A Subtle Steal, With Adequate Results
First of all is the graphics. It pulls off its 16-bit style very well, with good textures and oddly detailed characters and items, with good descriptions and a well-written (though brief) set of NPC dialogue to pretext merchants and guides. There are a few lazy animations here and there, but the variety of unique graphics for items suggest a good degree of attention to detail. As you get deeper into the earth, the backgrounds actually change and offer new environments that are obviously created with different monster sets and block types that populate them. Oftentimes the backgrounds themselves dictate what creatures spawn in a particular area, and will give good indication of how much danger you’re in at any point in time.
Gameplay-wise is where Terraria seems to get a little inconsistent. Its side scrolling mannerisms seem to mimic a Castlevania style of gameplay, and while that is fine in and of itself, the randomly generated world seems to spawn enemies in an odd way, which can often leave you fending off waves and waves of attackers in certain areas, which in turn can diminish enjoyment, as a good few minutes of gameplay can be locked down to doing this alone. Exploration is nice, and enemies are challenging, but there’s little strategy or interest in the enemy element outside of “swing something at them until they die”, and it’s made even more frustrating when the enemy AI consists of “run or fly blindly at the players” or “shoot projectiles through walls at the players”. That said, the exploration itself, when not constantly plagued by enemies, is actually very fun and rewarding, and the enemies are fun enough when they’re not completely mobbing you in droves. As you get items and materials, you can upgrade to much more powerful weapons, which help when those enemies are mobbing you, and it does add a very good incentive to learning to survive.
One area that Terraria seems to shine, surprisingly enough, is the sound. The music is actually really great, and as it is area-sensitive, it will let you know if you’ve just entered what’s considered an underground area, or if a boss character has fled permanently. The actual sound effects range from good to mediocre, but none of them border on annoying, so I’ve little complaints there. The sound actually uses stereo channels, so if you hear a telltale growl of a zombie or skeleton, you can usually figure out which side of the screen it’s going to appear from.
Terraria is a relatively good game by what seems to be a decent developer, and provided it continues to be supported post-release with new content and updates, it will shine as a unique game in the currently-popular world-generation genre of games. Overall, if you enjoy games that challenge you constantly to progress and get better gear, there’s enough in Terraria to entertain for a while, and it should continue to get more and more as updates hit.