Review: Terraria (Switch)

A bestselling sandbox adventure comes to Switch.

By Joshua A. Johnston. Posted 07/15/2019 19:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
A faithful port of a brilliant game; fully customizable controls including touch screen support; offline and online modes
Poison Mushroom for...
Some long loading times, especially at the start; online userbase appears pretty small; starting price point higher than most other platforms

In the fall of 2011, publisher Mojang released a little title called¬†Minecraft to the world. The game, which released in waves across every conceivable platform, would sell over 176 million copies on its way to culturally iconic status. After all, what is more fun than a game that combines dungeon crawling, resource gathering, crafting, and Lego-like design into a massive sandbox-style adventure? It’s easy to forget that a game of similar design released just a few months before Minecraft. In the summer of 2011, another little title called Terraria was published by 505 Games. Terraria also released in waves across every conceivable platform, and while it has not been the cultural touchstone Minecraft has been (in part, perhaps, because it is a 2D game rather than a 3D one), it has still sold some 27 million copies since its launch.

Terraria added Nintendo Switch to its ever-growing list of platforms, launching in the summer of 2019. The Switch version is available as both a digital purchase or a physical one. It currently retails for $29.99, which is a fair bit higher than most other versions of the game, including PC (currently $9.99) and mobile (currently $4.99). One can hope that with time that will change. If you’ve played Terraria on those other systems, you’ll have a very good idea of what to expect. If you haven’t… well, you’re in for a treat!¬†The game is a side-scrolling, sandbox-style, action-adventure game wrapped around resource gathering, crafting, and building. Players begin by creating an avatar and specifying the size and name of a world, whereupon Terraria creates a procedurally generated world, with overworld and underworld elements placed in random locations. Players are dropped into the world with little or no fanfare, but a solid tutorial combined with helpful tips from in-game NPCs helps new players adjust to the learning curve.

Like Minecraft, Terraria utilizes a retro style. The graphics are reminiscent of 16-bit sidescrollers of the SNES era, while the sound is full-on MIDI. This isn’t a boundary-pushing design, but it is plenty heavy on nostalgia, especially when you encounter, later on, some of the game’s larger and more formidable beasts.

The game is at once boundless and focused. As an open-ended sandbox world, you can do just about anything you want, whether it’s crafting the perfect home or exploring the depths of a dark and dangerous mine. You can burrow straight down into the deep or venture west and east to the ends of the world. You can craft better weapons or set-up new homes that can serve as outposts in a sometimes-hostile world. You can even terraform the land to stairstep your way up to a skyward platform or siphon water out of a flooded tunnel. Yet the game also makes you work to unlock its secrets. Venture too far from the starting point, and you’ll encounter monsters who will slaughter you in one hit. Fail to build a shelter, and you’ll be overrun by evil minions in the night. Discover a lode of a new material, and you’ll find you lack a tool powerful enough to harvest it.

The solution is to craft and build and develop bigger and better equipment that gives you a fighting chance against the dangers of your world. And therein lies the true payoff of Terraria: discovering a recipe for a tool that unlocks new raw materials or a new armor that lets you face down that minion or that boss you previously couldn’t best. And you will fight bosses. Terraria has a story, and the longer you play, the more you’ll be able to uncover what that story is, including the large evils that inhabit the world. Defeating those evils unlocks massive rewards that open up entirely new areas previously inaccessible to you. There are dozens of hours of gameplay here, and because it’s the full game, there is no DLC to nickel and dime you.

The Switch version is by and large the same game as its counterparts. I first experienced Terraria on mobile a few years back, and for the most part this version is like coming home; the Switch version is at least as good as any other, and better than some. On the positive side, the larger Switch screen makes it a better (if slightly less portable) experience than a smartphone, while also letting you put it on TV if you want. The Switch version also lets you adjust the controls in virtually any way you want, so if you don’t like the default controls (which are actually pretty good) you can tweak them to taste. Better still, the game supports the touch screen, which makes navigating menus a breeze and also makes playing the game in tablet mode superior to putting it on the big screen.

There are a couple of Switch drawbacks. One, the initial load time the first time you create a world is very long, and the load time when booting up a save game is also fairly long, if a lot shorter than the initial run. Two, while there is a nifty offline and online multiplayer mode, the online mode (which requires a Nintendo Online account) is currently pretty bare, which makes it harder to find people to compete against.

Still, Terraria is at its best as a single-player experience, and in that regard the Switch version is a great port of that most important part. If you’ve never played the game before- or you have and you’d like it on your Nintendo console- this is definitely worth a look. Just keep in mind that, for now at least, it’s pricier here than you’ll find it on mobile or PC.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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