There’s a vast sea of city-building games out there on Steam. There are several cozy ones that you can just turn your brain off and play, and there are strategic ones that can take up hours in one sitting. Terra Nil lies somewhere in between the two of them. It’s not quite a city-builder though and is more a nature-builder, but it does more than just scratch the itch of creating something out of nothing.
Developed by Free Lives and published by Devolver Digital, Terra Nil is a self-proclaimed “reverse city-builder.” In a ravaged world, you transform barren lands into thriving ecosystems. But it doesn’t end there. Once you’re done reintroducing nature and wildlife, you pack up your machinery and take off for the next region. Terra Nil paints a picture about the possible future of our world, but shows a silver lining.
In Terra Nil Nature Is Healing
Restoring the lands occurs in three phases. The first phase deals with bringing the terrain to suitable conditions -- toxin scrubbers to clean the soil and waters, and irrigators turn the landscape a lush green. The more land you restore, the more leaves you earn, which you’ll exchange for machinery. The second phase consists of building biomes. This can get a bit tricky, as it can involve making controlled fires to create suitable soil for forests and using solar amplifiers to melt snow. In the final phase, you’ll recycle all the machines you’ve used to leave behind a verdant land.
For the most part, you’re in for a relaxing time with Terra Nil. Sure, you’ll need to use a bit of thinking so that you don’t accidentally set fire to all your green squares of land, but the game’s pretty generous when it comes to lending you a helping hand. There’s an undo button in case you’ve placed your machinery at the wrong time (very useful if you’re someone like me who makes hasty decisions), and if you feel like you’ve made far too many slip ups, you have the option of redoing the current phase instead of starting over entirely.
As you go about reclaiming the wasteland, you’ll find that the music starts to shift as well. You’ll hear a melancholy piano play as you start off in a new desolate area, but once you start to bring it back to life, the soundtrack gets more and more hopeful. Adding to the tranquil experience are the ambient sounds of the fauna you bring back to life, as well as the changing weather bringing about a variety of soothing sounds.
When the rain starts to pour, seeing those barren squares of land pop up and turn green is nothing short of delightful. I love the additional option to just admire the work you’ve done right after you finish the level. I certainly took my time to look at all the little critters I detected. Although I didn’t end up making much use of it, I have to give props to the artwork drawn in the in-game handbook.
That being said, it’s a bit of a shame that the camera is locked to just one isometric view of the whole area, especially considering all the details that are revealed when the land is restored. Even gameplay-wise, it gets a bit frustrating when you can’t find that one part that you forgot to recycle amidst all the trees (I’m looking at you, monorail nodes).
There are a total of four regions to restore in Terra Nil, with additional levels unlocked after you finish those. There’s multiple difficulties you can choose from as well, including a toggle for Zen Mode, which disables the use of currency, so you can choose what sort of experience you’d like. The main game takes about 6-8 hours to finish, which may seem short, but the developers didn’t want to focus on replayability, rather on finite growth.
Terra Nil Review | Final Thoughts
From me, Terra Nil gets a green thumbs up. There’s nothing quite like watching meadows and forests flourish square by square. My only complaint really is that it left me wanting more, but perhaps that’s where I should take a leaf out of the game’s book and learn that all good things must come to an end.
Terra Nil is blooming on March 28th on PC, Android, and iOS, soon to be followed by Mac and Linux. A portion of the game’s profit from sales on Steam will go towards the Endangered Wildlife Trust.
TechRaptor reviewed Terra Nil on PC with a copy provided by the publisher.
- Relaxing experience with some strategy involved
- Beautiful music with ambient sounds
- Multiple difficulties to choose from as well as a Zen Mode
- Locked camera angle can be restrictive at times
- Main campaign is only 6-8 hours