The world of Terraria is deceptively inviting. When you first find yourself upon its pixellated hillside, beneath a beautiful, bright blue sky, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in a place of safety and tranquillity. Indeed, it all begins peacefully enough, giving little indication of the grand adventures that await.
After creating your little avatar and selecting a world size from small, medium or large, you are (usually, as it varies) transported into a sunny land full of trees and possibilities. On the Vita version, you’re initially armed with a rudimentary sword, a woodcutter’s axe and a pickaxe, then you’re quite simply left to yourself.
A tutorial comes in the form of a wandering NPC, but it’s meandering and text heavy, and you’re far better off learning by doing. You’ll begin by cutting down trees to harvest wood, and mining stone blocks hewn from the ground. Killing the green slimes that appear will yield gel, which can be combined with wood to make a torch. It’s all very twee, until you’re warned to build a shelter before nightfall.
Similarly to Minecraft, Terraria’s world is no picnic after dark. Zombies and demonic flying eyeballs emerge from the shadows to kill anything in their path, and so you must construct a house to stay safe. Once you have a frame, you’ll need a workbench to craft doors, then a furnace to forge weapons and armour. Said weapons and armour mean you’ll need to go and mine copper, iron, silver, gold, and mining means delving deep, deep underground – which is where you start to find the really good stuff.
The landscapes of Terraria are very vertical, and you can lose yourself for hours burrowing deep into the bowels of the earth. You can find gemstones, rare metals and lots of hideous monsters braying for your blood. As long as you’ve enough wooden platforms and torches, you’ll usually be able to find your way back out again, but it can be daunting when you check the map and see just how far you are from home.
Building and furnishing homes invites NPCs to move in, from shopkeepers to explosive experts, and although they aren’t always useful, a little company makes the night times more bearable. The best thing about Terraria, besides the ridiculous wealth of content, is the freedom it gives you. A double-edged sword for some, such free will isn’t always constructive but at least it never becomes boring. You could simply build a massive multi-floored fortress, or dig your name into the landscape, but sooner or later you’ll need to be prepared for the bosses.
Rather suddenly, these behemoths will appear, and I’m not sure what leads to their encroachment – but when they come you’ll be in for a real battle. The combat, melee or ranged, is very basic, but the bosses will test your patience. Luckily, there’s no real fail state, as death simply robs you of half your gold and resurrects you at home (unless you choose the Hardcore mode at the beginning). Still, the bosses feel genuinely menacing, and defeating them is very satisfying.
Multiplayer either opens up your world to others or allows you to join theirs for a while. You can team up to excavate a particularly large cavern, or do battle in some rather enjoyable PvP, but ultimately, alone or not, you only get out of Terraria what you put in. There’s no ‘Game Over’, no endgame: if you put the hours in, take the time to not only upgrade your tools, home base and gear but also to explore, learn and experiment, Terraria is a rich, satisfying experience absolutely brimming with things to see and destroy and build.
The touch screen controls make navigating the menus a cinch in the Vita version, and the colourful, old school art style is a great fit for the small screen. The variety of climates and landscapes is enough to stop you getting bored, but if grinding isn’t your thing you won’t find Terraria particularly compelling. In the end, all you’re really doing is grinding and farming. The combat is pretty uninspiring (though vanquishing bigger foes is its own reward) and the platforming is quite basic, but then that’s not really the point.
VERDICT: Terraria is a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde game. On one hand it’s idling and almost relaxing as you delve into the shadowed heart of your little world, or cut down trees and build houses and workshops beneath the sun. On the other, it’s quite the adventure, as monsters pour into the world come nightfall and ancient treasures await the intrepid. You will forge armour, mix potions, fight to the death, dig too deep and take on enemies that are too powerful, but you’ll also build, create, discover and share in a world you’ve helped to shape. Probably the prettiest and most user-friendly version available, Terraria on Vita is a joy to play and just different enough from everything else to stand out.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.
Review code provided by publisher.