Genre: Action-Adventure, Sandbox
Original Release: May 16, 2011
Developer(s):Re-Logic, Pipeworks Studio, 505 Mobile S.r.l., Engine Software, Codeglue
Publisher(s):Re-Logic, 505 Mobile S.r.l., 505 Games, Chunsoft, Headup Games, ak tronic Software & Services GmbH, Merge Games
Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Android, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Linux, PlayStation 3, MacOS, Xbox 360, Wii U, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo 3DS, Windows Phone
Played on: PC
Terraria first came out in 2011, around the time that Minecraft had really hit its stride and exploded in popularity. The emphasis on crafting and building in the early game led to a lot of comparisons that, in retrospect, were a little misguided. On the surface, Terraria does seem a lot like a 2D Minecraft, but once you get into it, it’s so much more than just mining and crafting for kicks.
For starters, Terraria has NPCs that spawn once you’ve met certain criteria. The Guide is always present from the beginning and able to help you along every step of your adventure, whether it’s just getting started or trying to figure out what to do next once you’ve established yourself. Have about 50 silver coins on your person? You’ll find a merchant comes to town before long. Increase your maximum health with life crystals you find underground? Congrats, you’ve got a live-in nurse. There’s a crazy amount of variety in the NPCs that come to live with you, and somewhat recently they’ve been given a happiness stat that dictates their likes and dislikes, from their preferred biomes to their favorite neighbors. I only just played through the game in its entirety for the first time in maybe three or four years, so I can’t speak to exactly when the happiness mechanic was added, but it did add a little more depth and complexity to how I arranged my townsfolk.
So while Terraria feels a fair bit like Minecraft at first, its focus is a lot less on the creative side of things and so much more on adventure. There are a total of 18 bosses to be fought over the course of the game, excluding the minibosses like the Wyvern, special invasion events, and the pumpkin and frost moons. Only six of these are available per world at first, but after defeating one in particular, your world enters Hard Mode, adding new monsters to the mix and making things…well, harder.
In addition, the day and night cycle has its own set of challenge. At first, you won’t have to worry about much during the day. A few errant slimes, maybe some desert dwellers if you explore enough, but that’s it. Nighttime brings out the zombies and flying eyeballs, and occasionally a boss if you haven’t yet defeated them. On some occasions, you’ll encounter a blood moon, leading to more monsters spawning, and under these circumstances, zombies can open doors. You’ll also get two special zombies that appear rarely: The Bride and The Groom. The former will drop a wedding dress and veil on defeat, while the latter nets you a sweet top hat. These don’t do anything in the way of protection, but they look really cool, and vanity item slots are there for that exact reason.
Hard Mode introduces new monsters into the Blood Moon mix, like the Clown. They throw bombs at you and drop bananarangs. I’m not joking, they drop banana-shaped boomerangs and they’re amazing. In addition, you can also experience a Solar Eclipse. Obviously this takes place during the day, but if you aren’t prepared it can be a nightmare. What sets the Solar Eclipse apart from the Blood Moon is that the monsters you encounter are all inspired by horror films. You’ll encounter Dracula, Pinhead, Leatherface, Jason, Frankenstein, and so many others depending on the progress you’ve made into Hard Mode.
I’m sure it goes without saying, but Terraria is definitely one of those games that’s fine to play by yourself, but it’s infinitely more enjoyable if you can wrangle some friends together and set up a world you all enjoy. More people working as a team (or teams) means you can get things done faster, or even set some people to building while you and a few friends go mining or exploring, or whatever else you feel like doing.
Additionally, the Journey’s End update gives you the option to create a Journey Mode character. While you’re restricted specifically to Journey worlds with them, you’ve also given access to a list of powers you might not otherwise have. You can change the frequency of enemy spawns, research and duplicate items, control the weather, and even turn on god mode if you’re so inclined. It takes a lot of the tedium out of hunting for materials if you can just recreate a full stack at your leisure, but does require you to find a set number of each item before you can duplicate it without limit.
All in all, I’m going to recommend Terraria. It’s a lot of fun, even if you and your friends have never played it before. There’s so much to do, so much to see, and there’s a lot of replayability in it. In fact, if I can convince my brother, we might start a world together and just see what it has to offer us. I tried once, but he was more invested in being an agent of chaos than hunkering down during a Blood Moon.