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Diggin’ Terraria

Posted August 23, 2011 by James Day in Editorial

Besides recently starting a new job, there’s been only one thing that’s been keeping me from doing anything productive lately – Terraria.

The most common (and easiest) way to describe the game to newcomers is a two dimensional take on Minecraft. You have to dig, gather, craft and build much like Mojang’s break out hit, all without having to deal with that pesky extra dimension.

But to dub it a simple Minecraft clone would be selling it short. While there are more similarities than differences between the two, Terraria does manage to set itself apart in a few key ways.

For one thing, it’s much more structured. While it is still a sandbox game set across randomly generated worlds the game has definite goals and stages of progress. There are dungeons to conquer, bosses to defeat and characters to recruit for your town.

Satisfying certain conditions will also trigger events. For example, a gun merchant won’t turn up at your village until you’ve found a firearm somewhere in the world. Most of the rock hard boss creatures won’t appear unless you specifically summon them or you find your way to a certain place on the map.

Random events also help Terraria feel more like a game rather than a construction tool with crash-landing meteorites and invading armies of Goblins often forcing you to change up your current agenda. Most of these don’t start happening until you’ve made a certain amount of progress though, meaning you won’t get unfairly bombarded with monsters when you’re just starting out.

There’s also a much bigger emphasis on combat than Minecraft. There’re the aforementioned boss battles and Goblin invasions but there’re also a lot more creatures roaming around the different environments of the world, most of them hostile. Encounters are a lot more dynamic too what with an increased emphasis on gadgets like the grappling hook, platforming skills and the more sophisticated A.I. of some of the boss monsters.

Combined the bigger emphasis on economy, loot drops and other RPG elements, Terraria is clearly built more like a traditional video game. There’s something instantly more approachable about it too, largely thanks to its two dimensional side-scrolling design.

Mining and placing objects is far faster on a two dimensional plain, not to mention a lot less fiddly. As such, Terraria is not only more immediately satisfying than its 3D cousin but it also takes up far less of your time to make an impact on your randomly generated world.

Retro game fans will definitely get a kick out of the art design which is clearly patented after platformers from the 16-bit era. It even makes direct nods to the likes of Mario and Zelda through unlockable outfits. It most reminds me off Zelda II: The Adventures of Link though, an 8-bit NES title, given that game’s side-scrolling RPG game play and intricate subterranean dungeons.

It might seem like I’m trying to declare Terraria a better game than Minecraft. To be honest, my opinion on the latter means very little since I’ve never played it myself (despite having watched hours upon hours of Minecraft build videos). However, because Terraria is more structured and more game-like it seems like a better single player experience, and that was what I’m more interested in.

I never pulled the trigger on Minecraft because the single player seemed basically pointless; why spend hours crafting a world if there’s no one around to see it and very little in-game reward for doing so?

I’ve clocked in fifty hours of Terraria over the past couple of weeks playing in just my one single world. I honestly can’t have seen myself doing the same in single player Minecraft.


It’s worth mentioning that Terraria does have multiplayer but, like it’s 3D cousin, you need to have a server set up and already know other players before you can meet up with anyone. If I ever manage to find a good group of people to share a server with I can easily see myself clocking in hundreds more hours.

Those are my thoughts on Terraria in a nutshell. I can’t recommend it enough especially for its bargain price tag of just £5.99 on Steam. What do you guys make of the game?

About the Author

James Day
James Day

Citizen James.


  1. James Day


    It’s hasn’t necessarily overcome the problem, nor was it really a problem for most people. I just personally prefer the greater emphasis on structure and goals. It could definitely go a lot further with them though at some point it wouldn’t be a sandbox any more.


    If anyone needs any equipment I can probably hook you up. Also, the Terraria wiki has been indispensable for me, I advise heading there after you start to think you know everything about the game.

    I recommend you don’t spoil too much at first though, there’s a lot of enjoyment to be found in simple exploration and discovery.


    Been contemplating purchasing this or mine craft for sometime, and i think my only hesitation is lack of a proper goal.

    Friends have tried to explain to me the addictive nature of both games, though this seems like a game that you really have to play for your self to get a real idea of its game play and addictive nature.

  3. Mark Craven

    I picked up the game when it was on Steam sale earlier in the month.

    Should really set aside some time and check it out,


    I loved both games, and I agree with your main points regarding the differences between them. However, I disagree that Terraria has managed to overcome the main problem, the lack of obvious goals to achieve.

    Perhaps we’ve been spoiled by too many rich narrative games, but sandboxes often feel pretty empty to me after a while. Okay, you can do anything you want, but with no risk or reward, why do anything?

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