There’s nothing like a good puzzle game to make me zone out for a few hours and stare at my screen like a fish. A relaxing puzzle strategy game about restoring the environment after it’s been turned into a wasteland? Yes please.
Developed by Free Lives, the folks behind the pixel art side-scroller Broforce, and published by Devolver Digital, Terra Nil is a self-proclaimed “reverse city builder” about reconstructing the ecosystem. The premise is pretty simple (and pretty relevant). After the environment’s been ravaged, it’s up to the player to rebuild it from the ground up, quite literally.
Walking Through A Waste-Wonderland
In the demo version of the game, you start out with a randomly generated map with nothing but a few dead trees and bones littering the cracked earth. The first step is to generate electricity by placing a wind turbine, after which you can strategically place toxin scrubbers and irrigators to get a bit of greenery on the map. Eventually, you’ll move on to getting the river beds flowing and creating more paths for the water to flow.
As you continue to fill up the map, you’ll unlock ecosystems, making for a bit more challenge. You can start a controlled fire using the resources you unlock to build a thriving forest, but you have to carefully section off areas so as to not let the fire spread too far and destroy your hard work.
After my first playthrough, I got a feel for how to better optimize placement and utility in the game (and made sure to not burn down half of my map this time). You also get a button to undo your last move, an inclusion that I was extremely grateful for while trying to rotate the irrigator so that my 3 patches of dirt wouldn’t be left barren.
As you continue to restore the lands, so do the earth’s flora and fauna. You’ll find flocks of birds flying above, bees buzzing around, frogs hopping here and there, and flowers popping about. It’s a real sight to behold, and it was a real joy zooming around the map looking at these little critters. Yet, amidst them still remains the machinery you’ve placed, a reminder of the man-made nature of the place. It’s rather unsightly, but to the relief of my green thumb, the final steps you take involve recycling the buildings, constructing an aircraft, and finding another area in need. It’s the perfect post-apocalyptic paradise, and better yet, there are no humans.
Ok, perhaps that’s the pandemic doing a number on me, but Terra Nil really proved to be a great little de-stressor while being stimulating enough as well as a delight to play. The lush greenery and reflecting waters were a sight for sore eyes too used to being confined by concrete walls. The ambient noises of all the critters and the effects when you place one of your resources are incredibly satisfying as well. Not to mention, as the earth becomes more and more lively, so does the soundtrack, which itself is very soothing while not being too distracting from the gameplay.
A Green Thumbs Up
As it stands as a demo, Terra Nil looks very promising, and I’m excited to see what new features the full version will hold. More specifically, I’d look forward to seeing varied biomes and seasons, perhaps even day and night cycles. Maybe even a couple of extra redos for good measure. The full version is expected to release in 2022 and will include better levels, a better metagame, and new content. Currently, Terra Nil is part of the Steam Next Fest, running from June 16th to 22nd, and Terra Nil’s demo can be accessed for free.
TechRaptor previewed Terra Nil on PC using a copy provided by the publisher. The game does not currently have a release date.