Version tested: PC
I think that Terraria has a bottom.
I'm not sure, because I've never reached it. I think I've got close, when the dirt has given way to ash before giving away to a vastness of nothing, but by that point I was being harried by fire imps and vertigo, and death was my next experience, not discovery.
There's another reason I'm sure. It's because Terraria is so full of stuff and things and all sorts that there's not really a reason to dig down that far. It's about your lateral movement rather than your vertical. It's about leaving whatever hovel you've created and heading out into the great beyond - because you know whatever you find, it's going to be interesting.
So I don't know that Terraria has a bottom, because I've been busy. I've been investigating meteor crashes. I've been exploring dungeons. I've been clearing away the corruption. I'll find that bottom, somewhere. I'll get round to it. But right now? Right now I'm having way too much fun in the places between here and there. Did I tell you about the time I stumbled upon an underground jungle? Good times, man, good times.
To grasp ineptly at the genre of nearest fit, Terraria is a 2D platformer. But it's also a building game, a farming simulator, an RPG and a co-op adventure game. It's been likened to Minecraft, but while they're both games that, at the fundamentals, are about digging blocks and building blocks, they're really not all that similar. The similarities are derived from the fact that they've both been massively popular.
Sure, you're digging, mining for ores and treasures that you can then use above ground to create magnificent constructions, but in Terraria that's just a starting point, somewhere to launch yourself off of, and into the rest of it all. There's not the depth of Minecraft here, the underlying sense of world and place, but that doesn't matter. You'll be far to distracted by every other thing to ever worry about that.
Above ground you've got the slimes. They're annoying but not really all that dangerous, unless you get swarmed. Then, as you dig down, the background will shift from brown dirt to darker brown dirt, and skeletons, giant worms and bats begin to appear. Deeper still, where the walls turn to ash and lava, you've got the fire imps, the bone serpents, the demons. And that's just when you head straight down.
Terraria has literal vertical difficulty. The further down you go, the more dangerous it gets. You can potter around in the first layer of the world all you want, but, in the tradition of the rogue-like, the deeper you go, the better the loot. Sure, you can hang out in the safe dirt layer, but you'll be stuck with copper ore, and you're unlikely to find any treasure chests. If you're going to range, might as well range far, right?
The world has spots of corruption all over the place that have their own monsters. Underground Jungles, Floating Islands, Dungeons, they've all got monsters that only show up when you enter their borders. Head in any one direction long enough, and you're going to find something that isn't a slime. And then you've got night, which brings the undead.
So no, you can't really potter around in just the one area. The further you get away from that safe spot where you've made your house, the more dangerous things are going to get, but, conversely, the better things will end up for you if you survive it. Each of these areas has unique items for you to find. Each with their own desirable effects. A breathing reed that lets you breathe underwater so long as the top of the reed is above the waterline. A cloud in a bottle that lets you double jump. A hook that you can strap to some chains to turn into a grapple.
I suppose, if you were properly scared of the outside world, you could just stay inside your house the whole time and knit, or something. Except sometimes you might get a Blood Moon at night, which lets zombies break down doors. Or the Goblin Army might attack, with their teleporting wizards that will come in and turn your knitting into ugly-smelling ash with a lightning bolt. Or hell, maybe a meteor will land on your house. Better to stay underground, where it's dangerous - just, y'know, less dangerous than up there.
That's the strength of Terraria. There is a hell of a lot of stuff there, but it's a game about discovery rather than construction. You're building a house pretty early on, of course, but that's just a base of operations. It's about going out and finding these things, because not only do they each come with their own little quirks, but the items you can get from these events and places are unique to those events and places. If you want Rocket Boots, you're going to have to pray for a goblin attack. If you want the space-age looking armour, you need a meteor to land somewhere.
Not only that, but you've got boss fights that happen when you hit the right activation point , each coming with their own attacks and weak spots, dropping their own unique loot. If you're bored, even for a second, you're really not playing the game right. It's not about a grind. It's about having a breather before the next amazing thing happens.
It's part of the weakness of Terraria, too. It can be overwhelming. There's so much going on all the time that if you don't know what half of it is, you're going to be at a loss. No one tells you that the zombies come out at night; you just have to stumble upon that one yourself. While there is a 'Guide' character that hovers around your house telling you little tips, he's only partially useful. The same goes for how the crafting works; if you have the materials to make something, it's listed when you're near the right crafting implement. If you don't have the right materials, or you're at the anvil, rather than the workbench, it won't show up.
So it's one of those games that you are going to need some outside help on. There are already exhaustive Wikis, detailing every nook and cranny of the game, allowing you to go it alone, using what other people have found as an almanac, leading you by the nose towards each discovery. But in that, something is lost. To have a game about discovery that needs other's discoveries to make it all hold together seems somewhat self-defeating. You're going to have to ration that readily-available knowledge to get the most out of the game, which is a shame.
Luckily, you don't have to play it alone. There's no real limit to how many people can join a server, only what that server can really handle. So you can adventure with your friend, having one of you hold the torch while the other digs away with their pickaxe. Or the one of you with a grappling hook can lay out a ladder for their partner, so you can both advance together. Or you can both fall down into the same chasm that neither of you saw and die together, cursing one another.
Your character persists through gameworlds, too, meaning that the demon axe you earned in one world can be taken to show off to your friends. Or you can invite their character into your world, to see that arboretum you built in the sky. Or the waterslide you created to get down to your mushroom farm in record time. Except you take away the water when they do it, so they get killed, and you laugh. Ha ha.
Minecraft's sandbox is the kind that comes with pristine sand and the best buckets and spades around. You've even got some mineral water on the side, so that you can wet it up and create some really fabulous looking crenelations. Terraria, on the other hand, is a sandbox where you can barely even see the sand for all the toys. It doesn't matter whether the fundamentals are all that brilliant, because of all these distractions. The cat might have used it as a litterbox once, but you can't tell what's between your toes because you're fighting a giant skeleton that's laughing at you while you fly around his head on rocket boots stabbing at him with a lightsaber.
There's one downside to all these toys, though, and that's that you'll get bored of them, eventually. After about twenty hours, you'll probably have a lot of the stuff you've been coveting for so long. And once you've got a character that can fly and kill pretty much anything it comes across, the impetus to explore and adventure is going to lessen somewhat. But this isn't a full-priced retail release, and it's priced accordingly. So twenty hours of fun is an impressive bit of value for money.
The other thing to note about all this is that Terraria isn't a static thing. The developers aren't just done with it now that it's out the door. In fact, the only reason it was released as it was is because a beta was leaked, so they all but rushed it out. It's been seeing hefty updates, adding new items and enemies, on top of refining the way the game works. It doesn't seem to be slowing down, either, meaning the game you can buy today wonít be the same game you can buy in six months time. So that twenty hours can easily turn into forty, sixty, a hundred. If you let it.
There's a reason Terraria has sold a few hundred thousand copies in the first few months it's been on sale. It's because, if Terraria really does have a bottom, no one can be bothered to go find it. They're having far too much fun on the surface, and the spaces in between.
8 / 10