Average User Score: 8.5May 25, 2011The reason I say Terraria is a beautiful game isn't because of the glorious pixel art; although the combination of pixel art, proceduralThe reason I say Terraria is a beautiful game isn't because of the glorious pixel art; although the combination of pixel art, procedural generation, and smart use of lighting and particle systems are beautiful, but because many of the design decisions are just precisely right. For a game developed over 5 months by 4 people, it shows an incredible level of maturity.
One of the few things Terraria gets wrong is that it doesn't explain the most straight forward thing you need to learn: which is that the mouse cursor is how you primarily interact with the world, limited for the most part by the requirement that your avatar be in relatively close proximity. Of course, close proximity in a game of plunging chasms, flooded caverns and spawning monsters is itself a challenge, but there is no point which so far I've felt like the control scheme has been frustrating or unresponsive.
Like Minecraft, Terraria uses its procedurally generated backdrop as a palette for you to build and dig, but that's where many of the similarities end. Minecraft remains a toy sandbox (once the thrill and challenge of the first 30 minutes wears off), Terraria an open ended game. I've been meaning to write an article about the importance of that key verb 'dig': because it lets you throw off the shackles of required connectivity that makes much procedural content generation so frustrating (to design and to play in) and lets you generate glorious playgrounds which ultimately may be broken, but which the player has the tools to fix. Where Angband has gone wrong is digging is slow and unrewarding, Spelunky makes the mistake of limiting the level size, but here the maps are effectively limitless in size (in reality, just really huge - use the 3rd party mapping tool - just once - to display a map you've spent 3 or 4 hours exploring to see what I mean), and for the most part well-connected enough so that it is clear where you need to dig to hollow out a pathway or bring down a cascade of sand, but still big enough to make choosing a random direction and tunnelling an exercise in patience and frustration and occasional delight (as so it should be).
Terraria makes the same smart decision that Minecraft does (and where Love goes horribly wrong) by using its pixel art assets to make it really clear what everything is: here are blocks of dirt, sand and rock, this is tree, grass and flower, and not only are they clearly delineated, but the clever crafting system makes these differences important. I say everything is differentiated: but at the same time rock, and the various ores are similar enough so that you need one next to the other to distinguish the two, forcing you to be keenly observant when you explore underground. Many times, I've paused at a rocky outcrop on the surface that I've run over tens of times, and suddenly realised that it was a valuable iron deposit.
Exploring underground is as glorious as it could be: musically, rhythmically, the deep, but survivable drops from tunnel system to tunnel system, the splashes of unseen enemies in murky pools, the lighting system which limits your exploration by the torches you bring with you (or have wood and the foresight to be able to construct on the way), the frequent rewards of pots to smash (another Zelda touch to go with the swords swishing through glass and the slime enemy design), and the glorious highs of a single hidden reward which can make a whole trip worthwhile. What has ultimately limited my descents, as well as my overland trips, is water, which a clever take on swimming prevents you from moving quite as freely as you'd have hoped, not to mention limiting your breath. What makes this especially interesting is that it is often water that I've inadvertently let lose from an aquifer higher in the dungeon, which has sunk to the bottommost depths of the level preventing me progressing.
I've begun exploring the [redacted] you can find on the surface, destroying my first [redacted] with some clever [redacted] placement, and I've found enough [redacted] that the first boss monster has noticed my presence. The surface [redacted] is enough of a challenge in its own right, taking away much of your usual toolset as well as more dangerous enemies, environment and geography; and I'm pausing for air before attempting what, given my equipment (copper and iron, and a nifty magical ranged weapon), sounds like it will be a challenge. Beyond that, I've got more bosses to fight and biomes to explore, and many more magical items to find.
But I'm worried that I may have already spoiled too much of the game for you. I strongly urge you to stay as spoiler free as possible when you play.… Expand