Despite being originally released in 2011, Terraria was actually a completely new experience for me in 2019. So if you are a new player wondering what this game is all about, or a seasoned veteran curious about how the Switch handles the game you know any love, then stick around as I attempt to review the absolutely massive game that is Terraria on the Nintendo Switch.
Ok, just to point out this review isn’t from someone who has played 3000 hours and seen everything there is to see in the game. If you have been watching my beginners play through series on YouTube, then you’ll know I’m very much in the early days. But with my play time approaching 35 hours already, then I feel comfortable publishing my thoughts in this review, but just bear that in mind – also, I’ve not heard of any major issues with the game either once the latter stages are reached.
What is Terraria?
Right then, so what is Terraria. Whenever I got curious and looked up anything on the game over the years, it was always described as a 2D Minecraft. As, at the time, I wasn’t interested in playing Minecraft either, it seemed an easy game to pass on. Now I’ve played Terraria myself, I can see the obvious comparison as both games involve mining materials, crafting items and building to the limits of your imagination, but Terraria is far more action oriented and focussed on progressing your world and character within the game. There are definite checkpoints to strive to reach, with multiple bosses to seek out and conquer and what basically amounts to a base building meta game, with AI characters that can join your world as long as you have built lodgings for them.
As in Minecraft, you are nothing without basic materials, so with a starting axe for chopping trees and a Pickaxe for mining into the ground, your first task after creating a character and choosing a world size is to start building a shelter as, just like in Minecraft, once the sun goes down the world fills up with all number of nasty creatures baying for your blood. Due to the 2D viewpoint, building in Terraria is a simpler affair than 3D building games like Minecraft or Dragon Quest Builders 2. Creating a basic shelter is a simple task of laying 6 blocks of wood up, 10 across and 6 back down. That will give you the most basic protection but you will also need to fill in the structure with wooden walls as well as giving your new abode some light, a door and table and chairs before you can really call it a home. Your buildings and structures will start this way out of necessity, but before too long you will be wanting to create grand structures full of golden furniture, spiralling staircases and trophies and trinkets from discovered from your adventures. Spend 5 minutes looking on Reddit or YouTube at some of the impressive structures people have built and your mind boggles.
How are the Switch controls?
The mechanics of building using a controller on the Switch take some getting used to, but also once mastered offer a fairly accurate replacement for the PCs mouse and keyboard, which I would imagine is still the best way to play the game. Materials are selected from your hot bar with the left and right bumper and pressing X will bring up your full inventory to shuffle items around. Whilst pressing ZR with an item on your bar selected will either trigger a use of the item – be it swinging a sword, digging with your axe or swilling a health potion, pressing it with a building material selected will place that item in the world. To help accurately place it, you have 2 options of cursor available by clicking in the left stick. The standard smart cursor can be aimed with the right stick and is useful for aiming ranged weapons such as bows or guns and also when digging for example, will automatically select the next best block to mine. When using the secondary building cursor, a small cross hair will be shown in the middle of a grid and this can be moved a block at a time using the dpad, which gives you very fine control over where you place items when building.
I would say neither cursor is 100% perfect – the standard cursor can place items where you didnt want and the building cursor can be slow and fiddly to use, but generally they get the job done and I’d say overall, given the requirement to have to use a controller on the console, its about as good a system as you are going to get. If you do pick up this game, I would make a point of getting used to switching between these cursors regularly as soon as possible.
There is definitely a learning curve to the control scheme overall and it will take you a few hours to be comfortable, but once mastered the controls work fine and are snappy and responsive. Previous PC players will most likely bemoan the lack of hotkeys for certain actions though. It should be mentioned that touch screen controls are available for all actions in the game, but too be honest, playing using the touch screen is not ideal given the Switches size and weight in your hands compared to say the mobile version. It can be useful to use the screen for inventory management though, so bare that in mind.
A big, wide, World!
The world that you do all this building in is vast. Even when selecting to start in a small sized world, the horizon stretches out far and wide encompassing different biomes of dessert, ice and jungle. The depths you can mine down are similarly insane, and the further down you go, the stranger and more dangerous the world becomes. Your starting character isn’t particular fast at the start, and your Pickaxe is lumbering to swing, making early exploration slow going. The slimes that inhabit the surface, whilst passive during daylight hours are still around in enough numbers to be a hindrance to your early work, but killing them is vital to receive the material you need for creating torches.
Your world also spawns an AI guide to help you. They will be on hand to offer advice and guide you through the actually quite decent tutorial at the beginning, but longer term they prove a useful asset as you can give them a material and they will show you all the crafting recipies its used in. It’s key then that you build a suitable shelter early on as your guide will move in and make it their home. As the game progresses, more and more NPCs will arrive in your world. Each NPC has a different trigger point to when they show up. Having enough money in your bank will tempt in the travelling merchant selling some rare items. Collect a strange colourful flower and the dye merchant will show up allowing you to re-colour items in your world. Each NPC, of which there are around 30 in the game, will need a room to stay in, so you’d best get building and ensure you have a nice cosy room for when they arrive.
The night is dark, and full of terrors
Once you have a safe lodging for you and your guide the night will come and its the best time to head underground. Mining is one of the key components of Terraria and where you will find the best minerals for crafting better weapons and armour and also discover the best chests holding rare items. Mining in Terraria reminded me so much of Steamworld Dig 2, so if you liked that game, you should love this. As I mentioned above, the starting Pickaxe makes digging around the underground a little bit of a slog, but the feeling of discovery and not knowing if you are about to break through the mud and discover an abandoned lair full of treasure, or stumble across a large patch of precious gold is always exciting. As you gain new items, such as faster Pickaxes, grappling hooks, bombs and the like, you’ll be burrowing towards the hellish underworlds in no time.
Venturing to and from the surface with your discoveries can be a little tiresome especially the further away from the surface you dig, but as in everything in this game, self improvement over time will help – discovering things like the aforementioned grappling hook or even a potion that instantly returns you home all help eleviate any of the trudgery.
Combat with the vast array of monsters can sometimes be clumsy, especially early on – are you seeing a pattern here? – where your only line of attack are slow swinging swords, but before long you will amass an impressive arsenal of arrows, guns, light sabres, swords that shoot projectiles and so on. And you’ll need them, as while most smaller creatures in the world can be dealt with with brute forcing, at various states during the game, huge bosses will arrive. These usually take the form of super sized versions of usual enemies, from giant slimes and flying eyeballs to literal walls of flesh and demons. Defeating these super hard versions of enemies usually gives you some important and rare items that let you advance in your world.
This kind of ends the excellent gameplay loop in Terraria and for me what elevates is above Minecraft. Here you are mining materials, to craft better weapons and armour, to summon huge bosses, which give you powerful items, to be able to mine better materials, to craft better weapons… well, you get the idea.
The sense of progression in this game is amazing. The sheer variety and number of items to discover is remarkable and totally addictive, you just have no idea what is around the next corner or through the next cave.
Yes its full of complex systems and you will very likely need a wiki guide or some YouTube play through to help you at times, but honestly if you are new to this game, try to discover as much as you can yourself as the game is absolutely full of eureka moments that are super satisfying.
Graphically Terraria is full of charm. It’s pixel art for sure, but the fact each of the 1000s of items look so unique is very impressive and the game also boasts some nice lighting and particle effects which help elevate it above standard pixel art games. The music, is on a repetetive loop, but its also annoyingly catchy! There are tunes for the night time and day time periods, which give a good indication when you are deep underground of when its safe to return to the surface.
Performance wise the game runs perfectly fine for me. As I mentioned at the start, I’m around 35 hours in so far and haven’t had any crashes or slowdown personally. I’ve heard some people have had crashes, although the game has already been patched a few times since launch and that seems to have resolved those issues.
I’m obviously not sure how performance holds up a 1000 hours in, but as I say its solid for me so far.
There is multiplayer in the game, which at present is limited to your friends list only, but you can have 8 players in your world at any time and its probably best you know who you are inviting in.
I’m honestly kicking myself as to why I overlooked Terraria for so long.
It’s as much of an action platformer as it is a Minecraft clone and whilst the 2D view point will put a limit on your building freedom compared to 3D building games, it’s still quite amazing the variety of building you can do just due to the wide variety of items in the game.
If I’m being honest, the UI is a little fiddly and getting around your inventory and crafting is a bit unintuitive and will likely frustrate for many of the early hours of the game. There are definitely improvements to be made and even just swapping 2 items around is an exercise in frustration.
Dying is also something that can frustrate as especially when mining you can get hit out the darkness by something, or find yourself trapped in water or a small cove unable to escape whilst a number of monster wail away on you. Thankfully although you will drop half of your money, the only real consequence to dying is returning to your spawn point on the surface. Just remember to bank your coins in a chest at your base as often as you can!
Terraria is vast, exciting, frustrating, wonderous and a curiosity to play around with. It’s like being given every cool Lego brick you ever wanted as a child and asked to go build whatever your imagination desired, but also manages to combine that with a very decent action adventure game.
The game has become my obsession. The controls may not be perfectly suited to the Switch, but the gameplay is. Whether you pick up and play handheld for 5 minutes mining precious ores, or spend 5 hours on the sofa building a waterside fortress for your growing town on your TV, you will always be working towards something new.
The elephant in the room with the Switch version is the launch price, which at Â£25 is the highest price of any other Terraria release. Now this may be due to the fact that there is a physical version coming later in August, which always seems to have an impact on the digital price of games on the Switch, which is a massive shame. I can fully understand the furor the price for the Switch version has caused, but having never owned the game myself, Â£25 is a superb price point for a game with so many hours of fun gameplay and I really wouldnâ€™t allow it to cloud your judgement. If youâ€™ve owned it before, consider the lower price you paid a lucky bargain for such a deep and well crafted game!
- RELEASE DATE: June 26th 2019
- PRICE: $29.99 / Â£24.99
- PUBLISHER: 505 Games
- DEVELOPER: Pipeworks Studio
- eShop Link