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Full Steam Ahead – Terraria

Time logged before Full Steam Ahead: 63 minutes

This blog is, as the header says, about games. However, even those who are not familiar with the world of games are aware, at least in passing, of the phenomenon of the game Minecraft. I’ve often heard Minecraft compared to Lego bricks, in that their simplicity of design and ease of access allow imagination and creativity to blossom. As a kid, I spent hours with my family’s of tub of assorted lego bricks; no plans, just play. As an adult, I’ve spent hours hours in Minecraft building castles, palaces, complex transport systems, and often just exploring the winding depths of tunnels and far away biomes.

By the way, this post isn’t about Minecraft, at least not directly. However, I find it hard to think of Terraria outside of the context of Minecraft.

I’m not sure why I felt the need to mention that, in retrospect. You all have read the title of this post, you all know it’s going to be about Terraria in the end.

In many cases, Terraria is considered a two-dimensional clone of Minecraft. Considering that Minecraft was first publicly released in 2009 and Terraria was released in 2011, well after Minecraft’s popularity and success was secure, this isn’t an entirely unfair assessment. However, despite both titles being games of survival and exploration in a world designed for simple interactivity, there are many differences that set them apart.

The most apparent difference, obviously, is the difference in perspective. Terraria is a two-dimensional world viewed in third-person, while Minecraft is a three-dimensional world viewed in first-person. Building a house or base in the two games are handled differently. In Minecraft, most tools, weapons, and building materials require the knowledge of complex arrangements on the game’s 3×3 crafting grid, while Terraria only requires that you have enough supplies for whatever you’re trying to make, instead requiring a multitude of different crafting stations for different creations: workbenches, furnaces, anvils, looms, sawmills, kegs, and countless other workstations create different items.

Another difference that comes to mind is the extent the two games which allow the player to pursue their own objectives. True, neither one gives you a definitive narrative or quest which is the goal of the game. However, Minecraft allows me to turn off the monster and focus on building if I so choose. Terraria does not have a peaceful mode. In fact, while Terraria certainly doesn’t shy away from building, it focuses far more on fighting and dealing with monsters. In fact, the game features not only a greater variety of villains to overcome, but a bevy of fearsome bosses which require special strategies to beat.

What’s more, while Minecraft generally keeps tools, weapons, and armour limited to a few simple options, Terraria offers hundreds, if not thousands of options, including ray guns, mining helmets, jetpacks, grappling hooks, glowsticks, spears, and any number of other implements.

One of the significant differences between the two games that I haven’t already mentioned was their approaches to multiplayer. While Minecraft now has fully supported multiplayer, there was a long time that playing multiplayer Minecraft meant developing or purchasing a seperate server for your use. Terraria has always had multiplayer support.

So while it’s impossible not to see of influence of Minecraft on Terraria’s gameplay and development, simply thinking of them as clones is not fair either. However, I didn’t start writing this post with the intention only comparing the two. After all, Terraria has sold more than 25 million copies as of September 2018; it’s an incredibly popular and successful game in its own right. Graham himself once referred to Terraria as one of the three most-mentioned games on Almost Infinite.

So, how did it get to my library? The story of my experience with Terraria is one we’ve heard before. A friend liked the game, and in an effort to connect with them more, I either bought the game or received from them as a gift. I honestly don’t remember. However, having a game to play with someone makes little difference when neither of you have the free time to play it together.

Like many other games, it was relegated to the forgotten corners of my steam library, only to be unearthed during this bizarre adventure that is Full Steam Ahead.

When I was a kid, my go-to thing to build was spaceships and airplanes. In Minecraft, and so in Terraria, it’s usually castles. I have to travel a little bit before I find what I’m looking for: a location that’s equal parts defensible, geographically appealing to me, with plenty of nearby resources. To the left of the starting forest biome is a desert. To the right are snowy hills.

I’m the little guy who looks like Gobo Fraggle.

I like the idea of a snowy castle, so I start by building myself a simple shelter. No sooner have I built I nice room for myself than some merchant moves in and set up shop. And a snowstorm blows in. And the sun sets. Soon, my pleasant little shelter is beset on all sides by slime monsters, flying demon eyeballs, and (unfortunately) “Eskimo Zombies”. A poor choice of name, to be sure.

When my family first came to western Canada, they survived their first winter in a simple house made of dirt, commonly called a “soddie”. At least they never had to deal with demons and zombies (or if they did, there are some parts of my family’s history that have been tragically omitted.)

Anyways, after spending the night fending off monsters, I decide I need to improve my castle. I take the small floating hills already part of the landscape, and run with that concept. I can’t do much about flying demon eyes, but if a zombie can’t jump, it can’t get me, right?

Eh. I’m no King Ludwig II of Bavaria, but I do alright.

I turns out zombies can jump, and it turns out jumping is harder than I thought it would be. I soon come up with another plan for defending my castle: long tunnels which direct the zombies into easily defensible paths. I also start building a tower, the top of which will hold something very cool.

After a while, I decide that realistic castle building is for suckers. Soon, my carefully structured, proportioned castle turns into an increasingly unrealistic stone funnel to make room for chests and new crafting stations.

On a small mechanical note, I appreciate just how dark the game gets when it’s snowing at night. Just look at that black void.

Finally, the top of the castle! This is the Almost Infinite Control Room, where Graham and I meet on a monthly basis to discuss content, plan upcoming games, plot the downfall of various tyrannical regimes, and record our podcast.

We don’t actually do any of that stuff, but if you’d be interested in hearing a podcast of me and Graham talking games, leave a comment and we’ll take it under consideration.

After building my castle on the broken minds of architects and physicists, I decide it’s time to explore the world around my castle. To the west, I find more desert, a jungle, and complex caverns, with glowing mushrooms and traps.

To the east, and not very far to the east of the castle I have spent hours building, I find this:

Ohhhhhh, Do you think this could be that corruption biome that Graham was talking about?

Filled to the brim with Cronenbergian flesh monstrosities, I die several times just to bring my dropped tools and supplies closer to home.

My previous experiences with Terraria barely cover more than an hour’s worth of time. As of this writing, I’ve increased that time 1000%. A few nights ago, I even joined Graham for some delightful exploring in a brand new world. I’ll confess, the multiplayer connection was not necessarily reliable, but when it worked, it was wonderful.

The last few weeks have been extraordinarily stressful for me, so being able to play a simple game of exploration and construction was exactly what I needed. Playing with him even for a couple hours was extraordinarily relieving, and I discovered dozens of new things I hadn’t learned yet. To quote Graham, “This rabbit hole runs deep.”

In the first draft I wrote for this post, nearly the entire second half of this post was a continuation of comparison between Minecraft and Terraria. In the end though, that game of comparison feels hollow. I have fun with Minecraft. I have now had fun with Terraria. That’s enough for me right now.

This is what a map of my little world looks like at the end of the game. Lots of questions, few certainties: keep exploring.

Next Episode: Half-Life 2: Deathmatch

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