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Terraria: Just Keep Digging!
I apologize for taking so long to write this review as I was a bit preoccupied playing Terraria. This should be a good indication as to how addictive this inexpensive little game is.
A while back I found myself stuck in a hospital room for several days with little more than my laptop to keep me company. Sure the view was nice up on the seventh floor, but that gets old after a while. Coincidentally I just happened to pick up a copy of Terraria the day before, because everyone kept raving about how awesome it was. I didn't see what the big deal was, but I managed to snag it on sale for five bucks.
Terraria is a game by independent developer Re-Logic, which is most easily described as a 2D version of Minecraft. It supports multiplayer for both Co-op and PVP play, and supports sharing of player items between the single player and multiplayer game.
The game retails normally for ten dollars (USD) and can be found on Steam, XBox Live, and Playstation Network.
Shut up and DIG!
The most of your gameplay in Terraria will be exploring, with probably ninety percent of that exploration digging into the earth.
The further down you go the harder the enemies become and the more valuable loot there is to discover. Also nearly all the raw materials you need to craft better gear are buried somewhere in the earth.
Because of this the item you want to acquire as early as possible in the game is the miner's helmet, which will give you a portable waterproof light.
Speaking of water Terraria has a more realistic way of dealing with water. Water will always flow downhill, and will fill any available space that it can. So it essentially is acting like real water. This can be especially troublesome when you're digging up and you accidentally punch a hole in the bottom of an underground pool. Sure the rushing water won't wash you away, however it'll snuff out any torches it comes in contact with, which can be disastrous when you're slowly drowning in a dark dark place.
Thankfully there are a number of different items to help you out of a jam. A very useful item is the magic mirror. Once you find this somewhere in the underworld hold onto it! Hold it up and you can teleport back to your original spawn point on the surface. It also saves you the hassle of climbing thousands of feet back to the surface just to dump your dug up loot.
Terraria's overworld is dynamic and changing. You can collect herbs for potions, and chop down trees for wood. When you chop down a tree you may get a few acorns. If you plant these acorns in a few days they'll grow into a tree. If you cover an area with dirt in a few days it'll develop a layer of grass on it, and hanging vines will grow underneath it.
At night you can collect fallen stars which can be formed into a potion to increase your maximum available magic.
At random times during the night there is a chance for a meteor to strike somewhere in the world. This creates valuable meteorite ore, which can be mined with a gold pickaxe or better to craft meteor armor, phaseblades, and space guns.
Building the perfect fortress
A small part of Terraria is developing a town and keeping your citizens safe from all the creatures out there and the zombies at night. This is the part that is most like Minecraft's survival mode as it requires you to build some kind of shelter and provide some kind of suitable housing for your citizens.
This part is entirely optional, however each NPC plays an important role in making your game easier so it may be a good idea to at least make a small effort to keep them alive. They're not that smart, they don't run that fast, and they're easily sliced to ribbons by the nefarious forces of evil.
Every NPC has a certain set of requirements that need to be met before they'll show up, however their most important need is a place to stay. Now these are civilized people so a dirt-walled mud house carved out of a hill just won't work. They need walls made out of wood or stone along with at least a table, chair, and light source (they have pretty simple needs actually). Once you have the basics down the NPC's will show up whenever their particular condition is met. Don't worry if they die a horrible death, as they'll respawn again the next day as long as their specific conditions are met.
Guide - He's your guide. He's always going to be there for you. And if he gets eviscerated by the denizens of darkness another one will take his place.
Merchant - Sells you basic tools including the ultra-useful miner's helmet. Spawns when all players have a combined total of 50 silver.
Demolitionist - Sells you explosives. Spawns when you have some kind of explosive in your inventory.
Arms Dealer - Sells you guns and bullets. Spawns when you have some kind of firearm or bullet ammunition in your inventory.
Goblin Tinkerer - Sells you useful items that help you craft better gear.. oh and rocket boots too. He's found tied up somewhere underground after the first goblin invasion is over.
There are several other NPC's, each with their own unique conditions for spawning. The more you explore and play the more NPC's you'll unlock.
Arts and crafts
If you hope to be successful in ridding the world of the corruption you're going to need to craft better equipment. Starting from a simple workbench you can build nearly all the weapons and armor you need to battle the forces of evil.
Your weapons start with simple swords and bows, however with the right materials you can craft guns, laser rifles, flamethrowers, and even a cannon that shoots fallen stars. You'll need these if you hope to survive the night and smash the terrors from the deep.
You also can craft useful items such as a pocket watch that will tell time and a depth meter that can tell you how far down you are. These can be further crafted into a GPS that will tell you your location relative to the center of the map. Yes, there actually are edges to the game world. I haven't found them yet, but I'm pretty sure they're there.
Along with useful items you can also craft accoutrements and furniture for your fortress. Banners, chandeliers, and statues will spruce up any dreary living space. You can also take those chunks of valuable rare metal ore and turn them into worthless metal bricks in case you want a shiny metal castle.
Special events and bosses
What would a fantasy / sci-fi / horror adventure game be without grand events and bosses? Well, it would be a lot easier. Most of the bosses in Terraria need to be summoned with specific rituals, however others can randomly happen at almost any time. Some of the invasions can be overwhelming at first until you learn to make a properly defensible fortress.
I learned that the hard way how not to build a defensible structure when I mistakenly decided to make simple wooden houses in an open village with no choke points to defend from.
Blood Moon - This is a random occurrence. The moon turns a pale red and the number of zombies increases exponentially, and what's worse is they learned how to open doors. Now no one is safe! Fight them off or barricade the doors and pray you make it to sunrise!
Goblin Army - This is also a random occurrence, or you can summon it by using a Goblin Battle Standard item. They arrive at dawn with at least eighty troops. Upon your first encounter with these miscreants there is a good chance you'll be slaughtered mercilessly over and over again. They are relentless and will not go away until you've killed every last one of them.
Eye of Cthulhu - This is also a random occurrence, or you can summon it by using a Suspicious Looking Eye at night. What appears is a large eyeball that will chase you like mad while summoning a plethora of demon eyes to pester you. This will most likely be the first boss you encounter.
Skeletron - This boss must be summoned by talking to the old man outside the dungeon at night. He's a giant floating skull and skeleton arms, and must be defeated before you enter the dungeon to avoid dying a horrible instantaneous death.
Some small hurdles
Terraria doesn't go very far in the way of telling you a story. It instead lets you create the story for yourself. If you're the kind of person who wants a video game to tell them exactly what to do this game may not be for you.
Terraria gives you an immense amount of freedom in deciding how you want to play you game, however this can cause problems as the game doesn't give you much help in terms of advancing the story. There is a guide you can speak to, who will help you with crafting, however his other hints are vague at best. I often found myself pawing through the online Terraria wiki looking for the right conditions I needed to meet to trigger an event or NPC.
Since Terraria is designed from the ground up to accommodate multiplayer, and the same game engine is used for both single and multiplay, there is no way to pause the game in single player mode. There is a trick you can use to pause the game by hitting ALT+Tab to minimize the window, however having an actual in-game pause would be nice.
So what's the verdict
From all the playing I did with this game I have to say that it's certainly a keeper. All the niggling little inconveniences it suffers from do not necessarily detract from a quality game experience. Of course there are points where you may look up at the clock and say "What the hell? I've been digging for three hours!" Yeah, it is certainly a time-waster and I'm rather thankful I had this to stave off my cabin fever.
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