Update: I had second thoughts on Terraria, and you can read them here. Terraria is now Chick Approved.
Being primarily an Xbox Live Indie Game critic, I don’t get a whole ton of requests for XBLA/PSN titles. But, when I do, they usually come in droves. Terraria was such a game. Partially that’s because none of the major sites have a review up yet. Also because people are simply dying to know what I think of crafting games. Not a day goes by where someone doesn’t ask me about my opinion on Minecraft. I still haven’t played it. Not out of any moral or anti-bandwagon objection. It’s just one of those “I’ll get around to it at some point” type of deals. Plus I live in fear of the potential addiction factor. Time sinks like Minecraft have ruined my life in the past. Now that I work and have a boyfriend and shit, I’m not really up to risking that by playing a game with life-ruining potential.
But, I aim to please my readers, so I decided to go ahead and buy Terraria on PlayStation Network. And, just to be on the safe side, I brought my boyfriend along for the ride. If I’m going to destroy my life, I’m bringing him down with me. It’s the gaming version of the Days of Wine and Roses.
I guess Terraria is supposed to be Minecraft in 2D. Maybe that’s over simplifying things, but that’s the game in a nutshell. You have to mine for materials that you use to build shit to mine for more materials. There are enemies to fight, a huge (and I do mean fucking huge if you pick the largest map) world to explore, lots of different items, and a few twists along the way. Brian created the world, chose “large” because he’s a total clod who forgot that I needed to play the game as fast as possible so that I could crank out a review, and away we went.
My world started out in a snowy wasteland. Brian’s started out in a beautiful, serene forest. I think the game was trying to send me a message with that.
As a young couple that’s getting ready to buy a house, I figured this would be a good test to see how we do at the whole “co-habitation” thing. The weird thing is, we sort of fell into what our real life roles will be. Brian became the home maker. Literally. He built our house, while I set about bringing home the materials we would need to survive. For the first couple hours, Brian never ventured far outside of our home. He kept adding floors, furniture, basements, and buildings for NPCs to live in. Meanwhile, I was off fighting monsters and tunneling all over the Earth looking for shit to build us more shit with. It was quite fun, and very 21st century of us.
Finally, I think Brian got jealous of me constantly going “look at all this cool shit I’m finding!” and built a mineshaft, then proceeded to dig a hole straight to fucking China. That got me all jealous. Suddenly he was the one saying “hey Cathy, look at all this cool shit!” I responded to this in a completely rational way: I dug a tunnel to a lake and flooded his ass out. We’re going to make a great couple.
We put about fifteen hours into Terraria, but it felt like a lot less. Despite being a time sink without shame, gameplay is rewarding. Every piece of progress you make is exhilarating. And really, what else can you say about a game where at least once every thirty minutes, we looked at each other as if to say “can you believe how much fun this game is?”
So I recommend it right?
Well, no, actually. I don’t. Terraria is too unstable and glitchy in its current state. Over the course of fifteen hours, a laundry list of bugs popped up, grew, and frustrated the ever-loving shit out of me. Chief of which was the game had a tendency to crash at the worst possible times. It happened to me twice, and both times I had lost all the materials that I had harvested. To say I blew a gasket is an understatement. Who knew I was capable of crushing a controller with my bare hands?
How come our place didn’t look this nice, Brian? You suck at interior design. Suck suck suck at it!
I can’t stress how furious I was when this happened the second time with Brian. After hours of searching, I had stumbled upon a vein that was the mother lode of precious metals and rare gems. I stuffed my pockets and was about to head home with, poof, gone. Game crashed. Not for Brian, just for me. But all those metals that were in my pockets were gone. Gone permanently from my pockets and from his world. Ceased to exist. They can’t be replaced.
At this point, I was done with Terraria. This had already happened once and I was pretty pissed then, but I was having such a good time that I wanted to go back. After the second time? Fuck that. The game was a waste of my time. I begrudgingly played on my own just because it seemed like the professional thing to do, but the magic was gone. That took a lot of work to get those. Hours of gameplay. Am I bitter? Fuck yea, but with just cause. Call me old-fashioned, but I think a game that cost money should, you know, fucking work.
That crash also made a lot of the niggling little glitches that seemed minor before seem not so innocent. Such as:
- Going to craft items and being told I didn’t have the materials. Even though I did. Right there, in my pocket. So I would have to exit out of the crafting menu and reenter it. Sometimes I would have to do this two or three times before the game would say “oh hey, look, you actually do have them. My bad!”
- It had issues keeping track of how much money I had gathered. I would fight hoards of zombies, picking up coins from each one that died, then go to put my cash away in a chest at home only to find out that the dozens of coins I had picked up was now four or five. We never actually spent all that much money, so I wasn’t that annoyed by it. But still.
- We had trouble picking up the shooting stars. It seemed to be a networking issue. Brian would see stars that I wouldn’t and vice-versa.
- Offline, the game froze for me while it was loading up the world.
- I had the music start to glitch out on me upon respawning more than once, making it sound like nails on a chalkboard.
It’s also worth mentioning that I had a couple reports on Twitter of XBLA owners also crashing their game.
While going through the screenshots on the official page for Terraria on the PlayStation Store, I realized how very little I had seen of Terraria, even after fifteen hours of gameplay. I want to keep playing. But I won’t, because I don’t want to get burned again.
As far as the non-glitchy elements go, movement physics are fairly smooth. Jumping is decent. But, the interface is so cumbersome and clunky that, even after over ten hours, it never feels intuitive. When we finally got organized and created a room that was nothing but chests to keep all of the stuff we’d dug up, we could spend fifteen or more minutes just fumbling to empty our pockets into them. Brian got more used to it than I did. I just couldn’t get the hang of it. Have you ever been stuck in line at a supermarket while some asshole has to get a price check on a pack of gum, then decides to pay for it with his card instead of the quarter you just fucking know is collecting lint in his pocket? Every single menu in Terraria feels like that.
I sure hope that patches are on the way for Terraria. I can’t stress enough: this game is fun. Very, very fun. But it’s not worth getting right now. Simply put: it’s not finished. Hopefully it will be someday soon. If you’re one of those types who can put up with great games rendered too buggy to enjoy, have at it. For me, Terraria can be fun, but it’s too unstable to recommend. Funny, because that’s exactly how my parents described me to possible suitors.
Terraria was developed by Re-Logic
$14.99 briefly thought about taking hostages and demanding that the 73 Gold Ore, 103 Silver Ore, 17 Demeteor Ore, 15 emeralds, 7 Topaz, 8 sapphire, and Skeleton Statue that I lost when the game crashed were returned to me, but Brian said “honey, the cops made it clear, no more hostage situations” in the making of this review. Well fuck.