June 25th, 2012 | By Dominic Tarason
Terraria and Dark Souls, two great tastes that normally would have nothing at all do to with each other. Until now, that is. Now that development of the exceptionally popular platform-sandbox action-RPG is complete, the community have moved in and started picking apart exactly how it works, and putting it back together in strange new ways. The Story Of Red Cloud is one of the most impressive and ambitious mods to be released so far, and sports a rather hefty feature list. Here’s just some of it:
- Dark Souls Game Mechanic
- 12 uniquely themed Dungeon areas spread between both normal and hard modes
- 18 bosses (7 vanilla plus 11 mod bosses)
- Custom Soundtrack inspired by Princess Mononoke & Zelda
- Over 150-200 new mod items, weapons, and armors compiled from a dozen of the best mods from the community
In short, it’s a hand-crafted world, rather than a randomly generated environment. Things are more controlled and scripted than in regular Terraria, but there’s still nothing stopping you from taking the world apart with a pickaxe or building yourself a fortress home, but the focus does seem to be on exploration, combat and gear more than the regular playstyle. It’s definitely a little darker than the usual happy-go-lucky adventuring, with the story (as it is) beginning with you waking up in a shallow grave, and digging to the surface reveals that your homestead has been burnt to the ground, along with your protagonist’s parents. Grim, considering the cute 16-bit style. Still, this is more Zelda than Dragon Age, when push comes to shove.
‘So’, I hear you ask; ‘Where does the Dark Souls part come in?’ Well, that’s your whole secondary progression mechanic. Each enemy type drops a certain number of souls, and they effectively act as a secondary currency. You can spend them (via certain special crafting recipes) at rare demon altars scattered around the world in order to upgrade both your character and your gear, although you’ll still be able to get some mileage out of the regular Terraria construction system. Unlike Dark Souls, this mod isn’t going to force you head-first into a meatgrinder – there’s even included Easy and Hard mode variants of the mod, just in case you want something more casual or hardcore.
Probably the largest weakness here is the storytelling. Terraria was never designed to tell a story – you tell your own through playing – so your own character’s internal monologue, dialogue with other characters and even hints on dungeon progression are all provided through signs posted throughout the world. It would have been nice if there was some kind of involved dialogue system, or some way to present this information without using such an awkward kludge, but Terraria was never designed to be modded in the first place. It’s impressive that they’ve done so much without any official tools or support, and I’d imagine that the quality of fan-made tools will improve for quite some time to come.
There’s clear limitations imposed by the framework of the game it’s built on, but the world of The Story Of Red Cloud is well designed, and the many dungeons are complex, multi-layered things with plenty of switches, mechanisms, traps, blind drops and obstacles. Enemy spawning – however it is managed – seems to be a lot more controlled than in regular Terraria as well, and an optional plugin allows you to wield an ‘off-hand’ weapon so that you can alternate between melee and ranged styles more freely, although this, too is a little bit of a kludge, overriding the right-click ‘use’ functionality and not looking too hot in action. Useful, though, and it does technically let you dual-wield weapons, if you’re really looking to put the hurt on something.
The installation process for The Story of Red Cloud is a little bit convoluted, but shouldn’t take more than a few minutes, and is well worth a play if you’ve already exhausted all there is to see in regular Terraria. There’s a lot of fun to be found in exploring a hand-crafted world, rather than a procedurally generated one. The mod is still being actively developed with small updates being released every now and then (the main focus being high-level balance right now), but it’s currently considered stable and complete. You can find the latest build and full installation instructions on this Terraria Online thread. If nothing else, this should help those feeling Terraria withdrawal pains survive until the release of Starbound.