Tuesday, May 28

Review: TerraTech [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Sandbox simulators are always tough to review. Rather than providing a fully-realized experience where you can jump in and begin to have fun they’re always more of a slow burn. Throw in the complications with finding ways to make an interface where you can construct things for your world in a 3 dimensional space and you’re going to have to make an investment of time and likely some frustration to get to the fun. That’s very much the case for TerraTech, a title that has a ton of promise, allowing you to construct vehicles that you can drive or even fly with to race, collect resources, or simply blow some stuff up. However, the road to get to the fun can be a tricky one and then controlling your creations can be an equal challenge.

To start I applaud the game’s ambition. When you load up the game you’ll get a glimpse of what it can offer once you get rolling. The craft you can construct are impressive and can even be formidable (within limits in terms of scale though), just understand that nothing will happen quickly and there’s quite a learning curve to get over on the way to awesomeness. To start you’re given the option of learning as you go in the Campaign, diving right into simply building in Creative mode, or taking on targeted time challenges in Gauntlet.

Overall everything in the game is roughly a trial by fire. You’re given some prompts and nudges but in general most of the things you need to know will be learned through a degree of experimentation mixed with frustration. While some parts have clear purposes and functions others you may need to ponder over a bit to understand what they do. Granted, when building you can always add blocks so you can amass more doodads to help yourself out, but being bulky can make control even more unwieldy and tough to maneuver so you’ll need to work on finding a balance of needs, and it will help to keep in mind your focus. If you’re playing with enemies roaming about you’ll need to be able to take some damage and deal out your own, but you can also opt to play in some cases without that distraction and simply enjoy experimentation and exploration. It’s really up to you how you go about things and you can always switch between modes or start over to find what style suits you best.

What will absolutely make or break the game for you will be the challenge of coming to terms with the cumbersome controls, both when in creation mode and when piloting your vehicles. The interface for building things may have worked well on the PC, but while you can get the hang of it using the controller it’s not very intuitive or efficient. While perhaps if touch controls were supported things could have been more smooth, in general handheld play is also not terribly viable as the text gets to be quite small at that scale, so it’s not terribly accessible that way either. Even once you’ve gone through the process of toggling between styles and parts, cobbling together your creation, trying to drive or even crazier fly them isn’t going to be a smooth experience. The camera can be a bit of a wild card with its behavior (and often needs adjusting) and you’ll find when trying to race to complete a time trial quickly that it can just be pretty easy to get off course.

TerraTech is a great idea that almost feels like a situation where you are making your classic LEGO toys come to life in playable form. The issue is all in the execution and how patient you can be with how it’s all implemented. Putting everything together isn’t quick or easy and the interface definitely doesn’t feel optimized for consoles. While touch controls, in theory, could have helped they aren’t present and honestly the scale of the text in the game is small to the point where handheld play may not have been a great idea anyway. If you’re willing to invest some time and patience there’s plenty of potential for enjoyment here but just understand that by the game’s sandbox nature the fun is very much what you choose to make of it.

Score: 6

  • Allows for the creation of some pretty impressive vehicles that you can drive or even fly
  • Modes range from purely creative to exploration and combat to time trial racing for some variety

  • The interface for creation is cumbersome and not terribly intuitive
  • Handheld play doesn’t offer the benefit of touch controls and the scaling of the text makes it impractical as a whole
  • Controlling your creations also presents issues, detracting from the enjoyment of making them come to life