Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
Have you ever built a house and then found someone else living in it, so you tunnel down into the earth beneath the basement that contains your past self’s grave and proceed to build a second house right beneath the first, biding your time until you can kill Maxwell The Guide and reclaim your original house? No? Me neither. However, my Terraria self has been living out their best post-apocalyptic life, and I am 100% here for it.
Terraria has been out since 2011 so, if you’re a Terraria veteran, or just have half decent knowledge of the game, you can skip this paragraph. It’s an action-adventure sandbox that takes place in procedurally-generated worlds, meaning you’ll never relive the same experience twice. That’s sort of a good thing, seeing as Terraria is half populated by bouncing bunny rabbits and half populated by Eldritch horrors that will haunt your dreams for all eternity and then some.
I, personally, would describe Terraria as “Minecraft and Stardew Valley had a baby, except the baby is fused together using severed limbs and nightmare fuel”. Everything about it is frantic. Even the loading screen is terrifying; the day/night cycle flies by as the frenetic background music feels like it’s counting down to something. The something is probably my death. I die a lot in this game. Luckily, death is fairly cheap if you’re not playing on the harder modes, so my constant deaths aren’t much of a setback.
There is no right way to play Terraria. I think. I’ve been digging my way down to the centre of my procedurally-generated world for about 6 hours straight now and nobody’s yelled at me yet. After I’m done conquering the underworld, I have my sights set on the sky. I’m gonna fight the moon. Well, not the moon, but the Moon Lord. Yes, there’s a Moon Lord! What doesn’t this game have?
Each world in Terraria consists of biomes, and each biome comes with its own unique building blocks, enemies, weather, terrain, and other features. Some of the biomes are pretty standard, like ‘grassland’ and ‘desert’. Others are ‘fleshy crimson horror’ or ‘purple night terror land’. You know, normal stuff.
You can also attract NPCs by fulfilling certain conditions and building houses for them. For now, seeing as I’m busy conquering the dirt beneath my feet, it’s just Maxwell The Guide and I right now. Although Maxwell’s days are numbered because I’m still mad at him for stealing my first house. The other in-game NPCs will, sadly, also steal your houses, but most offer services and boons that’ll aid you on your journey.
Maxwell is not the only one to obliviously offend me, though – Terraria has done the same. My main gripe with Terraria on the Nintendo Switch is the fact that the keyboard is absolutely tiny. While Terraria is a Switch port that takes advantage of the touchscreen, for some reason they programmed the keyboard to be for ants.
Some smaller gripes I have with the game include being unable to track what time it is, so night can descend upon you pretty quickly if you’re not prepared, and that there’s no way to pause the game. Pressing the + icon or going into your inventory both don’t pause the game. I’ve been exiting to the Switch homescreen if I need to pause which, while not a huge inconvenience, is a little bit annoying at times.
Post-review edit: I’ve been informed that you can, indeed, move NPCs into different houses, track what time it is and pause the game! Thank you to the two commenters who let me know!
Ant-sized keyboards and the ever-present threat of time slipping away aside, Terraria’s pros far outweigh its cons. There’s so much to do, so much to explore, so many monsters just waiting to forcibly remove your guts – the game is designed to suck you in for hours.
The inventory system, for example, greatly complements the play style of the game. It’s spacious, meaning that you can chop down some trees, dig up a little mud, throw together some torches, and happily go out exploring without worrying about inventory space or running out of light sources.
Tools also don’t degrade, so there’s no worry that you’ll be 20,000 leagues under the dirt and suddenly lose your pickaxe to an errant block of stone, or that your sword will snap mid-battle. The variety of items is also incredible – no two building blocks are the same. Mud blocks can grow grass and facilitate the growth of trees. Sand can and will fall on you, potentially crushing you to death. Ice is, like in real life, horrendously slippery!
Terraria’s not just about exploring, though. There’s bosses. Big bosses. Terrifying bosses. They range from enormous Triffid-like plants to oversized and disembodied skeletons to gory floating eyeballs. Defeating bosses nets you giant prizes and advances the game. Like I said earlier – death is fairly cheap if you’re not playing the harder game modes, so it’s fun to see which bosses you’re strong enough to take on or not.
Truth be told, despite its charming little pixel graphics, Terraria somehow gets darker than me trying to summon a swarm of demon eyeballs to rend Maxwell’s flesh from his bone. In fact, me trying to brutally eviscerate Maxwell is actually pretty cheery in the overall scheme of things. You shouldn’t go into this expecting a peaceful exploring sim. Consider this a warning.
Should you get this game? Yes. 100%. Absolutely. I will say, however, that it’s important to note that Terraria has been hit by the dreaded ‘Switch tax’ and goes for an entire $29.99 on Nintendo’s latest console. While I feel that this version of Terraria is very much worth the $29.99, you can still get it cheaper elsewhere if you’re on a budget or if you don’t own a Switch.
Terraria is currently $4.99 on Steam (it’s 50% off thanks to the Steam Summer Sale), $19.99 on PlayStation 4, $19.99 on Xbox One (and included with Game Pass!), $14.99 on Xbox 360, $4.99 on the Apple App Store, and $4.99 on the Google Play store. That’s not even all the platforms that Terraria is available on – it’s also available on the PlayStation 3 and Vita, Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, and even the Windows Phone.