Digging deep for a shallow grave?
With so many games being over in the blink of an eye, sometimes you just want something that demands an immense proportion of your time. For better or worse, Terraria is that game. Comparisons have been raised to Minecraft and if you flatten the game into a 2D playing field that’s not a bad place to start.
Terraria’s rocking a very retro 8-bit look that despite adequately serving the 2D design is sadly something of an eyesore. Thankfully, the gameplay manages to pull you in regardless. If the visuals weren’t off-putting enough for what’s bound to be an incredibly niche title, there is almost no guidance on what you’re supposed to be doing. Put simply you need to dig downwards from the surface, take on a few bosses, until you reach Hell and take on the final boss.
The game has been out on the PC platform for a while now, but there have been some tweaks to make the game more console-friendly. For starters, there’s now something resembling a tutorial, which walks you through basic crafting, exploration and combat. Cursor controls have been tweaked to work with a pad instead of a mouse too. And if the original challenge wasn’t enough, then there’s a new final boss to look forward to in the months ahead.
From the start, you select a difficulty from a range of options that include various punishments for death. The friendliest takes some cash, the middle your inventory items too, while the final one permanently kills you. Fun! Playing on the nicer settings at least lets you pick up your loot if you make it back to where you died, Demon’s Souls-style. You’ll also choose the size of the world you want to create from small, medium and large. Worlds and their landscapes, terrains, tunnels and items are all randomly generated. Even the small option is bewilderingly huge, so don’t feel you’re chickening out by trying that option first.
Upon spawning on the world’s surface (please, do the tutorial first), you’ll want to go about building yourself a house immediately. You’re given a basic sword, pickaxe and axe. Use the axe to hack trees for wood and use the pickaxe to mine some stone squares. Using these items you can make a square outline (or any shape you want) to make a building. Then fashion a table from the wood, which is from where Terraria’s crafting system unfolds. From here, create and attach a door, lighting, wall panels and a chair to confirm it as a residence so a wandering NPC can move in and offer advice. Each property you build will potentially be adopted by NPCs, some of whom will be merchants. Also, if you are killed, you will respawn at the original residence.
During this early construction project, you’ll get to grips with the analogue controls for placing objects. There are two modes; the first is useful for mining and digging as you point the right stick in the direction you want to hack. Click the R3 button and you can target specific squares (everything is made from square blocks). The later allows more precision, but is often very unresponsive as I frequently discovered when trying to place objects; doors were particularly reluctant to affix.
The game’s inventory system can be a nightmare to navigate too, with you having to move objects into the top bar to use them in the game itself. This top bar of items can be selected from with the shoulder buttons outside of the menus, but the response times can be sluggish, which is annoying when you want to swap from a mining tool to a decent weapon upon a surprise attack.
Once you’ve created a home it’s time to head outside. Undiscovered areas of the map screen are blacked out so where you head next is entirely up to you. While heading down into the ground is where the game ultimately wants you to go, there’s a surprising amount of land to discover on the surface too.