Review: Terraria for PS3
Y’know, there’s a strange trend that I’ve noticed: if I say I have no interest in a game, and will never, ever play it… chances are, it’ll become one of my favorites. That’s exactly what happened with Minecraft, after all. Where at first I saw only virtual Legos, I eventually fell in love with the exploration and constant discovery. But even then, when I first saw Terraria, I wasn’t interested. Who would want to play a sidescrolling Minecraft when there’s already a full 3D Minecraft? Well… As it turns out, “2D Minecraft” isn’t a totally fair analogy. It’s true there are plenty of similarities, but in the end they both play very differently. I’ve heard people claim that comparing the two are like apples and oranges, but I disagree. I’d say it’s more like apples and pears— two different kinds of fruit, but they share more in common than with an orange.
At its core, admittedly, the game starts you off exactly like Minecraft by dropping you into the middle of a randomly generated map with nothing but a crappy sword, axe, and pickaxe. It’s up to you to begin cutting down trees, fight off near-harmless slime monsters, and build a house before the sun sets and the map becomes flooded with zombies. The key differences here are, of course, the fact that it’s a sidescroller, and that this game has much more satisfying combat than Minecraft ever has.
As per the first point, as a 2D game, Terraria only allows you to explore in four directions: left, right, down, and, eventually, up. This makes it much harder to get lost, as you always know that if you go right or left long enough, you’ll eventually end up back at your house. Whereas with Minecraft, if you wander off in a random direction without leaving a trail, there’s a good chance you may never find your way back. This kind of simplicity is refreshing, but in the end I still prefer Minecraft’s open world exploration. In Terraria, the exploration feels much more akin to Castlevania or Metroid. Even though it takes place on a flat plane, you’ll still have quite a bit to explore. And when you’ve gone over the surface a few times, the map extends for a very long ways underground allowing you to mine for resources. Not only that, but there are cave systems, dungeons, and buries treasures for you to uncover, should you happen across them. It’s a lot of fun, but the way you’re able to see around your character, and even check your map for things out of your view, takes away that “you never know what’s on the other side of that block” tension Minecraft gives you.
Secondly, the combat. Terraria’s combat is much better than Minecraft’s, and the developers knew that so they placed a much heavier emphasis on it. It’s not complex by any means, but the broad sweeps of your sword, plus the much more user-friendly view, makes fighting monsters not only easier, but much more fun. And there are plenty of things out there that want to kill you. I felt like I’d seen all the monsters Minecraft had to offer after just an hour or so: zombies, spiders, creepers, endermen, witches, etc. But even after spending DAYS playing Terraria, I’m still happening across monsters I’ve never seen before. You’ve got your daytime slimes and your nighttime zombies, but when you really go exploring you’ll find more enemies than you know what to do with… and they’ll probably kill you. That means that you’d better make upgrading your weapons a top priority. While Minecraft encouraged you to make a ton of tools for when the one you’re using breaks, it’s better to conserve your resources in Terraria to make something even bigger and badder than the one you’ve already got. That’s because, unlike in Minecraft, your tools and weapons never break— and that was a huge plus for me. That meant that I could go on a mining expedition for as long as I wanted and never have to worry about having to stop because I ran out of pickaxes.
Another thing that I like about Terraria is that the experience is more streamlined. While there’s not a storyline, you’re still given a much clearer goal. There are bosses for you to fight, and a specific order you’re supposed to fight them in. You’re tasked with gathering the resources you need to summon and fight the first boss, which triggers the events you need to summon the second boss, and so on. By killing the third boss, you get access to an otherwise unobtainable dungeon where you can get rare treasures before finally digging a hole straight down to hell itself to fight the final boss— and after that, the game sets itself on Hard Mode, with new enemies, new bosses, and, you guessed it, harder difficulty. While it’s not exactly a story mode, I found it to be more engaging than Minecraft’s neverending cycle of “dig, build, craft, dig, build, craft.”
Another thing I liked is the way you can build towns. In Minecraft, you’re on your own unless your world spawns a village. Even then, the NPCs are all nameless, identical guys with no dialogue. In Terraria, if you build a house, someone will come to live in it. It has to meet certain specifications, but those aren’t hard at all to fill. These NPCs have names and specialties. The guide will give you advice, the nurse will heal you, the demolitionist will sell you explosives, and so on. Some are more useful than others (I never even used the painter or the clothier), but all of them have funny lines. All in all, they helped make the experience feel less lonely.
I really liked the events in this game, too. In Minecraft you have the typical day/night cycle that loops over and over endlessly. If you’re lucky, you might get a thunderstorm now and then to spice things up. In Terraria, though, special events will occur randomly that will really put your skills to the test. Blood moons, lunar eclipses, and goblin invasions all cause enemies to spawn like crazy and swarm your location. Sometimes the game will automatically summon the first boss, so you’d better hope you’re ready! And you’re not the only one in danger. If you lead the enemies to your town, they’ll go after your NPCs too. There were a couple times when they annoyed me, since you can’t sleep through the night like you can in Minecraft, but for the most part they’re a fun way to surprise the player and keep him on his toes.
Now, one of the only things I don’t like about this game is the controls. When you’re swinging a sword or digging a tunnel, the PS3 controller works just fine in aiming your tool where you want it to go. Likewise, walking and jumping are just as smooth as any Mario game. The problem comes when you’re trying to do something that needs precision, like building. If you were using a mouse and keyboard, I can see how this wouldn’t be an issue. But since I’m using a game controller, that requires me to press in on the right thumbstick to switch to precision mode and then aim the little crosshairs around the screen to place my materials. It doesn’t sound bad, but in this case the controls can be a little jumpy. I eventually got used to them, but at first I was constantly getting annoyed because I wanted to put that block here, not there, dadgummit! Add to it that your guy has a pretty limited reach, forcing you to build platforms underneath him if you want to build something taller than you are, and building can be a little tedious. It didn’t come close to ruining the game and, like I said, I got used to it, but it is definitely the low point in this game— especially when you consider how insanely easy building is in Minecraft. Point, place, and repeat.
So, between Minecraft and Terraria, which one do I like better? Honestly, I still have to say Minecraft. While Terraria has superior combat, events, and a linear progression system, it misses out on the thing that made me love Minecraft so much: discovery. By limiting you to only going left and right, and allowing you to see a full 360 degrees around your character, Terraria just lacks the thrill of NOT KNOWING. If there’s lava in the next cave, you’ll be able to clearly see it. Looking for a new cave system to explore? Well, there’s one right there to your left. And if you can’t see it, then just check your map and it’ll be plainly visible on there. I love Terraria, but it felt more like an action game than a survival sim. You may disagree with me there, and that’s fine. Maybe that’s what you prefer. But for me, it placed it JUST SO SLIGHTLY beneath Minecraft.
Just like Minecraft, Terraria took me by surprise. Even when I’d come to accept that “virtual Legos” could be one of the greatest concepts for a game ever, I couldn’t see any appeal in “2D virtual Legos.” I’m glad I got talked into it, though, because while the two do share similarities, they’re still different enough to both be worth playing. Wonky building controls only dampened the experience, so if you have the patience to learn how to use them adequately, then there’s a whole lot to love in this surprisingly deep game.
I give Terraria a 9.5 out of 10!
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