As a child I loved Lego’s, and would often play with them for what felt like hours. Mostly I was interested in building castles and space stations using the cannibalized pieces from various space-themed and regular Lego sets. Flash forward to adulthood, and you can still find me playing with these fun plastic building blocks from my youth. The idea of building massive and complex structures in the world of Lego has long fascinated and entertained me, so when I first heard of Terraria, I knew it had potential to be something amazing. So I decided to check it out on the PC. While it’s not an expensive game, I did want to see a little more before committing to it, so I did what any modern day gamer would do, I looked to YouTube to find a little bit of gameplay.
At this point it’s necessary to mention that I had seen plenty of gameplay from Minecraft. Now why would I bring that up? I will tell you. Any discussion about Terraria will more than likely spark a few comparisons to Minecraft, since there are some similar characteristics in the gameplay between the two. While Minecraft is set in a three dimensional world, Terraria keeps things in the 2D perspective, and creates more of a platforming feel. Having grown up playing 2D action platforming games from both the Nintendo and Super Nintendo, the idea of keeping things in 2D appealed highly to me. After seeing YouTube videos, I knew that Terraria was the game for me, so I purchased a copy from GOG, and installed it, and promptly began exploring the world that is Terraria.
My first taste had finally arrived. I quickly built a character, and selected a medium sized world, and dove in head-first.
Wow. So many things to examine. Controls, menus, set-up, etc. I will admit that I initially almost gave up on Terraria, since it was a keyboard based control system, and as you know, I am not much of a keyboard gamer. I prefer the comfort and familiarity associated with holding a gaming controller in my hand, but with so many actions and mechanics in place for this game, I could see why this game utilized a combination of mouse and button controls in favor of using a USB controller. Luckily for me I had discovered a neat little utility program called Joy2Key. Joy2Key allows you to map specific keystrokes to a connected USB gaming controller, and after tinkering around with various settings, I was able to map enough keystrokes and mouse input commands to my X-Box style controller, that it made playing Terraria a breeze. I could navigate the world using a combination of controller buttons using one hand, and still use the mouse to control the on-screen cursor for battles and building using the other hand. Yeah, it’s probably a very unconventional way of playing, but it works for me, and I have perfected it during the many hundreds of hours I have logged playing Terraria since then.
Okay, so where do I go from here? I will try my best to describe the gameplay as clearly as possible, but, it is safe to say that one does not simply play Terraria, but rather, they experience it.
If you honestly can’t make it past the first few day/night cycles, and find yourself not enjoying the game, then maybe Terraria is not for you. But before you give up, I implore you to give it just a little more time. I was once like you. I found myself becoming slightly frustrated with getting my ass kicked whenever night fell and the zombies came out of hiding, and came in search of fresh n00b brains. Then I discovered that I could place torches on the ground and illuminate a small portion of the world around me, leaving me free to fight the zombies in something other than complete darkness.
It wasn’t too much longer afterward that I discovered the art of simply building a shelter of some kind that I could seal myself inside during the night. Those first shelters were usually just a dirt box that surrounded me on all sides, keeping those zombie pricks out in the cold, where they belonged. Whilst entombed in my dirt fortress I was free to place a couple torches on the inner walls, and just hang out waiting for the sun to rise, and the zombies to go back to bed. Then it dawned on me; why am I just standing here with my thumb in my ass waiting for the sun. I should be digging down and exploring the underground world. So that’s what I did next, and that’s when the Terraria experience really got its hooks in me. After I discovered the resources that lie just underfoot in Terraria, nothing was ever the same again.
The sheer size of the subterranean world is mind-blowing. To this day, I have yet to explore every single square inch of what lies below. What I have found is a trove of wealth and hidden goodies. I have found more useful items by blindly mining and exploring the caverns and caves of the underground than I ever have using standard crafting techniques. I will say though, that there are plenty of awesome items that have been crafted, but harvesting the required elements from the underground made it possible. Bottom line: If you are going to progress in Terraria, your best bet is to simply explore the world around you. Both above ground, and below ground. You will find tools, items, and weapons that will all help you in the long run.
It took me a bit of time to understand the crafting mechanics of the game, and that’s kind of embarrassing really. I had heard that Terraria was similar to Minecraft, and I had seen the things people built and created in that game….so why did the crafting mechanics of Terraria escape me for so long? I really have no answer. The best I can come up with is that it was a combination of getting familiar with the keyboard controls, as well as the sheer vastness of the game itself. In either case, once I was able to craft my first workbench, the game just continued at a rocket’s pace to the stratosphere of awesomeness. Dirt forts quickly became wooden cabins, and eventually transformed in to giant brick castles with vast bridges, elegant chandeliers, and cascading waterfalls. As I continue to explore, and discover new items and environments I can only imagine what my palaces will blossom in to.
Once you have all the game’s mechanics figured out, the game really takes two basic paths. You can choose to seek out and defeat all the game’s initial bosses, unlock the hard-mode level, and then work your way to the final world boss and win the game. Or you can instead choose to just explore the world while building and creating massive palaces, underground fortresses, glimmering mansions, towering buildings, or whatever your mind can come up with.
If you are anything like me, and have a hard time coming up with design ideas, you need not look any further than the world of the internet. There are a wealth of architectural ideas to be found online. Google Images, YouTube, and a host of other websites are all filled with people’s Terraria creations. I suggest browsing these images until you find something that catches your eye, and then use that idea as your base. You will find that in most cases you always start out building these online finds, and inevitably transform in to your own unique style, as you add to or remove features from the original design concept. After enough time you will begin to develop you own tastes, and get a feel for starting a basic building structure. Then it’s just a matter of mixing and matching some of the things you find online to create unique roof-lines, bridges, and other things.
My own style of experiencing the world Terraria combines both of these paths. I will often times find myself building and exploring for days on end, and then need to step away from a massive build project, as it can sometimes help me to refocus. I will use those down times to either work on another building project someplace else in the world, or to prepare for, and battle the next boss. After the boss has been defeated, its right back to building, as the boss will usually drop cool new items or toys for you to try out and use. You will also usually free a new NPC during the process, and have cool new items available through their shop, so don’t forget to build them their own house as quickly as possible so they can move in and sell you lots of useful items.
Now that you have a better understanding of the game, I will turn you lose to venture out and explore your own Terrarian worlds. Given enough time, you too should fall in love with and lose yourself in this truly amazing game.