Anyone who has kept an eye on the video game community in the past few years has heard of Mojang Studio’s Minecraft. The unique gameplay and customizability of this game-in-progress exposed gamers to a brand new perspective on gaming, one of creation and building using what you have around you. However, not many have heard that there is an alternative to the swedish sensation: Re-Logic’s Terraria.
Minecraft has an emphasis on experimentation and discovery. There is little to no direction for players in the beginning of the game, forcing a certain attitude of independence. In Terraria, the player starts with a few tools and a helpful — if somewhat accident-prone — guide NPC for starting the experience. Even with this element of basic guidance, the game never once holds the player’s hand or forces a certain path of progress.
The central theme of Terraria is exploration instead of experimentation. There is a clear list of what items can be made and what cannot be crafted; all that one needs to do is go out and find the many materials available and the game reveals the items those materials can build. However, there are some things that cannot be built, like the various accessories and magic spells. These things need to be found, and there is no way to control what is found where. Gameplay can change greatly depending on the items and spells found in a given playthrough.
One thing that Terraria excels at is combat encounters. There are a great variety of creatures that populate the game world, but the biggest threats from the beginning are the zombies that attack at night, much like in Minecraft. The building of shelter is encouraged, though it is not necessary. The best defense against a zombie attack is a solid weapon and few pieces of armor. Later in the game, these attacks become the more threatening Blood Moon events, and they make the nightly zombie incursions seem laughably quaint. Blood Moons make zombies stronger, more numerous, and able to open doors. Furthermore, the cuddly harmless critters that are normally just scenery become “corrupted,” attacking alongside the zombies and demon eyeballs. Finally, after a certain amount of character development, the home base of the player is susceptible to goblin sieges. Goblins come in many varieties, such as the quick and dangerous goblin scout, the tough and slow goblin soldier, or the teleporting, magic using goblin sorcerers. Only a stalwart and well equiped character can stand for long against a siege.
Terraria’s gameplay is hypnotic and compelling, driving gameplay with endless scenarios and opportunities. Hours can be lost to the ticking of a pick against stone or dirt, or to the careful placement of the defensive towers on a recently built gold brick castle. From seeking out the hidden places of the world like the dungeon, digging down to the depths of the underworld to find some hellstone, to building a tower to the sky and finding a floating island rich with new resources, there is no lack of activities in Terraria, only a limit on the hours in a day.