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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Terraria review!

Ah, Terraria. The game whose title can be pronounced in two different ways: You can either pronounce it like a pirate ("ter-ARR-ia") or you can pronounce the way I do ("ter-RARE-ia"). It's a game I have mentioned a few times on this blog and never bothered reviewing it, so that's what we're doing today.

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But what exactly is Terraria? At first glance, it appears to be a shameless clone of the overnight classic Minecraft. In reality, it's a 2D sidescrolling platformer/action-adventure hybrid with elements from both the RPG genre and the Survival Simulator genre with randomly generated worlds released all the way back in 2011 by developers Re-Logic, Engine Software, and 505 Games. Terraria has been continuously updated and ported to newer consoles and has garnered quite the following. Oh, and the game is filled to the brim with tons of pop culture references. In other words, almost the exact opposite of Minecraft. Almost.

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Terraria is interesting because it doesn't have a set story at all, aside from some minor lore such as the Old Man's Curse and the NPC interactions. And while I am a bit of a story junkie, a nonexistent story isn't enough to kill my enjoyment of a game. In fact, Terraria's lack of a fixed narrative is actually beneficial, as it lets you the player plan out your goals and ambitions at your own pace, and should you feel like using your imagination a bit, can come up with some silly justification for your activities. Like digging a tunnel all the way down to another plane of existence known as Underworld to go slay a hideous monster called the Wall of Flesh so you can unleash the spirits of light and darkness upon the mortal realm all in the name of becoming more powerful! Or building the world's most awesome looking fortress! Or building a town populated by the various NPCs that help you on your adventure! Or just fighting six bosses simultaneously just to prove how awesome you are to your friends and family! SO MANY POSSIBILITIES!!!

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So the main aspect of Terraria is a Monster Hunter style loop of collecting materials, using said materials to craft weapons, armor, and stuff to make your base of operations (which you must build, by hand, yourself) look infinitely cooler, and fighting bosses to gain access to rarer, more valuable materials and repeating the process until you are ridiculously overpowered and have conquered every boss in the game. Or until your base looks excessively awesome. Whichever suits your playstyle.

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Now Terraria has one of the best combat systems in a video game ever, at least in my opinion. You can equip your character (whom you can create and customize at the start of the game) with various armors and weapons to alter your stats to your heart's content. There are several different weapon types that each have their own properties, such as projectile weapons have incredible range but balanced by having limited ammo, which you can either craft with the right materials or buy from the NPCs that will move into your base as you progress through the game. Magic weapons don't have as much range as projectiles, but have infinite ammo and depending on the weapon, can have additional effects like lowering the target's stats, with the only real downside being the magic gauge (represented as a column of blue stars) putting your magical weapons on a cool-down period if you over use them. And finally, Melee weapons don't have ammo or a Magic gauge restricting them, with the trade off being most of them having terrible range (exceptions include Flails and Spears). It gets crazier later on in the game when you gain access to rarer materials and can craft armor that actually boosts your stats if you use a specific weapon type, such as boosting the power of weapons that use bullets as ammo. Additionally, you can equip four Accessories that offer passive abilities, such as an immunity to fall damage or a double jump, that can be used to further refine your playstyle. And finally, you can drink potions for various effects. Some potions are tried and true RPG staples (healing potions, speed boosts, etc), while others, such as the rather infamous Gravitation potion -which reverses the flow of gravity for a few moments- are a little crazier. I love the amount of variety and customizability, as it basically guarantees there is something for everyone.

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Terraria's randomly generated worlds play host to some seriously nasty monsters, some more dangerous than others. A prime example of this are the bosses, and there are plenty of them. Like the one pictured above, Skeletron. The boss battles are exciting and nerve-racking, even if some of them can be cheesed with enough preparation. Namely the Eye of Cthulhu (the name of which is a reference to the legendary horror icon created by H.B. Lovecraft), Which leads to one of the few gripes I have with this game. Either you go in a fight so horrendously underprepared that you die over and over and over, or you are so OVER-prepared that there is literally no challenge at all. Very rarely are you prepared enough you stand a decent chance at defeating whichever foe you are facing off against, while still running the risk of dying (Example, when I first fought Skeletron, I died twice, and only just barely beat him the third time. I have yet to have another clutch victory like that, because I am too overpowered at the moment). So even though it is very enticing to update your gear the moment you can, I suggest holding off on getting better gear until the difficulty starts catching up with you (aka when you start having trouble with regular enemies, let alone bosses). Or you can play with friends who have really O.P. gear and have them carry you through the game. They have a multiplayer co-op mode for a reason, you know.

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A small, but amusing attention to detail is how
every time you die, a tombstone appears. Clicking it 
will let you read the writing on itwhich will describe 
in comically violent detail how you died last time. 
Sure, it's pretty dark, but you can't deny there's something funny
about the game going out of it's way to remind players how they 
died and even marking the exact spot where they died.

Now combat isn't the only thing you can do in Terraria. After all, people wouldn't be arguing over whether this game or Minecraft is better if it weren't for the building and crafting systems. Now, I thoroughly believe that there are some things that Minecraft does better, namely being able to build in 3 dimensions gives Minecraft an edge in the building department. However, Terraria has two things that Minecraft will probably never have: Firstly, sloped blocks that help builds look less blocky. And secondly, ACTUAL FURNITURE!!!! You see, doing interior design in Minecraft is tricky because there aren't actual furnishings in that game, minus the bed, which leads to folks slapping signposts on staircases to make it resemble a chair. Terraria on the other hand has craftable tables, chairs, chandeliers, sofas, beds, clocks, weapon displays, and much more. And even though it loses an opportunity for 3d builds by being 2d, Terraria's 16-bit artstyle practically begs you to make some Pixel Art.

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Clockwise from top right: The Corruption
biome, the Crimson Biome, the Hallow biome
and the Mushroom biome

The worlds of Terraria are randomly generated, meaning you have no idea what you might find in your world until after you see it. But there are some patterns amidst the RNG Gods. Namely the world is divided into various biomes, each with their own unique resources and materials you won't find anywhere else. Of course, each biome has enemies and dangers aplenty, but hey! It's totally worth tracking down the Crimson biome to get some Shadewood even though you'll probably get eaten by bloodthirsty monsters if you aren't careful. Speaking of which, if you are playing in Hard Mode (unlocked by going down to Underworld, slaying the Wall of Flesh, and unleashing the spirits of light and darkness upon the mortal realm), the more evil biomes (that is, The Crimson, the Corruption, and the Hallow) will spread across your world and override any preexisting biomes. This will, in turn, up the difficulty even higher than normal due to those biomes being inherently more challenging than the other biomes.

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Something impressive about the game's soundtrack is how every single biome has it's own unique theme music. Even the underground variations are unique! And not only are they unique, the set the tone for each biome perfectly. The Forest theme is warm and welcoming, which not only is perfect because it's probably going to be the first biome you see when you load up a new world, but it kind of belies the fact that Terraria is a game filled to the brim with tons of nasties wanting to kill you. The Desert theme sounds like you're going on a grand adventure, and the Crimson theme instills a sense of unease and dread, almost as if to give a warning to the player that they shouldn't be there. My only gripe is how they often reuse tracks for bosses. Namely, the Eye of Cthulhu, the Eater of Worlds, Skeletron (and Skeletron's *Machine form, Skeletron Prime), Duke Fishron, AND King Slime share the same theme! The only bosses with unique themes are Plantera and Moon Lord (the latter of whom is currently the final boss, but that is subject to change because the Wall of Flesh used to be the final boss, but then came the Machines, and then came Duke Fishron, and THEN came Moon Lord).

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You can create your own character, and change
the hair, hair color, eye color, gender, shirt, undershirt,
pants, and shoes. Unfortunately those last four are 
almost always covered up by armor.

As for visuals, Terraria has a nice 16-bit artstyle that not only is very appealing to the eye, but again going back to the biomes, each biome not only looks but feels unique and even have unique themes running through them, like how the Snowy Biome has a pleasant Christmas theme, or how the Corruption is based of disease and well, corruption, the Crimson is based off of horror, and the Hallow draws inspiration from fairy tales. The sprites for everyone (players, NPCs, and enemies) are also nice, but the main focus is on the bosses, whose designs vary from grotesque (The Eye of Cthulhu, Wall of Flesh, etc) to bizarre (Duke Fishron, Plantera, etc). The armor and weapons also each sport unique designs, which is impressive considering there are over 300 DIFFERENT ARMORS AND WEAPONS. That's THREE-ZERO-ZERO!!! Three times as much as one hundred! And the consoles haven't hit update 1.3 (which added new enemies, craftables, and gear)  yet which means that when that update arrives on the consoles there's going to be even MORE armor and weapons! But anyway, while on the subject of armor, if you don't like the way a specific armor piece or Accessory looks, you can put a better looking piece/Accessory in one of seven Vanity Slots (three for armor, four for Accessories), which will alter your character's appearance, but stats and abilities are completely unaffected.

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But I already know the question forming on your lips. "Is Terraria better than Minecraft?". Well, that is EXTREMELY subjective. While both are good games in their own right, I personally enjoyed Terraria more, partly because of the challenging difficulty and partly because it has some of most fun bosses I've seen in a while (that is, assuming you don't cheese your way through them). Minecraft is a much more relaxing game with an emphasis on exploration and building, while Terraria is a more exciting game with an emphasis on adventure and combat. It depends entirely on what you like in a video game. If you like relaxing, exploration focused games then Minecraft is better. If you like action-packed adventures and epic battles, then Terraria is better. Or you can be like me and get BOTH games. Or be a die hard fanboy of one and shameless hate on the other. Your choice. It is a free Internet after all.

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There is only one thing I don't like about Terraria and this is the most irritating thing ever. When you save and quit, then go back to the world, instead of leaving off where you last saved, like literally every video game ever, it puts you back at your spawn point. This is all fine and dandy, if it weren't for the fact that say you last saved building a boss battle arena miles away from your headquarters. then quit. If you want to finish that arena you are going to have to hoof it all the way back. I despise this "feature" and it frustrates the ever-loving daylights out of me. With that said, I give Terraria a 9/10. If that gimmick with the save-quit-then-reload leaving you at your spawn ever single time wasn't there and the boss battles weren't so easily cheesed, I would have given it a perfect score. But Your Milage May Vary regarding the how easy it is to cheese the bosses.

*The first three bosses of the game, Eye of Cthulhu, Skeletron, and Eater of Worlds all have Machine forms you can fight in Hard Mode where they each get redesigned to look more robotic and have brand new attacks and abilities they didn't have last time, like Machine!Skeletron has a laser cannon, giving him a means of outgunning you.

P.S. Considering that Skeletron is considered by many to be one of the tougher bosses and how his Machine form can spawn randomly of his own accord (often to tear you and your friends limb from limb), I guess you could say that he has a BONE to pick with you!

P.P.S. You know, I've been playing Terraria for over two years and never once bothered creating a world with a Corruption biome somewhere. You would think that since everything in the Corruption is either blue or purple (my two favorite colors!) I would have specifically gone out of my way to get a Corruption biome in one of my worlds. You know what, I'm going to go find a Corruption biome when I publish this. #QuestforCorruption! Betcha you weren't expecting to read THAT on my blog!

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