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Terraria on Steam

MSRP: $9.99

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

Release: 5/16/11

I feel like, at this point, we really need to start calling these games something other than “Minecraft-clones”. Someone more clever than I am will have to come up with the name. I tend to call them digging games (see? Not that clever, is it?). Maybe we need to take a page out of the book that resulted in 4X strategy games and call them 3C sandbox games (crafting, combat, and construction).

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Next to Minecraft, I think Terraria is probably the most successful of these types of games. If you haven’t played it, you’ve at least heard of it. Terraria is a 2D, side-scrolling, procedurally generated game where you cut down trees and dig tunnels and build shelters and kill monsters. It features cooperative multiplayer, and has over 120,000 positive reviews on Steam.

And all of that was procrastinating putting this unpopular opinion out there: I don’t get it. My early experiences with Terraria have been full of frustration. Sure, I could chop a few trees, dig a hole, and kill a slime, and then night would fall and …

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I exited completely out of the game, took a deep breath, deleted my characters and my worlds and vowed that I would start over and play smarter and maybe start to figure out the love for this game. I knew I’d have to slow up on the exploration and digging and build myself some kind of shelter.  This went okay, except for the fact that I couldn’t figure out how to install the damn door.

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This did not make for an interesting or successful first night in the game. I lived, but I was bored and irritated and I did not want to mess around with those zombies, and I didn’t want to wait. So, I scrapped play two, and decided to come back to it after doing some research and with a clearer, less aggravated mind.

So I cleared all my saves, and spent some time with the beginner’s guide on the Terraria wiki, and I remembered being equally frustrated with Minecraft when I couldn’t figure out how crafting worked.  I don’t understand the subset of people who actually enjoy games where part of the challenge is having no fucking clue what to do, but they must exist, because someone keeps making these games that explain nothing.

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Over an hour of time invested, and I could not figure out by myself how to place a door, or that I maybe should talk to that other person wandering around. However, after some time with the wiki, I let Brian talk my ear off (and some of the tips he gave me I don’t expect I’m going to need for a very very long time), and I successfully build the saddest little house. Apparently, the ground is not a good enough base for a house – it needs wood flooring. Blocks, not platforms. Yep, I made that mistake too.

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By the time night fell, I managed to make a house for Brian, and a slightly larger one for myself, and then I discovered that even with fully functional shelters, the night is long and boring and since I knew I had enough to talk about, I saved my game and called it quits.

It took me 90 minutes of in game time, plus another half hour or so of out of game research to build a shelter, and I hate to say it, but I’m not exactly jazzed to go back to it. While I understand that the whole point of sandbox games is to allow one to play the way that they want, I feel like a little guidance for a brand new player wouldn’t be remiss.

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Now that I have a basic handle on at least the very start of Terraria, I may give it another go. In a lot of ways, Terraria reminds me of Craft the World, which I still love, and repeatedly start over from the beginning. There has to be something fantastic in here somewhere. But if I had played Terraria without knowing anything about it, it’d already be relegated to the “Fuck This Noise” bin.

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