At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players
Richard Pilot Xbox 360 505 Games Re-Logic Up to 4 (Split-screen)/8 (Online)
Requirements Also on...
Xbox Live Gold subscription for online multiplayer. PC, PS3

Terraria review

My time with Terraria has been a rollercoaster ride of frustration and intrigue going from wanting to turn the game off immediately through to an uneasy acceptable. Find out below as I chronicle my time with the game as I approach it for the first time.

Day 0:

"I stand in a an unknown land, with a few tools in hand and no idea what to do."

For a bit of perspective I’m a big Minecraft fan and still manage to get in a few hours a week on a server with friends. I was therefore aware of Terraria on the PC, and although I hadn’t played it myself, I knew the sort of game to expect. Because I didn’t know the specifics I went straight into the tutorial. The no frills guide included in Terraria takes you through the utmost basics of the game, that's character movement, basic resource gathering and the first few items you’re likely to craft. Movement is pretty standard to what you would expect from a side-on platformer and therefore left no surprises, however, once I got into the Terraria specific controls, things started to fall down.

You start with an axe and pickaxe, both used to gather resources in the world. Two methods of control are available to use, the first is an auto-targeting approach, where you use your right stick to point in a direction and the game will automatically choose the block to hit, almost treating it like a dual analogue stick shooter. The problem with this method is that the controls are too fine-grained, where even tiny movements on the stick will affect the position of your character so that a different block to what you expected is targeted. This means finding the sweet spot when you want to go in a specific direction can be tricky. There were also a few times when it was hitting blocks further away when my character was stuck by a single block that didn’t get targeted. The other method available to you is a cursor approach where you manually highlight blocks, less useful when you want to tunnel your way through rock, but handy for removing a specific block you may be in your way or that you might need. Both methods are also used when you come to placing these blocks back down, critical to the construction element of Terraria. I never used the automatic method for placing blocks, finding it too unpredictable. The cursor method is much better, but has a limited reach. In order to construct larger projects, like the automated mining method, you’ll need to find the sweet spot of where to place your cursor, before moving around whilst holding down RT (used to place blocks). The most frustrating moments for me was when I was one block too low down and had to jump to place my block, timing my moment to place the block mid-arc and being grumpy when it placed too many blocks. All in all, it seems like the controls were fiddly to get the accuracy I wanted and the finding the ‘sweet spot’ was more hassle than its worth.

The other aspect of the tutorial that was covered was crafting, unlike Minecraft, you know all the recipes at the start and it's just a case of getting the equipment and items to make them. This isn’t perfect though, because while you know about the items you can make with the tools available, some are blanked out and others are non-existent. You can craft some items on the go, such as torches and wooden platforms, but more complex items require a workbench. Terraria also has the concept of housing, which NPCs can move into by having surrounding walls, a table and a chair. Workbenches have a distance limit that you have to be within before you get access to the extended recipe list, however, I wish this limit was extended as a few times I was outside it; it would seem a better fit to have the table extend to the room you are situated in.

Terraria

Terraria

Day 1:

"I build a house and hear a knock on the door. I really shouldn’t have opened it."

With the basics under my belt, I started a new world. Terraria gives you the option of setting worlds as online or private. Sadly online games are restricted to people who are on your friends list, meaning there's no way to visit a stranger's world and see what they’ve built, which seems like an oversight. There was no one on my friends list who owned the title so I was relegated to playing alone. After a frustratingly long time generating a world, I was in. The first thing I did was to set up a base of operations. An NPC spawned nearby and so I created a room with the intention of getting him to move in. I honestly couldn't tell if he ever moved in. NPC movement is a little random, with them constantly in motion. They don’t build or destroy blocks either (or at least the one I had never did). This left me with a random NPC wandering around the inside of my house, often going towards the door, opening it, going outside and then wandering back (which caused many problems later on). Giving up, I finished the construction of my simple dwelling. Night came shortly after, bringing with it my biggest problem against Terraria.

Like Minecraft, night time is dangerous, intentionally slow. When the sun goes down, the monsters come out of the shadows to terrorise you. With Terraria's focus on the more magical elements, the monsters are equally less mundane. Sure, there's the reliable zombie, a staple of these sort of games, but also floating eyeballs and other more exotic creatures. Remember that NPC I mentioned earlier who kept opening doors? Night time was no hinderance to his door testing obsession, meaning I had swarms of monsters to deal with. It's also worth noting that getting hit by monsters himself did not deter my NPC from continuing to ensure the door was 100% efficient.

Combat, at least initially, it the worst and most frustrating part of Terraria. This can be narrowed down to two points; the weapons controls are poor and the monster health vs weapon damage seems imbalanced. With the axe and pickaxe, holding down RT will cause your character to constantly swing the tool, allowing you to move forward and mine with ease. The sword operates differently and forces the player to constantly hammer RT every time they want to swing at an enemy. This becomes extremely annoying very quickly, coupled with the fact that even the most basic monsters have a relatively high amount of health before they come down, meaning that the onslaught of monsters I was facing was an incredibly annoying chore, as I took down each creature's health bit by bit. In the end, to avoid throwing my controller across the room, I switched to the pickaxe and just held down the hit button. Enemies died even slower but at least I didn't wear myself out. Flying monsters are even more annoying as they become incredibly hard to hit with the controls available for character movement and I had to wait for them to come to me.

Terraria's saving grace was that death was a lot less harsh than other titles, as when you create a character you can specify the difficulty allowing you to tweak how much of a punishment death would be. The easy mode I had it on meant that I only lost a little coin and I kept all the items I had on me. A small gravestone is left at the spot you died, a neat touch. I died a lot that night and the collection of gravestones commemorate that fact.

Terraria

Terraria

Day 2:

"Frustrated by the monsters on the surface, I sought safer lands, so I dug down; straight down."

Not wanting to fight monsters for the entire length of my play session, I decided to explore. Terraria provides you with a map and from it I could tell the world was pretty expansive. I therefore decided to dig directly down. I would worry about getting back out another time. With that decided, I began to explore and thus I finally began to really enjoy Terraria. Without the constant swarm of bad guys to take out, exploration of the generated world was actually quite fun. Sure, you'll come across a few monsters in the world's dark underbelly, but taking out one skeleton or a fast paced worm isn't that bad when there isn't a constant threat. The world itself generates interesting nooks and crannies to explore and I found myself getting excited to discover what was ahead in the next cavern or underwater system. You also begin to get an appreciation of how big the world is; I had dug down a considerable way, stopping occasionally to fill the bottom of a pit with water so I could fall down next if I died in the next cave, yet the the map showed there was still a lot more down there and it is this world of connected caves and other mysteries is where I found my enthusiasm to continue playing.

Epilogue:

I won't lie, initially I very much wanted to put my controller down and give up, but once I got around some of the game's less enjoyable moments I was able to stand back to see the world for what I was; an exciting land of wonders and place to enjoyable. That said, Terraria makes that realisation incredibly difficult to get too. To sum it up, I would say that the transition from the PC to the Xbox hasn't been a very successful one, with Terraria's biggest problem being the user interface. There were many other user interface issues I had to slog through that I haven't even mentioned such as the lack of any real information as to things you could and should be doing (something Minecraft also suffers from) and the some of the controls are either too tight requiring pinpoint precision or too long winded such as swordplay. Once you get past that, however, you’ll find a rewarding game suited to the explorer inside of you. I didn't get as far into the magic and building systems as I would have liked and honestly I don’t know if I will come back to the game to try, but I'm sure that there are many players out there who want to and will get a kick out of it. In the end I would suggest picking up the trial version from the Xbox Live Marketplace or maybe even giving the PC version a try, and if you don't mind how the game handles or provides information then there's an enjoyable experience awaiting you.

Ratings

Overall Terraria is an interesting game capitalising on the recent exploration and building genre that has thrived since the launch of Minecraft. This Xbox version suffers from some poor user interface and control decisions and a general lack of information which can frustrate many new players. 6/10

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