Terraria isn’t the kind of game that lends itself well to a review because of its more open-ended nature and the complete absence of anything resembling a story or meaningful characters, so I figured that rather than going the usual route and breaking things down one section at a time, I’d tell everyone the story of my experience with Terraria version 126.96.36.199 and highlight the good, the bad, the ugly, the frustrating, and the wonderful as I discovered it. As such, I’m labeling this as a kind-of-review despite the fact that this is technically my 200th site review (and it totally counts despite the unique format).
I basically got manipulated into buying this
Amazon has a habit of occasionally giving away apps for free, and I noticed Terraria was one of those free apps for a short weekend. As such, I figured I’d give it a try despite never really having much of an interest in Minecraft-esque games about building. Predictably enough, I became more or less fascinated by how many things there were to discover, but felt limited by the atrocious mobile controls that didn’t lend themselves well to the 2D platforming at all. They were especially bad once I had acquired a grappling hook, because you had to swipe out from your character to where you want to shoot the hook and 80% of the time this led to attacking air instead of actually grappling. “Man, this would be so much better on the PC,” I thought to myself. Naturally, it went on sale on Steam just a few days later and I couldn’t resist picking it up to experience the game the way it was meant to be played. Well played, Terraria sales people. Well played.
A big, big, too big world and my first steps
The first thing you do in the game is create a character. This basically means choosing the character’s gender (which seems to make no difference aside from a slightly different look), and the colors of their clothes and skin. Having named my mobile version character “Greendead” in anticipation of his many deaths, I stuck with the color theme and named my PC version character “Blackpink,” giving him pink hair to match his name. Unlike the mobile version of the game that automatically created a small world without asking, the PC version gave me the option to create either a small, medium, or large-sized world, and in a classic example of biting off more than I could chew, I chose the biggest option. This backfired almost immediately as I realized that whereas getting to the game’s automatically generated dungeon in the mobile version was quick, my huge world meant that these locations (of which there are several, like a beehive and an underground jungle) were annoyingly spread out and required tedious treks to reach. I made a mental bookmark of this, resolving to go with a small world next time.
Soon I was dropped into the middle of a world armed with a cheap sword, a cheap pickaxe, and a cheap axe. The axe is used for cutting down trees and the pickaxe is used for mining dirt and metal blocks, and while both do damage against enemies, they can’t be compared to the damage swords and other weapons are capable of doing. The first thing I did was talk to the guide, an NPC who spawns near you and gives you helpful hints. In the beginning of the game, these hints revolve around the fact that you don’t want to be outside in the nighttime, in addition to tips for how to build a house. I quickly picked up that a house needs a shell structure (made out of any kind of blocks, from what I could tell), walls (which can be crafted from most kinds of blocks), a door, a light source, a table, and two chairs. Killing a few nearby enemies and chopping down the nearby trees provided me with enough gel and wood to make a torch at a crafting bench, one of many stations you can make or find that allow you to create things out of objects in your inventory, and the extra wood went into making the doors and tables necessary for my haphazard construction to be considered a “house.” The guide soon moved in to this house, which led me to wonder: where the hell do I live? The answer is “nowhere in particular,” because while NPCs move into the houses you create, you don’t get to live in a house in the same way. Instead, the point you find yourself in when you first enter a world becomes your default spawn point that you return to should you die or load into that world, and you can only change it by putting a bed into someone’s home and clicking it to change your spawn point to that bed. Should you remove the bed, the spawn point reverts to the default one. The whole thing struck me as being unnecessarily complicated, but I rolled with the punches and worked to create a nice little village. See, I had been fortunate enough to spawn on a little island just high enough to where enemies couldn’t jump up and get to me, so I used rope (which only your playable character is able to climb) so that it was an area only accessible by me and the NPCs who live there and never leave. In doing so, I only had to worry about the flying enemies who show up in the nighttime, and even they weren’t a problem so long as NPCs stayed in their houses. Of course, NPCs quickly proved to be stupid beyond belief, wandering into danger without any regard for their own safety, but my little island was small enough that I could always make my way to them and rescue them before they died. All things considered, it was a creative little setup that kept my village and NPCs safe, or so I thought.
Trouble in paradise
This was quickly tested on the first “blood moon,” which is a random event that sometimes occurs in the nighttime. It’s signaled on the bottom-left of the screen as the night begins, and it’s a warning that you’re about to have a rough night if you’re not prepared. Not only are there far more enemies than normal during a blood moon, but they also become capable of opening doors, something they’re otherwise incapable of doing. This is when I realized that Terraria revolves around trial-and-error, never telling you these kinds of things. Instead, you’re left to experiment and figure out quirks like this for yourself (or hop around a wiki to learn the ins and outs of the game). I really would have appreciated some kind of tutorial that explained things like this rather than having to watch a bunch of my NPCs die, but I suppose it’s just how the game is designed. At any rate, I noticed two things as a result of this: dead NPCs are replaced the following day by identical NPCs with a different name, and monsters are capable of spawning in impossible areas. See, I had expanded my little island so that it didn’t all fit on the screen at once, but the leftmost edge was still far above the ground beyond the jumping range of any enemies in the game. Despite this, enemies started coming from the left side of the screen, spawning out of thin air on my island. That’s when I realized that the way the game spawns enemies is massively inconvenient. I considered giving the game up around that point, but instead loaded up Cheat Engine to make my character invulnerable and defeat a few bosses to see if there was anything worth continuing to play for. As it turns out, when I beat a giant enemy named the “Wall of Flesh,” the entire game changed. New items, enemies, areas, and events suddenly started popping up, from a pirate invasion to incredibly difficult boss fights. This was enough to pique my interest, so I created a new world—this time, a smaller, more manageable world—and imported my character into it to play that far without cheating.
An imported character and a new world
Something that I really liked was that my imported character kept all of his upgraded gear and items, including the stuff from after the Wall of Flesh was defeated that couldn’t be found yet in my new world. This is always something I enjoy, being reminiscent of that Baldur’s Gate 2 trick where you import a character and drop all of your items before the game begins, picking them back up after your interrogation and starting the second game with all of your items from the first. I have to give Terraria massive credit for allowing this where most games would restrict what you’re able to import or use for fear of jeopardizing the balance of the game.
The first thing I did was try to build an underground fortress, but the dirt walls that were present when I dug down couldn’t be removed and didn’t qualify as “walls” for some reason, meaning I built a huge underground network that no one could actually live in. The second thing I did was use rope to climb high up into the sky, just below space—which has reduced gravity and can be visited without the need for a helmet or anything else—and place some blocks I carried over from my previous game. These happened to be rain cloud blocks, and while they didn’t seem to actually generate water, they looked nice enough as a base for what I was building. From there, I used stone to build a layered sky tower that housed 12 NPCs who could be kept in sight (to keep monsters from spawning near them), and even put a bed in the top room to set my spawn point inside of the tower. At the very top, I created a platform that ran off-screen so that monsters would have to appear from there, and I placed “actuators” (which toggle solid blocks on and off) on the platform and wired it to a switch so that I could flip the switch and make the bridge disappear, causing enemies to fall whenever they show up. This didn’t kill them, however, which meant I wasn’t able to pick up money and items from them.
Dangerizing my skytower
Realizing that I wouldn’t make much progress without money or items from fallen enemies, I set up a bunch of dart traps I had collected from both my previous and current worlds and used a wiki to figure out what I needed to craft timers. Realizing that my previous world was rich in the platinum I needed for a one-second recurring timer, I zipped over and dug out as much as I could find and used a crafting station to create platinum bars, combining those with chains to make platinum watches which were then combined with a wire to make the one-second timers. All in all, this proved to be a bit of a chore, but the end result was magnificent: I connected the timers to the stacks of dart traps which I had placed to fire a hail of darts at anything on the platform. I also had enough leftover dart traps to line my tower with them, repelling flying enemies on all sides. In case the darts weren’t enough to finish off enemies, I bought teleporters from a character in my previous world and wired it so that anyone who made it to the end of the platform still alive would trigger the teleporter by walking over it, which would teleport them into lava far below.
This was convenient, of course, in the sense that it would automatically protect everyone in my tower, but it also meant that anyone making it to the end of the platform would be teleported far enough away that I wouldn’t be able to obtain any items they drop (I’m not sure if it’s a distance thing or a lava thing, but even teleporting into the lava and then using a magic item to return to my tower spawn point didn’t allow me to obtain dropped items). Another fairly unexpected side effect was that traveling merchants who occasionally show up would walk along the platform and be killed by the lava, often before I could trade with them. These merchants rarely sold anything of value, however, so any hassle on that end was more than made up for by the hilarity of having “so-and-so the traveling merchant has arrived” immediately followed by “so-and-so was killed.”
Being determined to make it past the Wall of Flesh without cheating, I searched around on the wiki for instructions on building stronger and stronger weapons, and eventually had an impressive arsenal that seemed to make me indestructible. Before long, I had slain the Wall of Flesh without cheats and entered the bigger game that lies after that, known as “hard mode.” Soon after, I received a message that pirates were heading my way, so I made my way back to my sky tower to prepare. Enabling the timer for my non-stop automatic hail of arrows in preparation, I quickly realized that these enemies were far tougher than any I had faced before, with most of them making it to the teleport at the end of the platform and being lost to the lava. Around the same time, I caught wind of some liquid duplication tricks and resolved to bring the lava to me instead of teleporting enemies far below. Using iron to craft several buckets, I scooped up a fairly significant amount of lava and created a never-ending lava chamber. Then, I created a platform just below my platform of arrow-y death and placed a pump on it to create an endless layer of lava on the ground. Finally, I changed the wiring to the teleporter, making a small square room below the lava platform just large enough for the teleporter to fit, but small enough that any enemy teleporting there would have their head clip into the lava. That way, when enemies died as a result of the lava, they’d drop their items below where no lava exists and I’d be able to use my grappling hook to get close enough to pick up the items without having to go into the square room of death. You can see how it all worked out in the picture to the left, but suffice it to say that enemy invasions were no longer a problem. In fact, I ended up completing so many pirate invasions that I even ended up acquiring the incredibly rare coin gun, which shoots money as a weapon and can potentially do huge amounts of damage. Needless to say, everything was going my way at this point and while crawling around the wiki and looking for certain items was time-consuming and a bit of a grind, the game was nevertheless incredibly enjoyable around this point.
Hate, thy name is hard mode bosses
Beating the Wall of Flesh may have unlocked a version of the game more fun than the original overall, but it also unlocked a bunch of enemies more difficult than anything that came before. Granted, the normal, non-boss enemies are difficult at first, but you eventually get used to them and find ways to cope. The bosses, on the other hand, are so over-the-top difficult that they made me stop playing the game, and in order to progress to newer areas where you’ll find better traps (including an improved dart trap that I would have appreciated), you have to beat 3 “mechanical bosses” that are harder versions of bosses you may have faced before defeating the Wall of Flesh.
“Harder” is an understatement, too, because while the bosses were manageable in their original form even in the mobile version of the game, the hard mode versions are so difficult that even using the rare coin gun I acquired and shooting hard-to-obtain platinum coins for 200 damage each while stacked dart traps inflict extra damage wasn’t enough for me to beat a single one of them. Realistically, you have to create special constructions to get around how these bosses attack in order to have a chance, and this is doubly annoying when you realize that they’re immune to things like lava. No, only the dart traps worked against them, which meant that my traps that were capable of taking down entire pirate invasions were suddenly rendered completely useless. Planning was unexpectedly thrown out the window, replaced with the need to make long platforms so that you can run from side to side while shooting behind you. This is the point where the game ceased to be fun for me, and I eventually stopped playing. I mean, the bosses are annoying, but it’s a middle finger to have them randomly show up on some nights. Even worse, if they don’t show up on their own, the only way for you to make them show up is to use an expendable item to summon them, which means that if you die and don’t have another, you’re stuck playing the waiting game or farming enemies for another item to summon them. It becomes such a soul-sucking grind at this point that I couldn’t bring myself to continue playing, and though my overall impression of the game is positive, whoever decided that hard mode should see a 500% increase in boss difficulty should be thrown out of a skyscraper window and rendered an ugly stain on the concrete.
Obligatory graphics and music comments
As you can probably tell, Terraria sports a 2D platformer look. This is a little deceiving, because while part of the game revolves around platforming, it’s mostly about building. Either way, the look suits it and the armor, enemies, and backgrounds are incredibly varied. There was obviously a huge amount of effort put into the game’s sprites, and it shows. Musically, the soundtrack isn’t quite as varied or noteworthy, but many of the themes manage to stick with you without being overly obnoxious during gameplay, and you can often use musical cues to determine where you are in the world, which is helpful underground when you’re looking for a specific area.