Review: Terraria successfully brings its delightful sandbox gameplay to consoles
It's been two years since Terraria landed on the PC and delivered one of the most captivating and memorable sandbox experiences that isn't called Minecraft. The game is now available on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, and with some additions and modifications, it's essentially the same great Terraria we were all very fortunate to play back in 2011. The controls can be a little iffy at times, sure, but the game works great overall, and the new content is worthwhile enough to warrant interest from both newcomers and longtime fans of the PC original.
You begin by creating a character, and once you build your avatar, you can enter the world of Terraria and get started. This time around, the game features a brief tutorial to help get you acclimated to the mechanics. It's certainly a useful tool, and while you can definitely get by just fine without it, there are a few nuances that are explained in the tutorial that are worth being aware of right from the get-go. This is especially true of the controls, which come with a bit of a learning curve and are surprisingly deep.
Just like in the PC version of Terraria, your first task should be to build a shelter. You'll have to scavenge for nearby materials such as wood, rocks, dirt, and other basic essentials. Chopping down trees and chipping away at the terrain is simple, and before you know it, you'll have accrued a bunch of ingredients for building your first dwelling and some crafting supplies. Walls, doors, swords, and a workbench are the first steps to making it in the pixelated wonderland. After you create your first shelter, the local guide will take it up as his abode, but fret not, because you'll still be able to use the workbench and eventually a furnace for crafting sturdier equipment out of ore right out of this dude's house.
Once you've got the ball rolling, it's time to head out into the world and become a real explorer. Even if you select the smallest world size of the three available, you've got plenty of land to explore both vertically and horizontally. You can witness the changing landscape and travel across the woods and desert, or you can dig down to the very depths of your sandbox world. Along the way you'll encounter different types of enemies, bosses, and materials. Regardless of where you're journeying, it's always important to continuously craft away and create new items and weapons.
Frequently building houses is an integral element in Terraria. On the one hand, you don't have to focus on housing all the time, but if you do, you'll greatly benefit from it. Aside from acting as respawn points, houses can be occupied by various NPCs. These aren't just some jerks who want to mooch off of you, though. These characters can offer a variety of services, and you'll find that giving a house away pays off when you've got quick access to merchants and healers.
If you played Terraria on the PC, all of the gameplay and progression tropes are still intact. The controls are probably the biggest change as you now play using a controller instead of a mouse and keyboard. While the PC control scheme took some getting used to, it eventually became second nature and provided an ideal way to play. Terraria with a traditional controller works almost as well, though there are a few quirks. You can freely switch between auto aim and free aim with a click of the right stick. Both options work well, and you'll find that switching off works best for different situations. Unfortunately, using the analog stick to aim at trees, rocks, and walls isn't always as effective as it should be.
Placing climbable platforms and building structures can be a bit cumbersome at times, as well, and though it works well most of the time, you're likely to fall victim to misplaced items, forcing you to tear down walls or platforms and try again. Thankfully, combat isn't hindered at all. Swinging your sword is greatly functional, and aiming your bow works great, too. It's a shame that crafting and building can prove to be troublesome at times with the new console controls, but at the same time, it's awesome that battling your foes works so incredibly well. There's just something satisfying about taking on enemies in a 2D action-adventure game with a controller, which is arguably the best way to do it.
Getting online and playing with friends is both a breeze and a blast. It's easy to connect with people on your friends list, and together you can engage in some awesome four-player adventures. If you're feeling competitive, you can also do a little PVP play. There's even couch co-op which is absolutely awesome. If you can get together with some buddies and play Terraria locally, that's definitely the way to go. And don't worry about those foolish buddies of yours getting lost, because thanks to your trusty map, you'll be able to locate your pals instantly. Sadly, you can't connect with random players. While clearly this is a game to play with friends, it would've been neat to have the opportunity to get an online game going with anyone.
Ultimately, the worst thing about your experience with Terraria may be having to stop playing. The game is so addictive and rewarding that it's hard to put it down. (Damn you, real life necessities!) You'll want to spend hours upon hours digging through the brightly colored world, taking on sinister pixel-based bad guys, crafting some sweet items, and building massive structures. You'll also want to adventure to the deepest depths and the furthest distances, uncovering the core of the world and the new Corruption, which is both deadly and fruitful. There are some unavoidable control issues, though these don't detract from the experience all that much. In the end, this is exactly what you could possibly hope for out of Terraria on consoles. Now, go forth and adventure, build, loot, and craft, craft, craft!
[Reviewed on PlayStation 3]
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