual players and those used to having at least some vague sense of direction given to them will have a tough time maintaining the necessary motivation to keep going.
Likewise Terraria’s lack of any kind of cohesive narrative might also turn some people off. To try and avoid this pitfall I decided to create my own, or at least try and rationalise my characters actions a little by writing diary entries for him. Here are some extracts.
I awoke to find myself on the side of a mountain. How I got here is a mystery. If anyone had brought me to this place they were long gone, their tracks covered up by the snow constantly drifting down. It seems that although I may have been left here to die, whoever did so at least cared enough to give me a sporting chance by providing me with a pickaxe, an axe and a sword. None of them is in particularly great shape but I may be able to use these tools to fashion some kind shelter and maybe forage for some food.
Climbing a little higher up, I managed to find a small outcrop suitable for constructing some kind of shelter. I cut down a couple of nearby pines and managed to construct a rudimentary workbench to help make the construction process easier. I then dug down into the earth clearing a way the top level of mud and snow to create a rudimentary foundation for my hut. Using the work bench I crafted boards to act as walls and a door.
Finishing just before night fall I took a look at the small hut I had crafted. It had no means of light but maybe tomorrow I could find something better to reinforce the walls. Some stone perhaps.
But for now I’m content to rest.
I was attacked last night but I’m not sure what by. It was too dark to see. All I know is that something broke into my hut and attacked me, swinging my sword wildly in the darkness I managed to drive the beast off, at least for now.
I desperately need to find something to reinforce my home, and some way of making light.
How long have I been stuck in these caves. I came in search of building materials, yet I’ve found so much more. There’s gold here. Gold! I’ll be rich if I ever make it home. The deeper I go, the better it gets, the place is full of precious metals and stones. But there’s something lurking in the shadows I can hear it. They’re digging too. Those slimes keep attacking me as well, in groups the green ones are easy but they seem to be getting bigger. I don’t mind too much though, their flesh will light my way.
I’ll be rich. Rich!
At this point I realised that it was four in the morning and I had spent an entire weekend constructing an elaborate tale about a man trapped in a pocket dimension that was slowly going crazy in the pursuit of treasure. Whilst I had actually spent the time in game hunting for gold because I was convinced that I could make myself a really shiny set of armour out of it and wanted to see just how far down I could dig.
That’s the charm of Terraria. It allows your imagination to run away with you in a way that few games do and is incredibly addictive in the process, five minutes swiftly turns into an hour and then an afternoon and then the evening too. It’s one of those games that will very swiftly consume all of your free time if you let it.
It need not be a lonely pursuit either, as the game supports both online and offline co-op play so the entire family can all pitch in to kill the Goblin King and build your golden palace in the sky. Others can also enter your world if you like by putting it online for others to inhabit while you play. However, I have yet to encounter another player since I started the game despite always leaving the world open for others to join.
If you have time to spare, I’d recommend giving Terraria a go. Its simplistic 2D visuals belie an incredibly complex and rewarding game which gives back as much or as little as you are willing to put in. So far I feel that I’ve only managed to scratch the surface. The scope of the game is immense and what Terraia lacks in direction it more than makes up for with pure inventiveness and by being a joy to play.