Sunday, November 10, 2013

Terraria 1.2 Analysis and Review

Earlier this month, Terraria got a massive content update. I break down its new additions and examine some issues it presented. But more importantly, Terraria or Minecraft? Spoilers: I like both.

A little tough to see, but look at this building worthy of black metal. Before 1.2, it was just purple.

So what does 1.2 add? New map feature, new ore, several equipment sets, a number of items, mobs, a new dungeon, two biomes, four bosses, half-blocks, and rope (it's mundane yet so useful). There's also a lot of new artwork, which among many other things, makes the dungeon and Hell look truly awesome. There's more music too, doubling the number of tunes in Terraria's already great soundtrack. It's a pity a few of the songs weren't included in the latest Bandcamp release.

Right up front, 1.2 is a very welcome addition that almost came from nowhere and throws a lot of content at the game. I played Terraria quite a bit in the past, when 1.0.6 and 1.1 were the latest versions respectively, and 1.2 made Terraria feel like a fresh experience all over again. At $10 on Steam, it's an immense value that gives dozens of hours of entertainment.

Now let's go over some of it's flaws.


Getting some of the new endgame weapons requires certain keys, each built from a component with a 1 in 4,000 chance to drop from monsters, which means players look for easy ways to farm it. This is an issue that comes up a in a number of games with similar mechanics, most visibly with botting in Diablo (which has far worse droprates, but the process and issues are the same). "A Key Farmer," a short story by Franz Kafka.

I believe one of the biggest sins a game designer can commit is to rely on grinding to maintain exclusivity barriers on content. Meaning that if players want something, they need to spend hours killing mobs with mind-numbing repetition, hoping the RNG will be kind to them. This is neither replay value, nor challenge, nor fun. Now, I can understand using this for an MMO with a large-scale virtual world economy to consider; in such a context, there aren't many reliable and fair ways to make sure certain items stay rare, other than mob droprates worthy of Powerball.

However, I'm flabbergasted as to why anyone would do this in a sandbox game. Why couldn't we fight a very challenging boss, or go exploring for rare materials? Something that lets players make an active and fun effort to get content, not set up an AFK farm that works for hours in the background while they watch baseball and write articles for websites.


1.2 changed the previously endgame Hallowed equipment so that it's much easier to craft. Hallowed gear no longer requires all of the equipment made from version 1.1 s Hardmode ores. Instead, all Hallowed gear is now crafted from new bars that the 1.1 bosses now drop; bosses that also received some meaty nerfs in 1.2.


Unfortunately, this means there's very little point in mining those ores beyond arbitrarily required crafting equipment, a strangely rigid and specific mandate for a sandbox game. I already find it tedious that you are forced to constantly make new drills to mine the ores. It's like Kain from Final Fantasy IV, on psychedelics.

The relevance problem is twofold. First, equipment comparable to anything the 1.1 ores can offer is easily found from mobs or the environment. One of the most egregious offenders here is the Mushroom Spear. It's among the best melee weapons in the game, and it can be purchased for a steal at the very beginning of Hardmode if certain (easy) conditions are met. Another is the Frost armor set, dropped by beefy Ice Golems which actually aren't hard to kill, and the armor's set bonus utterly destroys the Destroyer boss. Defensively, Frost armor is on par with the 1.1 armor, yet much easier to get.

This leads me to the second part of the overall problem: The 1.1 bosses. They all drop Hallowed bars, which aside from pretty good equipment, also craft into a tool required for mining 1.2 s new ore, which is the basis for the new really amazing armor sets. With a single kill on an easy boss, you can skip a large chunk of what was once an involved progression, get the 1.2 armor, then go back and steamroll everything. So you get the Frost armor, you fight the Destroyer, and you walk away thumbing your nose at a lot of the old content.


As it stands, this puts some of the old content in a very awkward position of being essential to Terraria's overall progression, yet lacking any substantive depth or presence in it. 1.2 thoroughly trashed its pacing. How to fix this? For starters, a certain weapon probably shouldn't be available until the 1.2 Hardmode content becomes relevant. A certain boss definitely needs a buff, and possibly one or both of the other bosses. A certain armor set is in the tough position of being too good at the onset of 1.1 s challenges, but too weak for 1.2 s. Buffing it is out of the question, but nerfing it will make its existence pointless. That one is difficult. Lastly, Hallowed gear should probably require unique boss drops in order to craft, at the very least. This way, players would be more motivated to pursue the 1.1 ores as a readily available source for boss-capable gear.


I want to give it laser guns, flamethrowers, and condom dispensers. Hopefully Starbound and OKCupid can make my dreams come true.

Maybe it's because I'm not into interior decorating, but I've never found Terraria's building aspect appealing. I say this, despite pillaging Hell for bricks and furnishings to help my friend construct a huge demon castle in the sky. In passing summary, what we did sounds very cool. For me, the end result just isn't as impressive as the summary.

It's odd, because Terraria does provide for builder-oriented players. There are many types of bricks and walls, furnishings, paintings, banners, statues, trophies, all very colorful and offer a range of styles and moods. Terraria also has mechanisms; for instance, you can wire a dart trap to a button, or a switch to a teleporter. You can pump liquids.

Despite all this, I am personally not compelled to build anything in Terraria. I wonder if it's because of the 2D sidescrolling perspective; it puts me on the outside looking in, able to see a lot at once. In Minecraft or Garry's Mod, I find the first person 3D much more immersive. Plus, I feel those games are fundamentally built around construction, whereas Terraria emphasizes items, monsters, and more traditional RPG and platformer elements. The crafting comes secondary to the mining, and the mob killing.


Why do the different wings have varying flight times? They are a vanity feature as much as a gameplay element, so I don't see why they should have functional differences from each other.

On the technical side of things, the new map feature is a bit buggy. Sometimes the map gets erased -- luckily, this doesn't appear to be permanent. I'm not sure what causes this.

The Golem, introduced in 1.2, is supposed to be the hardest boss in the game currently. By the numbers, it is. But it's also far too exploitable right now.

Lastly, this game has been out since 2011, and it's still impossible to change options such as keybindings and audio levels without exiting back to the main menu. This is annoying.


I thought you could only do this in Postal 2. Thanks Redigit!

I recommend Terraria a lot. If you get it, make sure you build a Hellevator. It's a rite of passage. All the successful people in life got to where they are by making Hellevators. And 1.2 kicked ass.

Thanks for reading!
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