Available on: Switch, Windows, Xbox One, PS4, macOS, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, PS Vita, 3DS, iOS, Android, Windows Phone
Genre: Sandbox Action-Adventure
Version Tested: Switch
Official Site: https://terraria.org/
Release Date: June 27th, 2019 (Switch version)
What is Terraria?
Terraria is a sandbox action-platformer originally released way back in 2011. It blends together aspects from a wide range of games, but its two biggest inspirations are Minecraft and The Legend of Zelda. Terraria’s visuals owe their roots to 16-bit SNES classics like Metroid.
The core of the gameplay is relatively simple. You need to collect resources to upgrade your equipment and take on harder bosses. Bosses are used as markers to determine how far through the game you are. When any main boss is beaten, new content will be unlocked either in the form of new resources or a new area. There are 10 mandatory bosses in total starting out with the Eye of Cthulhu and eventually ending up at the almighty Moon Lord. Many other optional bosses can be used as mid-markers between these core bosses. For example, the Martian Saucer is not required to finish the game but its very strong Laser Drill drop may be considered worth getting regardless.
Despite Terraria’s focus on boss fights, the majority of your game time will be spent exploring your world. Finding areas and gathering resources is the primary aim of Terraria. Most earlier game content will have you focus on good old fashion mining but this changes as you progress. Hardcore instead, unlocked after defeating The Wall of Flesh, has you revisit evolved regions of your world. This progression model can get a little repetitive but more often it’s just satisfying. Terraria has so much rich content to explore that it never feels too monotonous to grind for new equipment. The bosses are fun and interesting too. Duke Fishron is a fish-pig-dragon-hybrid who can be fought after finishing the fishing tree. If a “fish-pig-dragon-hybrid,” boss isn’t unique, nothing is.
A Perfect Fit on Switch?
Not exactly. When I first heard about this game being released on Nintendo Switch, I thought the same thing too. A 2D sandbox adventure game could offer hours of on the go fun. Terraria on Switch isn’t even a bad port with minimal performance issues and some cool touch screen integration. Unfortunately for Re-Logic, the Switch’s hardware limitations have badly bottlenecked Terraria.
Terraria is a dark game. Caves and dungeons are difficult to explore without appropriate lighting. The Nintendo Switch’s screen is also fairly dim. These two things couple to make an aggravating experience when you try to play in any degree of decent lighting. Outside you’ve got no chance. The glare is just too bad. That was expected though. What I was surprised at is how difficult it is to enjoy in even moderate lighting. Sitting in my conservatory or near to a window results in an unplayable experience underground. If you zoom in considerably and place torches every few feet you can kind of see where you’re going. Investments such as the Mining Helmet can help but without an in-game brightness setting your options are limited. I had to resort to purchasing a Nintendo Switch Matte Black Screen Protector to see properly.
The Switch port is also cursed with some poor and fairly clunky controls. Precision movements during combat feel near impossible. Building structures like housing is tedious as you have to use the Switch’s analog stick to manually select tiles. Compared to the option of mouse and keyboard available on PC, this is more than just a little frustrating. The final issue is pricing. Switch tax means that picking up Terraria on Nintendo’s hit hybrid console will set you back $29. During the Steam Summer Sale, it was available, with mod support, for just $4.99.
With its SNES origins being so obvious it feels fitting that Terraria’s gorgeous visuals are finally on Switch. It is by no means a realistic-looking game but rather a colorful portrayal of a 2D fantasy world filled with excitement. Unique enemies, diverse biomes, and a frankly staggeringly large world all contribute to making your experience unique to you. Player choice is celebrated too. You can select a large world and spend months before you’ve explored it all. Alternatively, smaller world options are available for those who would rather focus on finding new content quickly. Several difficulty options are also present so you are free to make your playthrough either accessible or challenging depending on preference.
Terraria’s soundtrack sticks firmly to that SNES theme. Boss themes sound like they are cleaner versions of classic OSTs like Castlevania, Double Dragon, and Lufia 2. The biome songs are relaxing. The boss themes are epic. “Plantera” and “Lunar Pillars” are some of the best themes I’ve heard in a while. They emphasize the panic and peril the player is feeling. These bosses are difficult, and my god does the music reinforce that. Composer Scott Lloyd Shelly has done a fantastic job of creating one of the best indie game soundtracks ever made.
Verdict: Terraria is Terraria regardless of the platform it’s on. That means that even with all the Switch port issues, this is still a great game. I do feat though that given its technical difficulties and steep pricing, consumers could be getting the short end of the stick. Would these problems have bothered me if I’d never played the PC version? Undoubtedly. The lighting kills handheld mode and if I’m going to play docked, I’d rather purchase a superior version. Keep in mind that PC has mod support that can add thousands of hours and home consoles control better due to their better-made controllers. Still, this is technically a functional and competent handheld port of Terraria so there’s still plenty of fun to be had.