Looking up a simple Terraria class setup guide can quickly become overwhelming when even the official game Wikipedia immediately overloads the player with information. The community has done a great job separating some of the most important pieces of information into distinct categories, pre-bosses, pre-hardmode, and pre-mechs, but to completely new players this all means absolutely nothing.
Something to establish very quickly that should also make things clear to new players, is that while there aren't true "classes" as you would choose in other medieval fantasy RPGs, the community has separated the armor sets and weapons into distinct categories that align more with their use-case of a "class." As an example, if a helmet were to give a massive bonus to damage when using a bow, it was deemed part of the "Ranged" class by the community when creating the Wikipedia. We'll be using this same terminology here, as it allows players to define themselves as a playstyle in the Terraria world.
Finding your Playstyle with Friends
One of the first steps to actually determining your class setup is determining the class you wish to play throughout your playthrough! You'll have to discuss with friends what classes they regularly like to play in other RPGs, and who generally likes to take the lead with things. If you're the kind of player who likes to avoid danger and stay out of the fight, you obviously aren't cut out for the melee class.
The early game of Terraria is generally easy, even on Master, and doesn't require any sort of class distinctions yet. Explore as much as possible while a few party members start building a home base. A nicely built home goes a long way, as it will be most likely be the same base of operations for the entirety of the playthrough. Once you've gotten a few items under your belt and actually killed the first boss, you can start thinking about class decisions for your party.
Terraria Melee Class Setup
Jumping directly into it, there are a ton of different combinations when it comes to armor setups, but as the melee fighter you'll want to be wearing the absolute tankiest armor available to you at all times. Early game this means that as you mine and smelt ores, you'll want to constantly upgrade your armor set, to be wearing the highest tier ore armor you can. The set bonuses pre-hardmode are much less underwhelming in comparison to other classes, but never underestimate how much the team will need you when you're the last one standing.
Early-game you'll defeat the Eater of Worlds and create Shadow Armor (or Crimson based on your world) and then Molten Armor with Hellstone bars. Once you defeat the wall of flesh, you're back to ore-armors again, until you eventually work your way to Turtle Armor after defeating the three mechanical bosses. From here you'll create Beetle Armor and see that juicy damage mitigation number rise!
Terraria Ranged Class Setup
The Ranged class is interesting in Terraria as many of the Ranged buffs also apply to consumable items such as Ninja Throwing Stars, Javelins, and Throwing Knives. These throwable items have their entire own page on the Wikipedia linked here, and can serve as extremely effective early-game weapons even into the Wall of Flesh fight. Spiky balls in particular are extremely effective at controlling areas and dealing massive damage to enemies that remain active in one area for a long time. These are effective in almost every single wave-based event in the game.
The Ranged Class is likely the most complex, as there are such a wide variety of weapon types to choose from within the Ranged options. Within the Ranged Category exists 4 more categories: Bows, Guns, Launchers, and Repeaters although the latter 2 being hardmode exclusives. While they may appear to be aesthetic differences, they have significant gameplay differences too, between deciding require ammo as well as resources to create the weaponry.
Terraria Magic Class Setup
The Magic class is definitely one of the coolest in the game, allowing the player to use some of the most wild and drastically different weapons across the magic-damage category. This category has everything from magic throwing daggers to cursor-tracking magic bolts, flaming fire meteors, and straight up magic-guns. This class has a wide variety of options and playstyles that fit an even broader team composition allowing you to pick off enemies from a distance, or hold off hordes of enemies from a single position.
Many wands across the magical arsenal also apply a debuff to enemies allowing you to further control the battlefield to your whim, adding yet another layer to your importance in the team. The debuff Frostburn, as an example, can be applied to almost every enemy in the game as an additional source of DoT damage that deals even MORE damage to Oiled enemies.
Terraria Summoning Class Setup
The Summoner class is all about letting minions do much of the work for you in Terraria, as well as focusing on dodging enemy attacks, and using a whip to further direct your minions. The Summoning Class isn't to be mixed up with the Sentry armors, which only give damage bonuses to specifically the "Sentry" type of summons, rather than the normal "Minions". Sentries are also a powerful hardmode archetype that is hybrid alongside other non-summoning classes.
Much of the Summoning Class in Terraria is very straightforward in comparison to other classes in that besides aesthetic differences, there are almost zero differences between minions except strict upgrades. An example of this would be: the Finch summon flies around and deal 7 damage on contact. The Imp summon acts identically, deals 17, and lights enemies on fire. Fortunately this trend follow's suite to armors and makes building a summoner extremely easy.
Terraria Class Setup Guide Conclusions
There are absolutely tons of combinations of armors in Terraria and many of them provide extremely helpful set bonuses so keep that in mind as you choose to upgrade your sets. It may not always be worth swapping out your new chestplate if you lose the incredible set bonuses of your previous armor in some situations. If you aren't sure about any of the armors above, checkout the Terraria Armor Wikipedia to cross-compare and find out how to make each of them!
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