Let’s get this out of the way immediately: Terraria is not a Minecraft clone. Despite what the marketing and screenshots may lead you to believe, mining and building amazing giant Pokemon statues are not the main goal of this game. I’ve been playing about 15-20 hours of Terraria so far, and only about ten percent of that time, if that, has actually been spent mining.
So what’s the point of Terraria then? Why should you care, when you already have Notch’s current opus? Well, for now, the keywords would have to be “variety” and “depth”.
The main reason why developer Re-Logic’s stab at a Minecraft inspired 2D adventure game is succeeding so well and has some players actually preferring it to Minecraft is that it’s centered more on combat and exploration. Whereas Minecraft was all about digging and mining for materials in order to craft tools to build badass homes and engineer some serious redstone sorcery, Terraria is more a dungeon crawling, action-adventure game than anything.
Sure, your first night is spent in much the same way as your first in Minecraft: collect enough material to build an adequate enough house for shelter. However, that’s just about where the similarities end. The vast majority of your playtime is dictated by actual determined goals. Whether it’s beating a dungeon, killing a boss monster, or finding rare treasures, there’s an actual in-game objective to be found. By completing said goals, you get to discover and win gear that’ll further increase your health, mana, and other statistics.
If anything, Terraria takes more from Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda in its gameplay. It’s extremely combat-centric, and the armor and tools you can craft or obtain can give you some seriously awesome abilities. Using items you find on enemies and in dungeons, it’s possible to craft grappling hooks that pretty much eliminate the need for jumping. Additionally, in one of my buddy’s servers I could’ve sworn I saw someone flying around with a jetpack. When it comes to items, the possibilities are endless, thanks to the fact that Re-Logic consistently updates the game with cool goodies and other gameplay changes.
The potential of such an idea is truly wonderful, but the execution falters in more ways than one. The worst offender is that the combat is much too simplistic to be fun or fulfilling. Never mind the fact that controlling a 2D game with a mouse and keyboard will never feel truly intuitive, Terraria’s combat is your standard “mash left click” fest that doesn’t much offer any satisfaction when killing a monster.
On top of that, Terraria feels a bit like a grindfest from the second night you play, all for a chance at rare gear that you may or may not want to to begin with. Venturing just a little bit outside of your home base can result in you being assaulted by slimes, bats, and any other minions that may jump at you from seemingly nowhere. The best thing is that dying doesn’t result in you losing every single one of your items, but regardless, in order to explore further, it can be frustrating having to constantly run into annoying sword fodder that just gets in the way.
Despite all of that, I had some genuine good times with Terraria, and would recommend it heartily for anyone who pined that Minecraft didn’t offer anything rewarding beyond that huge 50 foot tall portrait of Pedobear that was created overlooking the sunset. The bottom line is this: if you want a game that’s catered mostly on building, mining, and engineering, go with Minecraft. If you want an action-oriented game that concentrates more on grinding, nabbing sweet gear, and looking like a JRPG badass, pick up Terraria. Personally, I’m more of the former disposition, but that’s just me.