Terraria is the hit title from independent developer RE-Logic. It originally released on PC in 2011 receiving high praise from players and critics alike. The console versions of Terraria were released at the end of March 2013, although at the time of writing, EU and AUS PS3 players are still waiting. Trying to nail this game down to a particular genre is difficult due to the many gameplay elements on show, although the game became known as the “2D Minecraft” in some circles (due to the mining and crafting elements would be my guess).The calls for Terraria to be released on consoles have long been matched by the voices that said it just could not be done. So, how successful was 505 Games in attempting to pull it off, and how good can a game that has less than 50 mb of code actually be? Lets dig in and find out.
The first task is to create the look of your character. I decided to make my character “Bago Baggins” in my own image, and sure enough, green skin with a huge pink fro looked awesome. Next, you must select the difficulty and choose how large the world should be. The game then randomly creates a map and off you pop into the wilderness with a wooden sword, weak pick, blunt axe and fantastic pink affro. If you played the new, and very welcome tutorial beforehand, then it will be a little easier to get off to a decent start. However, if you skipped the tutorial, frustration may be imminent . Terraria has no in game instruction, and getting a house built correctly and swiftly is crucial. Building in Terraria is about function before asthetics. Yes, you can create a castle out of gold bricks and decorate it with all manner of bling if you desire, but a wood hut will serve the same purpose to give shelter and sanctuary to yourself and to a number of helpful NPCs that may appear. The first NPC is of great importance, and is there from the start. He is called the guide, and he will provide some random tips if you should ask for it. More importantly though, he is a crafting expert. Show him any item you come across and he will reveal every recipe that uses it as an ingredient, as well as the tools needed to create it. You will need his advice many times during the adventure as the crafting system has incredible depth.
Terraria utilizes a classic, yet impressive 16-bit graphical style that older gamers are sure to appreciate. It is actually a pretty game to look at due to a vivid and striking color palette and simple, yet effective lighting. The visuals are every bit as good as they need to be in; they create a sense of trepidation as you mine deeper into uncharted dungeons, awakening the beasties that lurk below. Every area has its own musical score too, each a catchy melody echoing the nature of the environment nicely.
The maps are massive, even the so called small ones, and setting out for the first time to collect unknown resources is a real adventure. Stray too far though, and some creature or a trap may just reveal your innards. Good advice would be to stay close to home until you have the ability to forge some protective gear and a better weapon, as most enemies will laugh in the face of a guy with a wooden sword and t-shirt, no matter how big the hair. The strongest aspect of Terraria is the exploration; there are many varied biomes, both above ground and under. Above ground there is freedom to travel great distances in typical sidescroller-platforming fashion, and underground you will find caves, lakes, dungeons, treasures and many creatures that want to see what you look like from the inside. Mining and spelunking are about risk vs reward. The deeper you dig, the more likely you are to find some rare and wonderful bounty, yet the chances of getting home safely diminish.
Once you have a house and some shiny armor, the real adventure begins. There is no direction given to the player in Terraria, it is left entirely open for you to explore and to reveal the game yourself. Everything can be taken apart and re-forged into something new. There are bosses to discover, many swords, guns, spells, axes, picks, potions and gadgets to create along the way. It is a superbly deep experience, there is a ton of stuff to do. Terraria is as much fun as any game as I can remember as you transform the vulnerable starting character into a super human warrior, augmented with all manner of physics defying items.
If this were a review for the PC version I would end the review here, assign a high score, and that would be that. This is the PS3 version though, and some differences need to be highlighted. Firstly, the controls. The basic movement layout for platforming works nicely on a controller, however the mining and inventory management are not so great. There are two control types for mining that can be changed over by clicking the right stick. The first is the PC style cursor mode where the analogue stick becomes a mouse. The second is a kind of predictive mining mode where the game tries to guess which blocks to dig based on the direction of movement, frequently acting like a cheap phone with auto correction text. The frustration of texting your parents to tell them you have just come out of the clinic, only to have the phone say closet, is ever present in Terraia on the PS3 as the character hacks away at blocks you didn’t want to touch, often resulting in a terrible flood or a plummet of death. Digging a straight line is a breeze, but anything else is awkward and frustrating.
There is a huge amount of inventory management going on, which is handled with one simple screen on the PC and things can be dragged and dropped to the required location, slot or chest with ease. Again, the PS3 version suffers here and moving items around requires huge patience. There are far too many menus and sub-menus to be navigated, and given the amount of “stuff” that needs organizing it becomes a chore quickly. These control issues were the entire reason for concern of a console port and they prove to be well founded. The port is full of bugs too, big ones. I played Terraria on the PC for over 150 hours without a hitch, but this PS3 port made me work harder than any reviewer should have to. In order to complete Terraria I had to endure 3 total restarts due to corrupted world saves, 6 cases of total PS3 lock-up syndrome, and a few instances of being sent mysteriously back to the dashboard. I concede that these technical issues may be resolved with future updates, but they need pointing out as they seriously harm the game as it is. Terraria has always boasted a superb online co-op experience and the port has incorporated a couch co-op mode for HDTV owners, which is a welcome addition as the online co-op is non-functional at the present time due to constant connection errors.
I have always held Terraria in very high regard, but the transition to the PS3 does not do it justice. It is a game designed specifically for mouse and keyboard, and it will run on pretty much any old PC yet the new port seems to a bug infested, frustratingly awkward, and more expensive version. If you never played Terraria, my advice would be simple, buy the game as it is a work of genius that not only reminds you of how much fun games used to be many moons ago, but shows you how great they can still be.
Just make sure you buy it for the PC.