Terraria Review

Dig in.

by

An old man awaits at the entrance of a dungeon. Stricken by a mysterious curse, he urges you to return after the sun has set, to free him of the madness that has infected his body. So you spend the day amid the grassy splendor of Terraria, surveying caves, slaying rabbits and slimes, as the hours tick by. Once night has set, you return to the old man, to free him of his curse and reap whatever rewards he wishes to give you. It turns out that the little curse transformed the old man into a demonic skeleton, a hovering monstrosity that unleashes holy hell upon your poorly equipped explorer. The battle rages for 10 seconds, maybe 20 if you run away at the onset, and then you're left staring at your corpse and wondering how you could ever defeat such a beast.

But there's no reason to be deterred by such a thorough beating. Terraria uses an empowering sense of discovery to grab you, and that unrestrained freedom is a double-edged sword. Free to explore the untouched lands, you may happen upon a monster much more powerful than you, or you may find a chest filled with precious treasures. You're never sure where your travels will lead you, but your curiosity is always rewarded. You may gain knowledge, such as knowing not to talk to old men at night, or happen upon a cache of gold, which can be used to forge a powerful sword. It's a world bursting with possibilities. Terraria is an incredible adventure that continually excites your imagination with the endless secrets that await.

An apartment complex reaching toward the sky gives your helpers plenty of room for themselves.

Terraria debuted on the PC almost two years ago, and I was worried how such a mouse-heavy game could make the transition to a traditional control scheme. After a little practice, my worries were thankfully banished. Movement works remarkably well on the Vita, which makes sense given that Terraria feels like a 2D platformer. Performing precise jumps and grappling up walls feel even better using an analog stick instead of keyboard keys, so there's joy in traversing the world that didn't exist before. However, movement isn't nearly as important as excavation, and that's where patience matters. No longer can you dig precisely with a mouse; instead, you use a stick. The game has two options, manual and smart, which have different strengths and weaknesses. If you're clearing a deep hole, smart is blunt and effective. If you need to focus on individual blocks, manual works fine. Unfortunately, your cursor is controlled by both the right stick and the back touchpad, and there's no way to disable the second scheme, so you do have to hold the Vita carefully lest you dig haphazardly.

Terraria is an incredible adventure that continually excites your imagination with the endless secrets that await.

Discovery is the essence of Terraria, but thankfully that doesn't extend to basic play concepts. The PC version struggled to communicate exactly what you were supposed to do in this expansive world, and though the Vita version doesn't spell out every detail, it does a great job of pushing you in the right direction. Shelter is the most pressing matter for a lone explorer. Chop down trees to gain wood, and then use that wood to build a house. Once you lay out the frame, you need doors and a chair to complete the requirements, and that's where you get your first hint at what makes Terraria so appealing. You're told to make a crafting table, and by standing near it, you can make the rest of the pieces to finish your house. And there are a lot more items you can craft beyond that. With a bevy of weapons and armor, clothes and decorations, there are tons of tools you can make that help you become a better explorer.

A little snow never hurt anyone.

The items you can craft are clearly spelled out for you, so you're never unclear about what's possible. Once you acquire any of the plentiful materials strewn about the land, you learn how you can use them to craft something that could help you on the journey. Turn cobwebs into silk and then combine that with wood to make a bed. Melt silver nuggets into bars and then pound those into a shining suit at your anvil. By seeing exactly what items you can create, you're pushed to gather those materials as quickly as you can. You want that jungle hat, right? Well, you better find an underground jungle and gather spores if you want to sport that fine protective gear. An enticing cycle of hunting for materials followed by reaping a reward crops up in the early moments. Once you have golden armor and tools, you can venture further, which allows you to access even more powerful weapons.

Much of your time in Terraria is spent digging elaborate tunnels beneath the surface. It's there that the most precious resources are buried, so you grab some torches and try to fend off the skeletons and bats as you dig ever deeper down. It's a slow process that stays compelling for two important reasons. First, with so many secrets hidden below, you continually stumble upon exciting new areas. Maybe you land at a place filled with bioluminescent mushrooms that can be brewed into a handy potion, or find a makeshift house hiding a treasure chest. You never know, so you keep digging. Second, there's a puzzle element to digging successfully. When you chip away at rock in the deep end of a lake, you have to figure out how to manage your dwindling supply of oxygen while going further down. Or you may have to divert water toward smoldering lava to create obsidian. You're always planning the best possible route, while fending off enemies, which keeps you engaged during those solitary hours carving out earth.

It would be so much easier to mine this meteor if aliens weren't flying at your head.

Once you harvest enough gold to drape yourself in it, you may wonder where you're supposed to go next. Well, thankfully, there's a guide who can point you in the right direction. Building houses attracts non-player characters, and each has his or her own way to help you. The guide tells you that it's finally time to fight a boss, and even details how to summon it, which is a godsend if you're lost. If you have an explosive in your inventory, a blast-happy dude moves in who happily sells you dynamite and bombs. There's no way to know exactly what will lure more NPCs to your commune, so just experiment with everything possible. None of them are necessary to complete your adventure, but they are a handy resource when you're stumped. Just make sure you fortify your walls. You wouldn't want a goblin army killing your only friends.

Combat in Terraria is often simple. Killing slimes is more about positioning than deeper tactics, so most enemies serve as a distraction rather than a serious roadblock. Of course, you could play with permadeath if you want a real challenge, or lose all of your items upon every death, but such consequences were so severe for me that I didn't want to venture forth, which defeats the point of the game. The normal option is that you lose money when you die, which is a gentle scolding more than a serious setback.

Digging a helevator is the quickest way to reach the bottom of the world.

Be prepared to die a lot when bosses make an appearance. Every battle is against a massive beast that dwarfs your feeble adventurer, so you have to be smart and well prepared if you're going to come out on top. If you collect enough shooting stars beforehand, you can craft mana crystals that let you use magic. It's much safer to shoot magical strikes from a distance than to get up close with your warhammer. Still, there are many different tactics to take out the various bosses. And, who knows, maybe you won't have a chance to plan out a strategy at all. The Eye of Cthulhu randomly appears once you've become powerful enough, and it's crazy to fight this flying beast while in a subterranean jungle. Always be prepared for a fight; you wouldn't want to lose your hard-earned money because you forgot your bow at your home base.

Terraria is a perfect fit on the Vita. Playing this adventure on a handheld is a huge bonus to a game that was already incredibly well made. Now you can mine for hellstone while sitting on the throne or on a bus, so you're always making up an excuse to play for five more minutes. But watch those minutes spiral into the thousands without you even realizing it. And once you go as far as you think you can, you unlock hard mode, and there are even more items to craft and bosses to defeat. Terraria includes the updates to the PC version, so there are lots more bosses, items, and even biomes than when the game was first released. It takes a special game to make you fully care about all the little activities you're taking part in while still keeping your eye on a faraway prize, and Terraria deftly balances those ideas.

The Good
Constant string of enticing rewards
In-depth crafting system lets you make all the weapons and items you need
Terrifying boss battles
Huge worlds begging to be explored
Perfect fit for a handheld system
The Bad
No way to disable back touch
9
Superb
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Terraria

About the Author

/ Staff

Terraria was one of Tom's favorite games of 2011, and it's even better two years later. He sunk dozens of hours into it for this review and plans on playing many dozens of hours more.

Discussion

27 comments
thebatman252
thebatman252

If anyone is interested in buying this but is on the edge, buy it. You won't be disappointing with the hours of content it provides.

mtappe
mtappe

Have the game on my PS3 and it's great but on my brother's Vita, it looks even better.  Not quite a system seller, this one, but it is a very fun game that will soak up tons of hours.

Maxxgold
Maxxgold

That's cool that the Vita got Terraria.

SecularSage
SecularSage

A game so great even Tom McShea couldn't find fault with it. For once, I agree with every word! 


And I hope 505 Games issues a patch to turn off the back touchpad. Aside from the tech demos Sony has released, the only game that I've seen use that functionality well is Tearaway. Many of the other games that have tried have forgotten that gamers have to hold this device and be able to see the screen while they're touching it. (If you have big hands, too, it's hard not to accidentally hit that touchpad with a stray finger.) 


For Terraria, where precision is really important, it's difficult to use your fingers on a touchpad you can't see. It'd make much more sense to allow you to turn that feature off.


But considering that I've put a good work week's worth of hours into this game already and I'm still on my first world, I'm not complaining. It is AMAZING.

uglypinkmoose
uglypinkmoose

played an asston of this.... recently started playing again.


Amazing game!

Zevvion
Zevvion

I never really got what people's problem with the back touchpad was. Or well... I do get it. They don't want to change their instinctive response on how to hold the device. I get that. Yeah, I suppose it is not very intuitive design if you need to 'learn to hold it properly'. But once you do (and I did in a day or two, maybe three) it never bothers you again. I now instinctively pick the device up without interfering with the touch pad. 

swimbearuk
swimbearuk

I really don't know whether to try this. I have already played numerous "collect and build" games, and I normally get bored very quickly of finding resources to build things. I tried Animal Crossing for a while, until I ended up just digging up a few fossils each day and then I couldn't be bothered to even do that, so my town is now full of weeds. Does Terraria have enough to make me want to keep exploring after the initial learning process is complete?

sladakrobot
sladakrobot

While grinding material,building house and the new invetory are very addictive i found that the actuall action lacks.
I didnt liked the fact that with long swords you couldnt hit enemies(the whole sword hits it with full lenght) just coz there is a stone between.Also the bosses and various big enemies dont collide with the graphic making searching for cover useless.

DinoBuster
DinoBuster

Though I tried a few times, I could never get into Minecraft. Terraria however, declared war on my free time like no other game in recent memory. Having this and Spelunky on the VITA equates to endless entertainment in my pocket.

meatz666
meatz666

Ah... Tom's text is more like a Masters article, than a game review... I managed to yaw 3 times while reading.

Damnation_6
Damnation_6

Glad it made the transition to the Vita well. Starbound has kind of ruined Terraria for me tho.

sakaixx
sakaixx

yes great addition to my vita ! sony keep em coming to the vita !

adam270391
adam270391

Just a pity it's not cross-buy...

Pikdum
Pikdum

My god, I've already bought this game twice. First on the PC, then the PS3, now it looks like I'll be buying it a third time.

SecularSage
SecularSage

@swimbearuk It's really different from other games in the "collect and build" genre because it's incredibly non-linear and is loaded with puzzles that require you to think creatively. For example, early on in the game. you'll find yourself drowning a lot and avoiding underground water. But once you upgrade your equipment to allow yourself to dig more quickly, you have new solutions to that problem that will not only keep you from fearing large pools of water, but which will actually lead you to seek them out since they tend to lead to treasure.


The first time I dug my way down to the underworld, I died from the fall, and it took me awhile to figure out how I could get down there effectively. I looked to see what I could craft and I realized that a grappling hook might be useful (since, like in Just Cause 2, you can shoot it at the ground to break your fall.) So, I collected the necessary items (itself a quest since you have to slay skeletons and piranhas to get the necessary hook) and then crafted a hookshot and made my descent... only to get killed by the hot rocks and nasty beasts that populate that area. My solution to one problem led me to have to consider a new solution to a different one.


That's what makes Terraria so awesome. The puzzles and quests aren't usually spelled out for you, but they're built into the DNA of the game so that you'll eventually have to solve them. Your solutions to these problems can be personal and unique, and discussing the game with other people will lead you to new ideas.


It's a lot more fun than Minecraft because much more of the game is built around combat and exploration than mining and building. The enemies are a lot more interesting, and the bosses are a real joy to fight.


The next big game in the genre, Starbound, shares a lot with Terraria in its approach. It'll be on the Vita this year if we're lucky.

adam270391
adam270391

@swimbearuk While the game focuses on gathering/crafting/building in the early stages the mid-to-late is very loot-centric and has an emphasis on action rather than gathering/exploration.


If you're REALLY not sure whether or not you'll like it, you can pick up the PC version for around half the price of the vita/ps3/xbox versions, the PC version also (currently) has around twice as much content.


edit: why didn't this message post the first time I tried?

adam270391
adam270391

@swimbearuk While terraria IS a "collect and build" game at heart the mid-to-end game is very loot-centric and the game has a focus on action rather than building/gathering.


If you're REALLY not sure if you'll like it or not, you can pick up the PC version for less than the ps3/xbox/vita ones, the PC version has more content than the other versions (currently) too.

adam270391
adam270391

@sladakrobot It stands to logic that a sword cannot hit stuff through solid walls...


If it was possible to block in bosses with walls it'd make them overly easy, just look at the golem boss (in the PC version) it can't pass through or destroy blocks ad as such is incredibly easy to kill by simply standing behind a wall with small gaps and firing through the gaps.


Ultimately though I guess it's down to personal preference, personally I never built big fancy houses or anything huge and focused on the action/farming/equipment/exploration.

TomMcShea
TomMcShea moderator

@adam270391Yeah, you can import your PS3 data but you still have to buy it for the Vita. Shame.

swimbearuk
swimbearuk

@adam270391 Thank you for the advice. I may just risk it and buy the Vita version, as I don't normally use my computer for games. It will probably bring enough entertainment to keep me going when I get a long lunchtime at work (can be up to about 4.5 hours long).

Terraria More Info

First Release on May 16, 2011
  • Android
  • iPhone/iPod
  • + 4 more
  • PC
  • PlayStation 3
  • PlayStation Vita
  • Xbox 360
Terraria is a side-scrolling, action-adventure sandbox game with an emphasis on crafting and exploration set in vast and vibrant worlds.
8.2
Average User RatingOut of 1131 User Ratings
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Developed by:
Re-Logic,
Published by:
505 Games, Merge Games, Re-Logic, Spike Chunsoft
Genres:
Action, Platformer, 2D
Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
Teen
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