Like I’m sure many of you did as well, I bought Terraria today when it went on (even more of a) sale on Steam. I didn’t go in expecting much and I knew well enough by now to know that this wasn’t simply 2D Minecraft, despite their similarities. What I didn’t expect, however, was the strong aversion I had for it.
The root of my problem with Terraria is the one thing most people seem to like quite a bit about it; the (relative) lack of a death penalty. Dying only results in a loss of some of your money, but you maintain your inventory.
I completely understand this features appeal. It’s beyond maddening to delve deep into a cavern in Minecraft only to fall into lava and lose your entire haul for that expedition. Hours are lost in an instant with literally nothing to show for it. And yet, for me at least, it was just that sense of risk that makes Minecraft so enthralling. Every monster becomes a major obstacle. Dark corners and crevasse can house creatures that can eradicate all your hard work in an instance.
It’s that hostility that’s missing from Terraria. Dying carries no real weight and as a result monsters are no longer a threat. The incessant slimes don’t fill me with dread but are rather just an infuriating annoyance. If I happened to stumble upon a cavern and died exploring it, not only do I keep all loot, but finding that cave again is simply a matter of remembering if it was left or right in relation to my house, not a desperate struggle to remember my footsteps and navigate a massive continent before my items disappeared.
Imagine any other persistent game if it lacked a major death penalty. Imagine an MMO that lacked the loss of experience or equipment. Players could just throw themselves at monsters well beyond their capabilities and wear them down though perseverance. And that’s what Tarraria sort of feels like to me. I’m just wearing down the world through attrition, not careful and measured play.
Now, I realize that there is a “hardcore” mode where death results in that world being wiped, and that the lack of a death penalty is by design and a fundamental part of the game. I also acknowledge that I’ve only played the game for roughly three hours and I plan to spend some more time with it before I write it off completely. I just feel like a game like this, a persistent longer-term world with a clear hierarchy of goals, needs some sort of harsh penalty for dying, because without one, I kind of feel like I’ve already beaten Tarraria, it’s just a matter of putting the time in.