Many kids used to spend their time at the beach building sandcastles. Not me, though. I built sand empires. I constructed little sand fiefdoms which I could rule over my sand lords from my sand throne. Believe me, it was awe-inspiring. Terraria, a new action-adventure-creativity game from Re-Logic, is perfect for a sand emperor like myself: it offers the thrill of discovery mixed with the chance to meticulously construct your own little village, city or empire. And before you think it: yes, it's a lot like Minecraft, only in 2D.
Control your character with the [WASD] keys, press the [spacebar] to jump, and wield your currently equipped tool with the [mouse]. There are a variety of tools available — pickaxes allow you to dig in the ground, axes let you chop down trees, swords help you fight off monsters, and so on. Later on you can obtain even more interesting gear like grappling hooks and firearms!
With this gear you'll set out to accomplish your goal, which is... pretty much whatever you want it to be! You can focus on constructing a fantastic town, in which case you'll attract NPCs who offer services like shopping and healing. You can explore the land which will lead you to mysterious dungeons and vast underground cave systems. You can collect items and use them to summon boss monsters to battle for valuables. There's really no shortage of things to do!
Terraria is presented in 2D in a style similar to a few old-school Super Nintendo RPGs. While the action can be a little small, it's generally easy to pick everything out from the screen after some time getting used to everything. The game boasts some endearing music and sound effects as well — for instance, the main theme is bound to get stuck in your head for days.
Analysis: It's pretty easy to compare Terraria to Minecraft because, well, that's exactly what it is — multiplayer features included. The similarities are clear and even the creator of Minecraft has acknowledged Terraria, giving it a bit of early attention just a few weeks before its surprise release.
Terraria takes the sandbox formula a bit further, though, by boasting a feature list that dwarfs Minecraft's even at launch. Perhaps most importantly, Terraria is available through Steam, making it much easier to obtain the game and eliminating the chance of the game becoming nearly unplayable should a main server on the developer's end go down — a problem that has plagued Minecraft for months.
Terraria is also much more of an actual game than Minecraft. There are dungeons to explore, many more varieties of monster and boss to fight that offer rewards for their defeat and NPCs to attract to your town. The exciting sense of exploration is still a key part of the game, but in Terraria exploration tends to be a lot more rewarding. You never know when you'll stumble across a treasure chest full of goodies or some valuable ore!
The real question is if Terraria has the longevity to stand alongside Minecraft. While you can create as many worlds as you want, in Terraria each is bordered on the far left and right unlike in Minecraft where they are effectively infinite. Time will tell if this means that players will eventually run out of things to do and grow bored with the game.
In terms of game design there are a few minor flaws. It's easy to be swarmed with massive amounts of monsters in Terraria, so players who'd rather focus on construction than combat might get a bit frustrated. Since the individual "blocks" that make up the world are smaller, it's also a little more difficult to be precise when building or mining. With practice, though, this becomes less of an issue.
Terraria offers such a variety of experience that both Minecraft fans and those who have never touched that game can find something to enjoy. Hop on in, chop down some trees and start your own empire. Plus, your work won't all get ruined when the tide rolls in!
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