Terraria stands as one of my all-time favorite games, and its most recent patch has only improved upon what was already there. On its surface, it may not appear to be the kind of game MMO fans would love, but if you love the genre, then I guarantee there are many features of Terraria that are both familiar and just as rewarding.
When it originally released in mid-2011, Terraria was regarded as a Minecraft clone, but it quickly created an identity all its own once players realized how different it was. The two do share many similarities - they are both mining-based, procedurally-generated sandboxes in which players explore and build. But for me, Terraria has always been the superior game, especially out-of-the-box without mods, even if Minecraft is the culturally and financially more significant experience.
Rather than a first-person view, Terraria is a 2D sidescroller that would look right at home on the Super Nintendo. It plays like a more action-oriented SNES game too; plus, with the right items, players can do classic video game moves like double jump, dash, or even fly. The controls are built with a keyboard in mind, but they aren’t any harder to grasp than your average MMO.
Terraria works best as a cooperative experience and the most recent patch makes that even easier on Steam. Like other games, hosting and joining other players through the Steam interface is super simple. The streamlining elevates the game from a fun game to play alone and a hassle to play online, to a fun game to play however you want to play it and whoever with.
Building and exploring are both necessary to be successful in Terraria, but the game's real value is in the huge pool of items you can find or craft. In lieu of levels or experience, item-based progression akin to the end game of most any MMO drives players to unravel the game's secrets and topple its biggest challenges. The world is divided into a multitude of biomes which host their own exclusive creatures to fight, as well as different environmental hazards to brave. There are dungeons to explore and difficult boss fights to overcome. When playing with friends, the game’s difficulty scales to the challenge and spawns more monsters for you to conquer together.
Few games manage to capture progression like Terraria. It has surprisingly few restrictions on what you can wear. While the game supports four archetypes (similar to classes in MMOs, including melee dps, ranged dps, tanks, and even a healer), it doesn’t force you to choose a side, and, since all progression is tied to what you are wearing, changing your role is just a matter of changing your clothes. Initially, these roles will seem fairly straight-forward, but once Hard Mode is activated in a world, the items players can obtain become even more powerful and are even better suited to focusing in on a particular playstyle.
Putting together a great set of gear will be necessary for some of the game’s biggest bosses or more intimidating events. Though there are ways to create safe havens, Terraria offers dangerous locales filled with monsters and hazards. Teamwork helps a lot when it comes to taming these places. It helps even more when you’ve summoned a boss by chance (or on purpose). These encounters are all unique, but winning them is mostly a matter of dodging attacks, which is a lot easier with friends to distract the boss or a properly built ‘arena’ to make the challenge easier. Terraria also features special events in which waves of unique monsters try and overtake the world. These function very differently from boss fights since you can be attacked on all sides or you may need to protect the NPCs living in your houses.
Those NPCs and those structures are incredibly important. Since the game is item-based in its progression, many of those items come from crafting or from combining items found while adventuring. Meeting specific criteria will attract certain NPCs to your buildings, where they will set up and provide you access to their unique shops or other abilities.
If you love crafting, then Terraria has that in spades. There aren’t specific paths like in a MMO - your character can craft anything assuming they have the right mats and the right tools - but Terraria rivals any MMO in its scope. Players can craft armor, weapons, furniture, decorations, cosmetic items, and mounts. For most craftable items, the mats required are fairly straight-forward, though finding them in a large enough supply can prove challenging. Still, through its sheer variety, focusing on what you build in Terraria proves to be a really fun way to experience the game.
Exploring, overcoming bosses and events, and crafting will all be important if you are the Collector type. Bosses drop trophies, overcoming enough of a single mob guarantees you’ll get a banner, and the game even features mounts to collect. Furthermore, there are display slots which replace the gear you are wearing with the cosmetic look of other items (there are also dyes, including some that are harder to find). Terraria features rarespawns, NPCs sometimes sell things only when conditions are right, and there are a ton of cosmetic items to loot or craft. You can even display these items on mannequins to show them off while you aren’t wearing them in that museum you built just to house all the cool things you’ve acquired.
The game also now features Achievements. While I typically ignore those in most games, in MMOs, achievement-hunting often comes along with playing the game as I normally would. Terraria’s achievements are no exception, and the ability to track them through the in-game interface makes them feel even more like a worthy cause. They are divided into four categories: Slayer, Collector, Explorer, and Challenger. Even if you aren’t the sort of player who wants to achieve them all, focusing on a specific category should give some added direction for to go about playing the game according to your particular playstyle.
Terraria may not be a MMO, but it is a RPG played best with friends online. The game features plenty of MMO elements. Players can get into epic boss fights, loot crazy gear, and explore dungeons. Less action-centric players can spend their time crafting and building amazing structures. Those more interested in how many things they can collect and show off will be happy to know that Terraria’s cosmetic items or rare furnishings will feel almost endless. If you love MMOs but want a break or a game world all to yourself, then Terraria is a great game for it. With its most recent patch, everything about the game is bigger, better, and bolder.