This review will be divided into several key sections, covering aspects like the controls, gameplay and so forth. In each section I will also include a subsection defining what I liked, didn't like and what I think could be improved about that aspect of the game. Bear in mind that these are my opinions on the matter and they may change over time as I experience more of the game.
I have been playing Terraria with a keyboard and mouse. I have not yet tried hooking up a game controller, or taken a look (yet) to see if it is possible. Basic movement should be familiar to most folks, as Terraria uses a variation of WASD + the Space Bar to jump. The Escape key brings up the inventory window, which also provides the crafting interface.
Selection of which equipped item to use (or what item to craft) is done via mouse-wheel scrolling.
What I Liked: The controls were very easy to learn through trial and error. Movement, facing and use of tools were very use via the mouse.
What I Hated: I was not happy with the default speed and direction of scrolling to switch between items. The scroll direction for moving through the crafting interface (or equipment interface) can take a while. At least two deaths of my character were the result of not being able to scroll my equipment interface over to a Potion or some other useful item in time.
What Needs Improvement: Mouse wheel scroll speed needs to be adjustable. The direction of the scroll also needs to be configurable as an option as well. Some kind of hotkey selection system should likely exist for quickly changing which piece of equipment is in use.
Aside from movement itself, digging/mining is likely to be one of the top activities in terms of time expended. Combat comes very close at times, depending on location and the current spawn rate. The first hour or two of gameplay are devoted to acquiring the basic necessities of survival: Shelter, light and basic minerals. Once that period is past it is easier to venture further afield to fight more monsters and find more useful components.
What I Liked: The exploration aspect of the game is pretty nice. Movement over some parts of terrain are very difficult prior to acquiring the Cloud in a Bottle or Grappling Hook items. The pace of combat seems about right during the early potions of the game. Even as one gets better items, the threat posed by monsters does not decrease too much as one progresses from no gear to gold equipment. While some creatures merely became annoyances, they could not be safely ignored.
What I Hated: Unusual resource scarcity. Wood, a renewable resource, takes a very long time to regenerate. I very quickly exhausted almost all of the harvestable wood on the surface of my map. Planted acorns often seemed to not grow at all, or which grew in a sporadic fashion with no regard for when the saplings were planted. Hooks from Skeletons also seemed to be unusually rare, after killing well over fifty of them only a single hook has dropped.
What Needs Improvement: Resource and mineral dispersion likely needs another look. So far I have encountered Iron as the most commonly found resource, even more so than Copper. One would expect the appearance of Gold or Silver (the more valuable metals) to increase the deeper you go, but this does not seem to be the case in my experience thus far.
There is a decent variety in crafting in the initial game. Aside from building the walls of a house, there is a decent initial list of furniture, equipment, accessories and consumables that can be made.
What I Liked: The initial variety of items, materials needed and methods of crafting are all very good ones. It felt very empowering to be making most of my own equipment, rather than just finding everything I was using.
What I Hated: The seeming necessity of an out-of-game wiki or similar source for crafting recipes. With all the different materials and potential combinations, some kind of in-game helper tool or utility would be handy.
What Needs Improvement: More recipes! There is a lot of room for improvement here. I was shocked, as an example, to learn that an Obsidian Skull (well and blocks too of course) was the only thing I could make out of Obsidian. I was hoping for Obsidian Armor or some other nifty tool or accessory (or furniture). More combinations need to exist for the materials already present.
As you build additional rooms and structures, various types of NPCs can appear and take up residence. These NPCs are, thus far, of the mercantile sort, selling various goods or services to the player for cash.
What I Liked: The initial set of NPCs that one can attract are a decent bunch. The requirements for the first few (Nurse, Merchant, Demolitionist) are very straightforward and easy to accomplish.
What I Hated: My NPCs keep wandering around and opening my doors! Don't you know there are Zombies out there!
What Needs Improvement: Aside from some sanity checking to prevent NPCs from letting Zombies and other monster into the house of course. Some additional variety in the goods and services provided my the existing NPCs would be nice. The Nurse could sell bandages or do more than just heal for cash. Additional variety in the basic goods the standard Merchant could offer would be nice as well. I would also like to see new NPC types, including some kind of guard or soldier who can help defend the settlement would be very welcome.
The Eye of Cthulhu
So far I have not, intentionally, tried to summon this boss. Howver every other night (or every third night) he spawns on his own to attack. The only defensive/preventative measure is to remain underground. I am not certain if this is a bug, but it seems very odd that the attack rate/spawning of this boss is so high.
I really like Terraria thus far. It is a game more than worth the asking price I think. Despite the very few issues I have had with the game, I intend to keep playing. As this game has a lot of potential for additions and improvement, I am hoping that the development continues for a longtime after launch. The initial showing of Terraria has a lot of promise and I look forward to enjoying this game for a long while yet.