I‘m a huge Terraria fan – I have over 138 hours played on the Steam version. Like many others, when I first found out that Re-Logic was ceasing development and later that the game was being handed over to 505 Games for console development, I felt sad and a bit betrayed. I was worried that 505 would ruin the console version and do a disservice to the game, and I was sad that the PC crowd wouldn’t be getting any more content.
While there still hasn’t been any news on that last bit (come on, Redigit; you can’t just leave us on an update that adds snowmen to the game), I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see that 505 has handled Terraria respectfully, and quite possibly made it a better game than it already was. Coming to XBLA may be a little intimidating as the game will be competing against Minecraft in that space, but it’s not like it hasn’t been doing that anyway. On the other hand, Terraria’s arrival on PSN will mean that player base will have their first expansive sandbox crafter. Check out the video below to see some of the changes with the console version, and stop by afterwards for some thoughts:
The player’s base in this world looks suspiciously like the fort I designed in my first world on Terraria PC. I’ve got my eye on you, 505.
Dishing Out The Dirt
Terraria is a fun game and it certainly deserved much of the praise that it received. What it is not, however, is intuitive. The mouse and keyboard interface in the original version of Terraria, especially the crafting menu, made no use of the amount of screen space provided by modern monitors and did little beyond providing a fairly utilitarian interface for character health/mana and inventory.
In converting Terraria for consoles, it looks as though 505 Games has managed to make the interface much more intuitive as well, down to the main menu. Text and containers have highlights now. The world selection and multiplayer menus are on the same screen. The loading screen even has tips for players, which should go a long way towards mitigating some of the need for new players to pretty much immediately go to the Terraria Online wiki to figure out WTF they’re doing. Some of the other improvements are immediately apparent once their world loads. The inventory bar selection has a color fill so that players can more easily see which item is equipped. Items in the world that can be interacted with get highlights when the player looks at them. NPCs and enemies have health bars instead of fractions so that the damage players do can be more easily understood.
“Certain items have a shimmer applied to them, which would seem to indicate newly available crafting options, yet another addition that will work very well for new players.”
Inventory and the crafting menus now take up the entire screen. As someone with near-Mr. Magoo-level vision, this pleases me greatly. While the crafting isn’t tremendously different from what it was before, 505 seems to have taken a cue from 4J Studios and their Minecraft XBLA port, as now different item types are separated by category, which makes the whole affair much easier to navigate. Certain items have a shimmer applied to them, which would seem to indicate newly available crafting options, yet another addition that will work very well for new players. Placing and removing items from chests is now condensed and streamlined into two adjacently-tabbed menus. No more endless clicking and dragging? Hallelujah!
Also worth noting is that players now have a world map. No more using external utilities like Terrafirma to try and find your world’s dungeons or firing meteor shot up into the sky to try and find floating islands. No more wondering just how much longer you’ll have to speed through a large world in order to find the ocean. Console players will have all of Terraria’s mysteries available right at their fingertips…or thumbs, now, and this makes the game better for everyone playing it. Imagine how overwhelming getting to the Underworld will be when players can see just how expansive (and deadly to traverse) it really is.
“In surmounting the possible imprecision of a console control scheme, 505 has managed to simultaneously make the game work better and faster for the player.”
Perhaps the biggest change, and the one which gave me the most trepidation previously, is the control scheme for building and mining materials. In similar fashion to the previously mentioned highlights, 505 has added a glowing, yellow cursor for placing and removing blocks. When digging, players can alternate between a precise method of selection and working in a general direction with the cursor choosing the most logical block to destroy. In doing this, 505 has managed to take the analogue stick, which is both the greatest strength and the greatest weakness of console control schemes, and make it work seemingly perfectly for the game. Terraria PC players, how many times have you been mining, particularly in a high-stress situation like in the dark or underwater (or both), and accidentally pointed to the wrong block because the game only digs where the cursor is pointing? How many times have you wished you could simply go in a direction and have the game do the digging for you? In surmounting the possible imprecision of a console control scheme, 505 has managed to simultaneously make the game work better and faster for the player.
Despite being a pretty constant PC gamer nowadays, and despite my own disappointment at how Terraria for PC has seemingly come to an end, I have to admit that I’m actually excited about the console version. I love the game’s aesthetic; I love its humor, and I love the natural sense of curiosity that it instils in players. While my days of sinking hours into Terraria with friends may be over, I’m glad that the game will continue to live on and see a larger audience with consoles and be supported by a studio that obviously cares very much for the original. And hey, at least Starbound is being released this year, right?