Terraria vs. Minecraft: It's About You And The End of the World
Mon, 2012-01-02 00:00 — PMunn
There's Minecraft and then...
If you've paid any attention to Minecraft you know about its retro, blocky 3D world simulation and how people have a penchant for making tons and tons of YouTube videos about it. Unofficial trailers abound, as do tutorials about the game that many have sunk hours upon hours into. Every world can be very different, and survival mode -- long the bread and butter of the game -- leads players to create their own stories around their exploration of the surface and digging into the earth and stone beneath.
Terraria, on the other hand, sports a 2D sprite-style appearance and has a smaller audience. Also an indie title, but for Windows only as opposed to the multiple-OS friendly Java-based game from Mojang, it is often compared to Minecraft mostly for its open-endedness, but the two are quite different. How different? Let's, ah, dig in.
Minecraft is about the world simulation and your first-person-based adventure surviving in it, thriving in it, getting lost in it, and molding it as you see fit. The world is created and the game starts with your character empty handed and alone. The day will end soon, night will come, and with it the monsters. The clock is ticking.
Terraria starts off differently. You create a character, then you create a world, and the two aren't connected tightly. You can have more than one character, and each has separate inventory, armor, and equipment slots. Any character you have on your computer can visit any world you have available, taking his or her inventory -- along with special stashes purchased in-game -- with them. This is a crucial difference between the two games, and is magnified by other strong RPG features of the game. There are a handful of boss creatures to conquer in the world, and along the way you will craft and/or be rewarded with stronger and stronger armor, weapons, and equipment, all of which can, if worn, travel with you not only to another world on your own computer, but to worlds others open to friends online.
Tired of your Minecraft world? Make another and you must start again with nothing -- just you looking over your world, deciding what to build and where, and figuring out how to survive. Tired of your Terraria world? Create a whole new character for a whole new world, or gather up your hard-won items into your arms, and make a new world to dig your way into again. Sure you'll dig faster than ever, and slaughter monsters more easily than ever in this new world, but the randomly generated world will be new.
Minecraft feels simple, deceptively simple. The recipes are simple, the types of monsters are few. The world is the real star of the show. The water, the lava, the mountains, the valleys, the caverns, the snow, the sunrises, the sunsets, the danger at night, the thrill of digging up a chunk of metal or diamond deep within the earth -- these all create tension as you explore and dig. As a 3D, first-person game, Minecraft is a more absorbing experience than Terraria. It's easy to lose hours to it, and it also generates more anxiety when you're in unfamiliar territory.
The death penalties in each game tell a similar tale. The Minecraft death penalty is the loss of everything you're carrying, so combat is tense. In Terraria the death penalty is just time and cash -- harsher settings are available -- but the default doesn't make you lose equipment and you only lose half your cash on hand. Add in an item decay mechanic into Minecraft and not only are you looking over your shoulder for lethal enemies that can silently sneak up and end your deep dig of the day, but you're also keeping a worried eye on the current tool or weapon you're using and wondering when you'll be able to craft aniother one. Terraria's equipment is permanent, but upgraded very often.
So while Terraria is better structured as an RPG, and is more casual gamer friendly than Minecraft in terms of being able to save and quit whenever you want and always appear back at your spawn point with all of your belongings in hand, it's also more limited. Terraria's not going to amaze you with cloud-topped mountains and deep chasms featuring underground waterfalls and glowing lava pools surrounded by skeleton archers. But at the same time you won't slay an enemy in Minecraft and pull a spellbook off of it that lets you cast the same dark magic it nearly finished you off with any time you like. Terraria's limited to four players, while Minecraft servers are generally limited by their hardware and configuration.
In the end each lets you bring something else to the experience, and gives you something else in return. Whichever you want to play is up to you.