Game: Terra Nil
Genre: Strategy, Relaxing, Indie
System: Steam (Windows) Also available on Mobile via Netflix
Developers | Publishers: Free Lives | Devolver Digital
Controller Support: Keyboard & Mouse
Price: US $24.99 | UK £20.99 | EU € 24,99
Release Date: March 28th, 2023
Review code used, with many thanks to Cosmocover PR on behalf of Devolver Digital.
Terra Nil is a reverse city builder with an environmental strategy about transforming a barren wasteland into a thriving, balanced ecosystem. I’ve played the demo of Terra Nil and really enjoyed it, so I was happy when a review code dropped into the mailbox, but how does the game fair? Let’s find out.
Puzzle and Resource Management
Terra Nil a mix of strategy and resource management as you clean up the ecological, plus you get the satisfaction of cleaning up a mess without getting your hands dirty! Also, it should be noted that while it says ‘city builder’ on the Steam page; however, you don’t build any cities.
This game is a different take on the menu-heavy strategy games we are used to. Also, procedurally generated landscapes mean no two playthroughs of Terra Nil will ever be the same.
Heal the Earth
Terra Nil has you going through different Genesis Project stages on each map. The premise is simple, use your limited resources, clean up the wasteland and restore it to its former beauty.
You start rebuilding the ecosystem on a barren, temperate climate map. Here, you must bring life back to the environment by purifying soil, cleaning the water (rivers and oceans), planting trees, and reintroducing wildlife.
You’ll generate power by placing wind turbines and scrubbing a small area of toxins using toxin scrubbers. In addition, you’ll then add irrigators to restore the grass. Once you have completed all requirements, you tidy up your presence on the map and leave without a trace, as if you had never been there.
The first phase is always about adding power, cleaning the toxins, adding enough greenery, and purifying the nearby waters. However, the second phase is trickier, as you need to restore all the local biomes, wetlands, forests and fynbos.
Using Cloud Seeders placed near bodies of water will increase humidity and start the natural rains to fall again. Furthermore, you’ll plant trees and turn areas into rainforests. Eventually, you will create wetlands, beaches, and wildflowers.
Finally, the last phase is about reintroducing animal life, such as Deer, Bears and Frogs, to the areas. In this final stage, you also remove all of your cleaning machines so you can leave the land without a trace of your involvement.
You can also meet optional goals on the map, such as having the correct humidity or migratory birds returning to the biomes. Watching the biomes come to life as you balance resources and nurture nature is immensely satisfying. Hearing the birds sing and seeing the animals appear on the grasslands and forests when you bring the area back to life is a joy.
Tutorial and Replayability
Terra Nil is relatively complex but does an excellent job guiding you forward; a good tutorial helps. As well as an Ecosystem Restoration book to keep you on track if you get lost.
The game takes around five to six hours to complete, but that will depend on how good your strategy is. You’ll need to build purposefully and plan ahead to earn more resources. Return of resources only comes from positive impacts on the region, so rushing to build with little effect or plan will leave you in a predicament without gaining restoration values. Furthermore, you’ll need to start over if you spend too many resources with minimal to no return.
Some folk might think that the price tag for Terra Nil is a little expensive; however, once you finish the primary levels, another four levels open up, which are variants of the previous levels. In addition, as the maps are procedurally generated, it offers plenty of replayability.
Overall, the game has different environmental maps, from Temperate, Tropical, Polar, and Continental. Each environment offers a different challenge for you to restore the areas.
Visuals and Controls
Terra Nil is visually appealing with its hand-painted environments; I love its appearance. When you start on a biome, it’s mostly brown and barren, but it is stunning as the areas come to life.
Sound effects are brilliant; hearing the rain start and the thunder roll across the sky or the irrigator spreading its water with a whoosh are all well implemented into the game. The music is gentle and soothing; it is a relaxing game to play and forget your cares and worries while you enjoy restoring the earth.
When you’re done, you can use the Appreciate mode (photo mode) and admire the ecosystem’s natural beauty that you have restored.
If you decide to purchase Terra Nil, the developers’ Free Lives donate a portion of the profits from sales of Terra Nil on Steam to the Endangered Wildlife Trust, a worthy cause.
Terra Nil is a game that will make you aware of how important the balance of nature is. And how each living thing on the earth connects to each other. It doesn’t lecture, but its gameplay does make you think about the environment. It is a well-thought-out restoration game with relaxing gameplay, gorgeous visuals, and a nice challenge.
Final Verdict: Two Thumbs Up