Considered to be the indie darling in Minecraft’s shadow (forgetting that Minecraft itself started life as a indie title) Terraria today makes it’s console debut via 505 Games, a publisher that is more frequently becoming associated with taking risks in impressively innovative titles as opposed to the budget releases that made their name. Just like the aforementioned 3D world moulding title, Terraria’s transition to console hasn’t been an easy one, but the end result is entirely worth the effort.
The above comparisons to Minecraft are justified not simply due the comparable aspects of their production but also because they are incredibly similar experiences. While Minecraft operates in a 3D world and Terraria is a strictly 2D affair, players will still collect and manufacture weapons and tools, carve tunnels and build structures, and also craft furniture and other items. They both offer co-operative play and restrict players through tools, as opposed to movement. However, while Terraria retains the fairly freeform play of Minecraft, it also offers a light structure to its gameplay.
Before beginning the videogame for the first time you’d be well advised to play through the tutorial. This will teach you the basics of deformation, building, crafting and combat, but will also expose two of Terraria’s biggest drawbacks. Firstly, it can be a frustratingly fiddly experience – as is acknowledged by the videogame’s own admittance – hence the inclusion of two area targeting systems. The second issue is more significant however. It seems that Terraria is not as good at recognising player progress as might be hoped, with certain missions failing to advance despite the current objective being completed. Electronic Theatre had to restart the tutorial three times in order to complete it, but the annoyance here pales in comparison to making significant progress in the main gameplay mode only to have to reload save data from earlier in the task (though the autosave is fairly regular).
The structure that Terraria proposes is, in all honesty, a very loose one. Upon meeting non-player characters (NPCs) you will be given advice or tasks which will hint at the objective required for completion before ushering them into newly built homes. You will encounter boss fights that punctuate your progress and will provide a significant challenge – especially if you’ve not been investing in weapon and armour construction to the appropriate level – which add a noteworthy landmark on you gameplay; a barometer for your achievements and encouragement to continue exploration.
Terraria’s visual style is intentionally antiquated, much like Minecraft’s, resulting in even closer comparisons being drawn. It would have been easy to round off a few edges, add some more colours to the palette and some more pixel texture variations, but to do so would only have complicated matters. Terraria’s visual and aural design is created to instil that sense of wonderment that comes with experiencing 16-bit classics for the very first time, and that sense of youthful freedom remains throughout: Terraria is a videogame that makes you feel as though you’ve invested hours into it without accomplishing much at all, except for having fun. So while Terraria can no longer claim to be a runaway indie success, with a helping hand from 505 Games it has become a wholly welcome addition to the digital landscape on consoles.