Terraria Xbox 360 Review

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I’ll begin by stating the obvious: Yes, Terraria looks similar to Minecraft, Mojang’s runaway best-seller. However, that comparison¬†fails to adequately describe the unique and nuanced nature of developer Re-Logic’s Terraria, a title that easily lays claim to 2013’s most addictive and innovative game.

In terms of what you can expect, the game begins by placing you in a world where nearly everything is yours to harvest, craft, build, collect and kill. While it sounds very similar to Minecraft, the similarities begin with the presentation and go a mile deep. For starters, your task in Terraria isn’t merely to exist and explore. That desire is there, but you’re also responsible for a plethora of different activities, each of which serve a unique purpose that enhance the game’s experience. After creating a custom character, you’re dropped into the overworld with the objective of surviving. It’s in that moment that you’ll realize how streamlined the game is.

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After a few minutes to acquaint yourself with the somewhat confusing UI (to be expected given a controller’s limited layout), your character is tasked to create and explore the world around you. During the day, you’ll harvest and explore with little danger. You’ll need to use this time to properly familiarize yourself with the world and to build a majestic castle. Okay, maybe that splendorous accommodation will come later in the game, but the basic layout will nudge you towards learning and then building a little place to call your own.

That home, however, is more than simply a place to decorate. The progress of time in the game will inevitably change from day to night, leaving the once-welcoming world a teeming nightmare where everything seems intent to kill you. Without a home, those monsters will inevitably overwhelm you. Moreover, apart from being a safe haven, well-constructed homes also fulfill the important function of attracting NPCs to you, each of which can perform different tasks like selling new items, healing you, and helping you as you explore the world. You’ll need to fill homes with basic comforts like beds and dressers to attract NPCs, and their benefits provide incentive to spend quality time creating homes and towns – even if the real meat of the game lies beneath your feet.

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Though there isn’t a defined story and few epic quests to complete, the game creates a sense of fantasy and wonder that’s been sorely missing from our current generation of consoles. Perhaps I’m viewing the game through the nostalgic glasses that the game’s SNES graphics champion, but the act of digging, mining and exploring subterranean caverns, unaware of what precious ore or material you might find, is one of the most enjoyable gaming mechanics I’ve experienced in a very long time. Games like Skyrim promote a similar sense of wonder, but imagine being able to tunnel through the walls at any given moment to escape a pursuing enemy – those are the type of scenarios you’ll encounter in Terraria, and it’s hard to not keep playing once you’ve started.

Once you’ve uncovered ore, the process of melting and creating new equipment from it is addictive. However, you’ll also create a wide range of tools and weapons to help you explore. Crafting a new sword and grappling tool to help explore will help you, but you’ll likely drop your jaw (this was my “Wow!” moment) when you finally gather the resources to fashion a weapon that fires something that rhymes with “blazers.” Believe me, you’ll need it – enemies in this game become increasingly more difficult as you venture further into the depths, so plan accordingly as you seek fame and glory.

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As an incentive to explore carefully, even the game’s easiest difficulty is similar to the souls mechanic in Dark Souls – die, and any currency you carry will be dropped at the place of death. While you’ll be able to return to where you died and possibly reclaim it, other difficulty modes permanently strip you of your coins upon death, and, if you’re a masochist for sprite-based violence, even venture into the realm of permanent death, leaving you and your world at the mercy of monsters with hilarious names like Eater of Souls, Corrupt Bunny, and (the worst!) Clown.

Without ruining too much of the game, you’ll eventually – if you play correctly – be forced to transition into Hard Mode at some point, meaning that all of your tools, weapons, and magic will need to be used effectively to survive. While the combat might be simplistic, it’s a welcome and inventive distraction from exploring, and Re-Logic should be commended for making it this enjoyable on consoles. It’s worth noting that Terraria‘s multiplayer is as fun as the single-player game, though not being able to access random worlds to create havoc is a bit disappointing. Nonetheless, exploring and building with friends adds another reason to become addicted, and that’s a welcome addition to an already enrapturing title.

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While the game itself is exemplary, the only downfall is the unfortunate interface that dictates most of the game’s finer mechanics. Because the action doesn’t pause when you access a menu, you’ll need to be careful when scrolling through the various pages of materials and recipes. I can’t help but consider this unavoidable, however – a game as deep and nuanced as this needs ample space to assign commands and actions, an area where every controller will sadly be limited in comparison to its PC brother.

Apart from that issue and sometimes unresponsive building mechanics (which I only rarely encountered),¬†Terraria is nearly perfect for what it is and unlike any other game you’ve played in a very long time. If you’re a fan of replayable, explorable and challenging games, you need to try Terraria. Most importantly, the game is incredibly fun, and that’s something I can dig.

9/10

by

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Version tested: Xbox 360

Also available on: PS3, PC

Developer: Re-Logic

Publisher: Re-Logic

Genre: Sandbox