Thursday, April 18, 2024

Terra Nil is the Perfect Reverse City Builder

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The world is on fire and sometimes you just want something soothing to play; Terra Nil is the perfect game for that feeling. From Free Lives, the game will be published by Devolver Digital when it releases (hopefully soon). However, the prototype is available on Itch.io and you can play the demo now! Terra Nil is the perfect reverse city builder all about terraforming a wasteland back to its luscious green state.

Players will turn a barren wasteland into an ecological paradise complete with different flora and fauna. Then clean up, leaving the environment pristine. Subverting the builder genre, Terra Nil is about the restoration of a ravaged environment.

Each level has three or more phases depending on the requirements of each region. First you slowly purify the soil and cultivate pioneer greenery. Once you’ve covered enough of the map with greenery, the next phase unlocks where you must restore biodiversity which has specific requirements.

After that you’re prompted to fix the climate which leads to wildlife returning to the region, and then finally recycle all the structures that you used to rejuvnate the wasteland, and leave the environment pristine.

Every time I find myself feeling cranky, I’ve pulled out the demo to play through because it’s so fulfilling to reach the end of the level, which changes every single time that you play.

screenshot of Terra Nil, covered in grass and rivers
At the biodiversity stage.
Terra Nil is a Puzzler Too

However it’s not as simple as planting a bunch of grass. Players do have to think ahead a bit because you only start with 1000 leaves (the currency in the game) and only accrue more as you cover more squares with grass or other plant life.

When you get to the biodiversity part and fixing the climate, there are specific requirements. Flowers will only grow near a tree, and new trees can only be planted after you burn the flowers. However most levels will likely require you to have flowers and trees! Thus a chill city builder becomes a fun strategy and puzzle game all in one.

The prototype, which the new version will follow, has multiple levels and each one has different requirements and opportunities to terraform the land, like an island and tundra! Originally pixel art, the new one is still pixel-like but everything is handpainted, feeling more organic fitting the premise better.

I’ve played the prototype through multiple times now, and one level took me 20 some tries, so the game is challenging without being frustrating (at least to me).

On the demo of the new iteration, I’ve already clocked over 10 hours, so…I really love this game!

Terra Nil will also include a replay feature where you can watch back each level, a monorail that allows moving of other structures for half their cost, the tropical region will include fish, and so much more. The game also has a super soothing soundtrack, adding to the atmosphere, and all the wildlife creatures are absolutely adorable.

You can wishlist Terra Nil on Steam and get the prototype for free on Itch.io! In fact, you can even download the obsolete original that turned into the prototype that is now turning into the final game. It doesn’t quite work each play, but it’s fun to see how much the game has grown. I cannot wait for the full release and know I’ll spend hours and hours in the game once it’s available.

Images courtesy of Free Lives

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