Terraria for iOS Review: Open World Goodness
There’s been much written about Terraria as a game, as the iOS port comes many months after the game debuted on other platforms. Now that it’s on iOS, I’m finally getting my first taste of this awesome little game. It’s a great open-world game that, despite some of its derivative elements, still manages to deliver a unique experience.
Terraria is well known for taking the Minecraft experience and marrying it effectively to a 2D side-scrolling engine. And really, it is a great concept. Yes, a lot of what you’re doing will feel very familiar if you are a fan of Minecraft or Minecraft PE. But by flattening the whole thing into two dimentions, even the familiar elements are experienced differently.
Like Minecraft, you begin each game in a randomly generated world (there’s no “seeding” though). Like Minecraft, there’s no story or sequence of quests; it’s an open world that you can explore and manipulate. Like Minecraft, there’s a lot to learn about how the world of Terraria works, including what to collect, where to go, and how to make the things you need. And like Minecraft, doing all this is really fun.
Also like Minecraft, a lot of time will be spent mining. So much of the Terraria world can be found beneath your feet. There’s ore to collect, treasures to find, monsters to defeat, and caverns to explore as you dig deeper into the earth. This is one of the places where the 2D experience makes the game different from Minecraft despite the conceptual similarities. Digging in Terraria feels almost like playing Dig Dug; you also have a peripheral view of the blocks around you, even if you haven’t dug into an area yet.
One element that Terraria has that is not Minecraft-like is the ability to build a village and attract helpful NPCs. These NPCs eventually form the equivalent of a town in the old RPG sense, with a Healer, a Shopkeeper, and other familiar helpful services. Thus, building structures actually has a purpose beyond the mere act of building. Building helps you get further in the game.
Terraria is also notable for its great visuals and audio. The 16-bit pixelated look of Terraria is charming and well designed. Meanwhile, the soundtrack, while slightly repetitive, is well scored and fitting for the game. It’s really well done.
That is not to say that Terraria is perfect, though. Many of my issues with Terraria have to do with the way it plays on iPhone. Though this is sold as a Universal game, the game is worse on that device. In a game where precision building and destroying are important, it’s a bad, bad thing to have your thumb over the screen! Accidental destruction of items and misplacement of blocks is common and frustrating. And the “zoom” box implemented to remedy this is not ready for prime time, often appearing half-offscreen so as to be unusable.
On the iPad, it’s a totally different experience. The game is far more playable, with easier targeting and more screen space. Controls are still not perfect — you will never get the click accuracy you’d get with a mouse — but you can very quickly adapt to the way the game works and only occasionally destroy the wrong block or place something where you don’t want it.
Terraria for iOS isn’t perfect … yet. With some control refinements, the addition of multiplayer, and some fixes for the iPhone experience, it could become every bit as enjoyable as Minecraft Pocket Edition.
Our Score: 4 out of 5