In 2011, indie publisher Re-logic released Terraria on PC, and saw sales erupt to the tune of 1.6 million copies. Two years later, and backed by international publisher 505 Games, Terraria has made its way onto Xbox Live Arcade, and the result is one of the most robust offerings on the platform to date.
Terraria is a 2D platformer with a heavy emphasis on exploration, harvesting materials and crafting. It’s essentially Minecraft meets Metroid, with much of the gameplay taking place underground in your randomly-generated world.
As is often the case with crafting games, Terraria offers little in the way of plot or guidance. The optional tutorial — a must for first-time players — will teach you the most basic elements of crafting and building houses, and an NPC called the Guide will offer little snippets of direction. But other than that, you’re on your own.
The first couple of hours of gameplay can be overwhelming. Your character has little life and underpowered tools, and your immediate task is to build a house so that you can cower inside of it when day turns to night and zombies and other foul things come out to hunt and knock on your door. Those early hours are a slog, and the complete lack of a narrative combined with the absolute freedom to roam and explore can be paralyzing. After I’d built a second house — building houses and fulfilling certain requirements attracts more NPCs like a nurse or arms dealer that you can interact with — I found myself wondering out loud, “What the heck do I do now?”
So I started digging, straight down, and eventually came to a cavern with some smashable vases and a chest with coins and a shiny weapon. Armed with a new spear and emboldened by my first discovery, I forged on, and on, and on, burrowing from one underground structure to the next and lighting my way with torches until my inventory was stuffed to the brim with ore, potions and materials, and I was forced to return to the surface to unload my spoils.
I was hooked.
You see, once you craft your first set of armor or discover an awesome new weapon deep in a cave, Terraria becomes one of the most addictive experiences that any game has to offer. During one session, I was amazed to look over at the clock and realize that it was past midnight, three hours after I had initially sat down to play. It’s easy to have your entire night hijacked behind the innocent motivation of ‘one more cave.’
Terraria also offers boss monsters that can be summoned and subsequently defeated, and finding the items necessary to summon each boss begs for further exploration of the game map. The aforementioned NPCs require fulfilling goals like increasing your health or earning a certain amount of coins before they will appear, so there is always a reason to be digging down deeper and exploring the vast network of interconnected tunnels and chasms.
Combat can be tricky in tight spaces with less maneuverability, and aiming ranged weapons in open space can also be a chore. Monsters can overwhelm your character if you’re not careful, and I found it difficult to switch quickly from weapons to health potions when combat got fast-paced, which is ultimately a product of only being able to have one item equipped at a time. It’s not a deal breaker, but it pays to know early how to approach enemies and avoid getting into sticky situations.
Ultimately, whether or not you enjoy Terraria will come down to what kind of player you are and how much time you are willing to invest in it. Players looking for guidance, direction and a quick burst of fun will come away frustrated and bored after a couple of hours of play. But if you’re willing to go deeper and let exploration and discovery be your driving forces, then you will open up a world that is one of the most expansive on Xbox Live Arcade to date.
Terraria Xbox Live Arcade Review / 505 Games / 505games.com
(This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360 with a review code provided by the publisher)