Wednesday, 8 August 2012

REVIEW: Terraria (PC)

When a game becomes popular, the only thing that is inevitable as its success is copycats. To say that Terraria is a Minecraft copycat is an understatement at best, but does it really matter? League of Legends started as a DoTA copycat, and has now become one of the biggest games in the world. Even Warcraft and Starcraft themselves were Warhammer copycats. Copycats more often than not, take a popular formula and expand upon it. I feel that Terraria has taken the essence of Minecraft and altered it in a meaningful enough way to warrant itself as its own innovation.

'The Jungle' is one of the first progressions in difficulty

Just a quick aside before I go further into this review: yes, I know this game has been out for quite a while. I only picked it up in the most recent steam summer sale, and in accordance with my review policy, I played it until finishing the main game as well as playing a good chunk of the 'hardmode' unlockable difficulty.

So anyway, this review will draw a lot of parallels to Minecraft because, well, it's the obvious relation.  Just like in Minecraft, Terraria sees you controlling a miner, digging your way through multiple levels of underground caverns mining for rare minerals, as well as battling dungeon monsters along the way. Again, just like in Minecraft, Terraria has a plethora of crafting options, from simple pickaxes and swords to complex gadgets and potions.

'The Eye of Cthulhu' is the first boss you will encounter

Unlike Minecraft, however, I found Terraria's crafting system to be infinitely more refined and intuitive. Rather than combining ingredients into a crafting window and hoping you got it right, Terraria's crafting system automatically scans your inventory and provides all viable crafting options in a single scrollable menu. You still have to occasionally check the wiki for the more advanced crafting recipes, but I found it easier to use than Minecraft's system.

NPC's will inhabit your houses... if you follow the housing rules exactly...

Terraria is a 2D sidescroller, with that trademark 'indie game' pixelated  art style. I feel this is the most significant change from Minecraft. Trying to mine in a 3D world is disorientating. The 2D setting is much more enjoyable as you can easily see your mineshafts and what surrounds them. It makes it a lot easier to find your friends when playing in multiplayer too, and I do recommend playing multiplayer. Building something amazing or getting a set of cool rare items is much cooler when you have a group of friends to share it with.

'The Eater of Worlds' another of the game's bosses

While Terraria lacks some of the insane sandbox playground features of Minecraft, it makes up for it by having an actual game behind it, with levels and bosses. Progression through the game is not quite your traditional linear progression, but there are different areas with more difficult enemies, and a set of bosses that gradually increase in difficulty until reaching the final boss, which unlocks 'hardmode' when defeated. The item grind is pretty well done too, with items of varying quality and power being dropped or crafted with random stats. It gives it more of an RPG feel - even though your character has no 'levels', there is a distinct sense of progression as you acquire more powerful weapons and armour, as well as cool little utility tools like rocket boots.

Hell, the area at the very bottom of the map, and the 'Wall of Flesh,' the game's end boss
In terms of the sights and sounds, Terraria is visually and aurally pleasing. The music and sound effects, though occasionally becoming repetitive, are fairly well done, and the cute pixelated visuals are very fitting for the world. It's not a very graphically demanding game so it should run smoothly on pretty much any system. The only real gripe I had with the game was with its numerous bugs. The biggest one's pertained to NPC's, who would often refuse to spawn even though the game had flagged the houses I had built as 'suitable'. Others include stuttering bugs, monsters getting stuck in terrain and mineshafts that would inexplicably kill you while falling through them. If I had to pick something about the actual game that I didn't like it would be that it doesn't really have  too much replay ability. Once you have beat the game, acquired the best gear, and fought most of the hard mode bosses, there really isn't anything else to do, and the fact that Re-Logic have stopped releasing updates to the game means that this is unlikely to change.

Defeating the wall of flesh will unlock 'Hardmode'

So what do we have here with Terraria? It lacks the 'build-anything-including-functioning-computers' aspect of Minecraft that gives autistic people wet dreams, but makes up for it by having an actual 'game' behind the mining simulator. I played it pretty obsessively for about a week before exhausting all of its content, so for the $10 asking price I would say it's worth it - even more so for the $2.50 that I picked it up for during the steam summer sales!

Editor's Note: I would like to take the opportunity with the first review on this blog to tell you about my review verdicts. I, along with many other respectable journalists, believe that review scores for video games are worthless. A quick look at metacritic sees that very few games fall below the 60/100 mark. What this means is that bad games will get good scores because critics don't understand why they are bad. Video games are a lot more subjective than a movie, and personal experience plays a big factor. When I write a review, I describe my own personal experience and leave it up to the reader to decide if this is the kind of experience they are looking for. I don't want people skipping to the end of my reviews looking for an arbitrary number. However, I would like to quickly distinguish between games that are worth investigating, and games that I believe will never be worth your money, thus, I will only ever have two verdicts in my reviews: 'buy it' and 'don't buy it'.

Liked this article? Check out my Sleeping Dogs review

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