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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Terraria 1.2 Review

Terraria is an odd one to quantify for the uninitiated. You can easily fall into the trap of describing the art style first which is unashamedly retro and harks back to 8-bit platformers like Treasure Island Dizzy and Castelvania. But the gameplay is so far removed from these formative puzzle platformers it’s probably best to gloss over this similarity. I’m going to go out on a limb here and call this game “next-gen”! Or at least, the gameplay is next-gen. It is shooting for those thoroughly modern things like “emergent gameplay” and “player created content.” If you like the freeform nature of the gameplay in something like (oh, to pick a purely random game out of thin air) GTA5 – you will understand where Terraria is coming from.


Yes, you jump across a landscape on a 2D plain. But that’s where the similarity to traditional platformers ends. From the ground up this game is build to be a giant play-pit where gamers drop in and try to survive. Rising from the doldrums with only a couple of wooden tools and a dream, to finally dominating and shaping the landscape to your liking. How you go about doing this is entirely up to you. In fact, you can chose not to do it! Sit around a camp fire singing songs with friends if you want. It’s valid!

Still, even a sandbox game needs goals for the players and Terraria’s achievement system is primarily loot based. You can up your health and mana bars but most of the new abilities you acquire come via the items you find. This is actually a fairly refreshing take on loot progression – in that the items effect the game mechanics. The ability to double jump, run at breakneck speed, grapple to high ledges, all these things are as a result of items equipped to your character. It’s a nice change from the purely passive progression of something like armour (which is certainly in there too). Weapons also have extreme, and often bizarre, effects associated with them and there’s an insane amount of choice so you can pick a combat style to suit. There are bosses to beat too, which add further tangible goals to shoot for.



But the point of doing all this is where Terraria really excels – through combat, exploration and mining you bring back the materials you find in order to better terraform the landscape and build your home away from home. From sprawling villages, to remote outposts, to fortified castles in the sky. What ever your imagination can conjure up, really. It’s this link between achievement and creativity that fuels a game like Terraria – and is a key component of most sandbox games. Your activity in the game allows you to alter and shape your world in some fashion. The allure of this process is obvious from the success of games like Minecraft. Gamers like to get creative and the Terraria devs know this. 

So, why review Terraria now? Well, this is another modern phenomenon that a timely review of Terraria allows me to touch upon. The game was for all intents and purposes “dead”, until the developers deciding to add another huge update recently. DLC and the constant patches of MMOs have led to a weird situation where we expect certain types of games to be constantly evolving after release. There’s now a fluid development paradigm where gamers are involved well before the release of games and the poor developers are accused of abandoning their game if development doesn’t continue well after the game ships. Why can’t we be satisfied with a game that is static – particularly a game like Terraria, which touts its sandbox nature up-front? 

Not sure what the answer is, and a review probably isn’t the best place to discuss it, but in the case of Terraria there probably needs to be more stuff to discover on an ongoing basis. Chris Roberts (talking about his crowd funded space sim) spoke recently about his surprise in discovering that the majority of players cited exploration as the key thing they’d like to do in his new sandbox game – and I’ve found playing Terraria with friends it’s the thing we do together most often. And exploration requires a constant stream of new content to discover. 

So, it’s a double edged sword for the devs of successful games that they’re now expected to constantly update these games that we love, but a boon for players who get free stuff every few months! We’ve yet to see if Terraria will receive further content in the future – but now is definitely the time to give this indie gem a whirl! And for best results, do it with friends 🙂

If you build it, they will come.     

Rik O'Neill
Rik O'Neillhttp://rikoneill.wordpress.com/
Writer. Gamer. Geek. I also do the occasional YouTube video.

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