I’m going to forego any sort of witty opening and begin this review with a confession: I don’t fully know how to review Terraria. I know that I could compare it to at least half a dozen games, past and present. I know that at times it reminds me of Zelda, Castlevania, and Minecraft (to which Terraria is most commonly compared). I know that I really like the game. After hours and hours of playing it, though, I still don’t fully understand why I do.
It’s possible that Terraria just scratches a nostalgic itch that I have as a part of my makeup as a gamer who grew up on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It’s also possible that the game provides a great mixture of freedom without forsaking a small sense of structure. Of course, it’s also possible I just like digging straight down until I notice something shiny to my left or right, tunneling over to it, and fighting random monsters until I reach the house I built out of the side of a mountain. It’s also possible that I just like visiting the village that I built over the tree tops of a forest.
Then again, maybe it’s none of those things…or all of those things. It’s still hard for me to tell, since, as I said, all I know for certain is that I like it. I can, at least, go into more detail about the game, and that is much easier than trying to put my thumb on why I find it engrossing.
Terraria is a 2D game that uses 16-bit stylized graphics reminiscent of games from the aforementioned SNES and Genesis. The sprites remind me most of Final Fantasy sprites from the fourth, fifth, and sixth games in the series. The game begins with no real story as an avatar of your creation is dumped into a world which you can choose to be small, medium, or large in scale before it is randomly generated. Once you’re in the world, well, that’s sort of it for direction. Not that I really minded that.
Unlike Minecraft, where you begin by karate chopping lumber, Terraria gives you a pickaxe, axe, and short sword to begin, which is good because you’ll need your sword to fight the hopping green slimes that roam around during the day. Between fending off slime attacks, the first thing I did was chop down some trees and build a house, since the loading screen and tutorial both warned me of the dangers of nightfall. As the evening came, the slimes were replaced with zombies and flying eyeballs that both seemed keen on giving me a premature death. Nothing makes you happier to be a homeowner than a zombie attack.
Once morning came, I started exploring and eventually found a place that I decided looked good enough to be a place to start digging, and dig I did. I dug everywhere. I dug downward, to the left, to the right, angled upward a bit to the right, further down before angling toward the left again, creating vast networks of caves as I explored further and further. Iron ore was there, copper ore was here, and I can assure you I was quite delighted when I found gold and silver a little while later. Nothing, however, excited me as much as coming across a treasure chest hidden at the bottom of an underground lake, where I found a weapon that I still carry with me to this day – a Superior Spear (it felt more epic finding it than typing the name of the weapon here, I assure you). With my spear I could now fight monsters at any angle and at a safe distance, and with a backpack full of iron, copper, silver, and gold ore, I made my way back to the surface, mowing down zombies along the way as it was once again nightfall.
Once inside my home again, I used the ore I had found (and the seemingly endless supply of stone blocks I happened to collect while tunneling through the ground) to construct a furnace, and then promptly smelted the ore I had on me into bricks. I planned on making myself some iron armor, but didn’t have enough iron, so settled on copper armor and wasted my iron on a bucket, a trash can, a bathtub, and a toilet.
Then I wandered around until I found a forest, where I promptly cut down every tree, planted more trees to replace them, and headed back to my home intent on starting a village. That lasted about two minutes before I decided I wanted a nicer home, so I expanded my little shack into a three story house. Satisfied with my new living space and wondering what else I could find in the caves, I set out to begin digging again only to receive a message that some presumptuous bastard had moved into my house.
The nerve of him, thought I! I immediately returned home, trapped him between two walls that I constructed around him, and then built him his own little shack and kicked him out of my house so he could go live in his own place. Then I finally returned to the caves, and began exploring them again.
I’ve been doing that for days, wandering through caves and exploring, returning to the surface to expand my home and the village, smelt better equipment (gold pickaxe? Check), and heading back down to the caves again. Apparently, there is a way to fight bosses, but I’ve yet to encounter one, and the conditions with which to summon bosses are not presented in the game itself. After checking the game’s wiki online I learned that it was possible to fight a gigantic flying eyeball by increasing your HP or by getting more people to move into homes, but after building a few homes that have remained empty and having no luck finding a life crystal, I had to give up on my search and happily go back to tunneling through the 2D earth.
The structure is there, if a bit impossible to find without outside guidance. There are bosses to fight and goals to accomplish, but the game is very relaxed about presenting them and is just as happy to let you wander around aimlessly building houses and forging equipment. I’m okay with that. Terraria is a great game, if a bit niche, and one that I plan to play long after this review is published.
Ultimately, if I had to give a definitive answer as to why I enjoyed Terraria so much, the only reason I can give with absolute certainty is “because it’s fun.”
Score – 8/10 – review by Jared Brickey