Sunday, May 22, 2011

- REVIEW: Terraria -

the biggest problem is that you can't beat Minecraft

Title: Terraria
Developer: Re-Logic 
Platform: PC
Released: May 2011
Price: $9.99 (USD) via Steam

This is one of those games where everyone says "it's like [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] had a baby and it's [REDACTED]!" and all I'm thinking is like man who's having babies that look like video games because that's some kind of all new fetish that I'll DEFINITELY sign a petition against.

So...who's the daddy

It's impossible to avoid drawing parallels between this game and that "other game" out there that "some guy" made that made a whole heck of a lot of money and basically took the gaming world by storm. I'll try my best though, not because I want to avoid talking about the elephant in the room (or be contrary for the sake of being contrary), but because this game really is nothing like Minecraft.Terraria is Terraria. Let's keep it that way.

Dig, dig, you mighty men of yore

Games based around digging and mining and crafting aren't new. People always cite Infiniminer as the precursor to Minecraft, but personally, Minecraft first reminded me of a game called MotherLoad by XGen studios, a flash game in which you were a lowly lonely (lownely?) miner upon mars tasked with paying off some ludicrous debt by way of mining the heck of that dusty red ball. It was brilliant, addicting, and fun. And it had a point. MotherLoad was about winning. You could beat MotherLoad. You were SUPPOSED to beat it. It wasn't supposed to go on forever and ever allowing you accumulate impossible amounts of cash to buy unlimited dynamite and eventually mine that dusty red ball dry (no matter how badly I may have wanted to). Digging and mining were just tools you used to on your way to the end. These tools were definitely part of the game too, of course, but they weren't the point. The point, you eventually discovered, was to face the devil down under and reclaim your soul, which you didn't know you had lost because when you signed up to work on mars all you saw was the "KEEP 90% OF THE PROFITS YOU EARN MINING THIS DUSTY RED BALL DRY" and knowing that the industry standard was 30%, missed the fine print that said "and forfeit your soul to the devil, lest you are able to overcome his dark heart by traversing the deep into his hellish lair, thereby reclaiming your soul, in which case the industry standard 30% cut will apply".  So you scurrilously digged and mined first to get the money, but eventually the fine print caught up with you, and you had to decide whether you preferred the 90%/no soul option or the 70%/keep your soul option. But digging and mining didn't change; what changed was why you did it.

You've just wasted 5 minutes of my life. where's the review?

I'm getting there. Terraria is a lot like MotherLoad. Sure, there is the digging and the mining, but there's also the crafting, building, and fighting. These are all great. All tools are on an auto-attack mode to facilitate Tooling, but weapons are click-to-attack to facilitate Weaponing. This creates a clear delineation between the two actions: Tooling is a brute force process of hacking away at the earth, forcing it yield its goods to you. Weaponing is an art, a matter of skillfully (if simplistically) timing your attacks to defeat enemies. Really, what makes the biggest difference between Terraria and MotherLoad (and Minecraft) is the fighting. MotherLoad has no real fighting, except for the last boss. Minecraft has fighting, but it's more or less mining a moving block that sometimes can hit you or run away from you or blow up on you. In Terraria, fighting is winning. Mining and digging are ancillary to the act of winning. By mining and digging, you improve your fighting, thereby increasing your chance of winning. This is the difference. You can beat Terraria.

You can't beat Minecraft.

Shut up, just shut up. You had me at skin deep

Let me try to illustrate this better: when you begin Terraria, I won't fault you for thinking that it really is a 2D Minecraft clone. There is dirt, there are rocks, there are trees, and there is even the sunrise/sunset. You see a slime, and maybe you're a little surprised. You build your first house: it's made of wood, it has a workbench, and it even has (sigh) a furnace. Night comes, and nothing other than a zombie and a flying eye come knocking at your door. You may not notice the flying eye (just cheap attempt at distinguishing itself from Minecraft), but the zombie reconfirms any doubts you had that this game WASN'T a Minecraft clone. The next day, you dig. You dig straight down (just like Minecraft). Then, you run into more slimes. "More slimes?" you think. You have an undoubtedly Minecraftian wooden sword by now, which is effective enough as it slashes through said slimes. Some items spill out, and money. Money. Money? Money. Shiny round shinies that look so much like that currency found in games like Final Fantasy, or Mario, or some kind of...other kind of game. Not Minecraft. You put it out of your mind for today, but as you pass by the shadows of unexplored caverns on your way up your man-made shaft, you begin to wonder what other surprises they hold.

As you reach the surface you receive a small message, "The Merchant has arrived!" and the prospect of spending your recently acquired shinies on sundry goods distracts you from your spelunking dreams, if only for a moment. And he's got potions. And shurikens. Shurikens. What? I don't even...

By now you have a routine. You spend your days collecting wood and building your three-walled abodes, expectant of any new guests you may have. At night you'll spend some time above-ground, slaying zombies and collecting eyeball lenses, followed by an underground traipse in search of raw material. But tonight is different. Tonight, the Blood Moon is rising. Your Guide instructed you about something called a demon altar, which you found let you use your lenses to craft A Suspicious Looking Eye. And the merchant mentioned something about the Blood Moon being the gate to some other place...and there are 15 zombies instead of 2 knocking on your door tonight. Something very strange is going on. The Suspicious Looking Eye is looking ever more...suspicious.

You are being watched. The Eye of Cthulhu has appeared. Its enormous globe closes in on you as you wish you'd built a bigger house, a bridge, something that you could run around on freely in a controlled space so you could avoid these dreadful eye-teeth and crimson tendrils. Something. But you didn't. But you did manage to forge an iron sword from your time underground, which seems to be making short work of the puny eyeballs he's spitting out. And him too, wouldn't you know it. You're jumping, dodging, falling into your man-made shaft, clambering out of your man-made shaft, trying desperately to strike at every possible opportunity. Your fatigued frame drags itself to the top of your 2 story wood house to make a final stand, and as the toothy globe charges you, you leap, swing once, and meet his gaping maw with a killing blow. The globe bursts like a, well, like a giant pulsating eye, spraying a grisly confetti that ceremoniously accompanies your jump of final desperation. As you land, you see the shinies fall all around you. Among the spoils you find Demonite Ore, Unholy Arrows, and a Crystal Heart. You carry the loot back to your chest in triumph, but as you sort through the goods, you find some Corrupt Seeds. You feel the dark energy they emanate...and you realize, dear God, the adventure has just begun.

The adventure has just begun.

Grandma, what deep pockets you have! All the better to buy you with, my dear

Don't compare this game to Minecraft. Just stop. It isn't Minecraft. There are similarities, sure. I'm not saying there aren't similarities with the building and the digging and the mining and the whatnot. But it's not even remotely the same type of game. It's not even about the 2D/3D differences. Terraria is a beautiful adventure set in a world where mighty men must Dig, Mine, and Build to Win. It's not about survival. It's about pushing back, gaining ground, and making a stamp on the world that actually acknowledges it.

If you like, add me on steam (sonicblastoise). Let's play something.