After playing Terraria for few days now, I can definitely say it is pretty interesting fun. Having not played Minecraft, I was intrigued by the concept of the open-world sandbox, and wanted a game that delivered that concept. Minecraft is popular, but I was never too keen on the graphical style; or lack thereof, depending on your argument. I'll admit, I was much more keen on the art style of Terraria because the 2D character sprites reminded me of SNES-era Final Fantasy art. But I'm not writing this to review or talk about the merits or features of the game, so let me explain further with an introduction about my experience with the game first-hand, and how that developed.
When I first started, I knew from the get-go just build a house, fight off zombies and other monsters, then keep mining and building better and bigger things. As for the game telling you what you need and how to get very specific ingredients, it will at best only tell you the recipe for an item. The way you figure this out is by talking to your Adventure Guide friend, by showing him a material item (wood, stone, etc.), and he tells you everything that can be made involving that item, and what the other items are needed to craft it.
What it doesn't do however, is tell you where to find those other items. Sometimes it's very obvious, like copper, which anyone will know that you just dig it out of the ground along with any other variety of minerals of varying rarity. However, sometimes items that are more obscure like a hook, which you may not realize if it is a dropped item from a monster, or an item that is crafted, so you have to do a little more exploration in the game (traversal-wise or crafting experimentation with varying materials).
It's this exploration aspect that may turn people off from Terraria. Anyone can build a simple house, but as to progression in the game, it's not always clear which can cause the game to seemingly lose some focus. However, others may find this incredibly rewarding and fun just to explore and experiment away without any real high-level rhyme or reason. I was actually having a good amount of fun from this particular aspect, until I came across an object in the game which I was unsure about - the Dark Altar. So of course, being stumped, I looked it up online using Google. Soon enough however, I found myself doing this for more objects and multiple recipes for items, trying to find out how I can obtain even more powerful weapons and armor, which led to the eventual min/maxing of gameplay, which has entirely killed off the feeling of free exploration and experimentation which I held to be so highly rewarding. By containing my own singular experience without any outside influence, I was playing my very own true personal game of Terraria - not someone else's as depicted in a wiki or a FAQ.
There was a lot to be said in just wasting a lot of time digging in tunnels not knowing what you are looking for exactly (other than to dig deeper and deeper). Whether you find this rewarding or fun at all is up to you. If you find that aspect of the game to be an important part of the fun, don't look up ANYTHING online for hints on the game. I made that mistake, and now I've effectively killed my open-world sandbox by turning it into an objective-based game in an open-world setting, expecting to reach some form of an end-game.
So my advice for all - make sure you know how you want to experience the game. I know this really comes down to a deeper discussion as to how people play games and the concept of min/maxing, but I normally am pretty conscious about this kind of thing specifically before I play any kind of game, especially those with RPG-like systems.
Anyways, let me know what you guys think, or if you guys have had experiences similar to this regarding Terraria or other games.
If you’re interested in experiencing sandboxes in open-worlds, or experiencing open-worlds in sandboxes, check out my personal blog over at http://thedevilshaircut.wordpress.com/ or by following me on Twitter.