Cons: No more updates; end-game could use some fleshing out
Well, it turns out I was only half right and I actually rather like the game. Terraria seems to focus more on killing various bosses, exploring the map and moving NPCs into your shelter area, where Minecraft seems focused more on building crazy contraptions. One thing I didn't like about Minecraft was the fact that there was really only one boss creature, and Terraria has multiple bosses that can be summoned to kill over and over again.
In Minecraft the exploration and fighting is pretty much pointless after you beat the only boss, and all that's left is to build. Terraria kind of has the opposite problem, in that you can keep summoning bosses and working on getting the rare materials for the best gear in the game -- but once you have it, there's really not much left to do. You can't build crazy machines and contraptions to anywhere near the same degree you can in Minecraft, so your left playing player-vs-player games online or starting a new world and playing over again. Even then, you carry all of your equipment and everything in your inventory with you to new worlds so unless you drop it all in a chest beforehand there's really not much point to that either.
Still, it's a fun game while it lasts. You have multiple tiers of weapons, helmets, armors, leg pieces and scores of various accessories that you can find or forge at a handful of different crafting stations. Materials as basic as wood, stone and copper to collect as well as rare ones such as diamonds or adamantite. Fusing various pieces of equipment together to form new ones, building housing areas for NPCs to move into so you can buy various goods from them. NPCs move in after certain criteria are met, for example if you rescue them from the dungeon, discovered a certain item or have a certain boss defeated.
You can manufacture various picks, drills, saws and hammers to gather resources from around the world. In the process you can explore different areas of the map from forests and deserts to oceans and jungles. Build your little blocks up into the sky and you can come upon floating islands, or dig through them into the bowels of the earth to come upon a hellish area filled with lava. The whole world is presented in a 2D side-view, similar to Mario but with smaller blocks (your character is 2 blocks wide and 3 blocks tall, for example).
The graphics themselves aren't anything special, but that's the art direction of the game. They would have looked great on the NES, and having grown up in that era they have a certain nostalgic value that I like. Equipping different weapons and armor at least changes your character sprite, which I always like because it gives you a visual representation of your accomplishments when you get new equipment. There are a good number of different enemies and they're fairly distinct. You've got slow moving zombies, jumping slimes, flying eyeballs and tunneling worms. Enemies that shoot magical spells or projectiles at you, and even rare enemies that are unique and drop cosmetic items to change your appearance (you have an equipment slot for each piece of armor, as well as a social slot just for looks).
The background music is pretty good and there's a bit of variety to it, having somewhere around a dozen different tracks that play in different situations. The first sound you hear will be a happy and playful tune in the starting forest area during the day time. There's a serene track that plays during the night, some slow dark music that plays in the dungeon, as well as some other some faster more aggressive tunes that play during boss battles. System requirements include Windows 7/Vista/XP, a 1.6 GHz processor, 512 MB of RAM, 200 MB of hard drive space, a 128 MB video card that supports shader model 1.1 and DirectX 9.0c or greater.
Much of the fun I get from Terraria is from playing with friends, and this can be done over the internet or over the LAN. You can load up a character and play it in single-player and multi-player games complete with all of its equipment, as well as any items inside a Safe or Piggy Bank in the game-world (these two items act like a shared-stash between worlds and can only be accessed by the character who placed them). You can start a multi-player game of Terraria from within the game client itself, or you can download a small server application from the website and leave it running. I wish there were a Linux server application so that I could leave it running on my dedicated server so it would be online 24/7, but since the server application is Windows only I only use it to play over the LAN.
Terraria is a pretty fun game, though it does get a little boring after you've forged the best weapons and armor and there's little left to do. At that point, you can enable PvP and fight with your friends online or just repeat the same content over and over again. Personally I would just set the game aside for a while and then restart a whole new game from scratch in the future. You could arguably wait for an update from Re-Logic and then restart the game, but the developer stated in February that he's no longer going to be updating the game (though the Steam page still said "Free Content Updates", which is more than a little misleading since it's been about 4 months.
You can easily switch between a melee character, a ranged character or a magic user with a simple swap of armor and accessories. This means there's relatively little replay value in experimenting with the different ways you can play your character. There are no stat points or skill trees either, so all of your customization comes from the armor and accessories you equip. This is nice because it allows you to play your character however you feel like without a complete restart, however the replay value suffers because of it. The PvP does help, but there's only so many times you can kill your friends (or die to them) before you get bored. This would be a 5 star game if there were more building options like Minecraft, or something (anything at all) to keep the game interesting at the end.
I do recommend Terraria, and it's worth of a 4 star rating. At $10 it's not that expensive, and you can pick up a 4-pack on Steam for $30 if you have some friends you want to play with. It's really fun until you've done everything, and then it's still mildly fun for a while after that. Too bad there will be no updates in the future to improve things further or add more content for late in the game.