Terra Nil Review – When Life Finds a Way
Title: Terra Nil
Developer: Free Lives
Release Date: March 28, 2023
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Terra Nil is different from developer Free Lives’ previous titles. In their newest entry, they swapped out dirty jokes and violence for a peaceful game where your goal is to bring new life back to an Earth that has long since been abandoned by humanity through terraforming, finding wild animals in each region for research purposes, recycling, and bringing humidity back into the air.
Terra Nil is more of a strategic experience than a terraform creation sim where you bring about wildlife in an abandoned polluted wasteland. Bringing life to the map is a puzzle, especially when considering the three main goals, which become increasingly difficult as the level progresses. However, the payoff that comes with completing the level is worthwhile.
Your goal in each level is to complete three phases to help bring life back to Earth. You start by creating wind turbines and lakes across the map and adding machines to help make the deserted and polluted grounds of the area more healthy to start growing grass. As you add these buildings and resources, the once wasteland-polluted ground changes to a beautiful bright grass field that helps bring the regionally generated map back to life as you change it from an empty wasteland to a beautiful forest, jungle, or beach. With so many spots to place turbines and machines to color maps, you’ll likely be spending a few minutes or even hours trying to cover every spot in clean water, sand, or grass.
Once you manage to make the air less polluted and unlock more resources to help bring life to the map, you advance towards the second phase of the level, which is to bring more life to your fields by adding in forests, creating lakes, or helping make Earth’s polluted waters healthy once again to create coral reefs. The second phase of a level is where the Terra Nil‘s beauty and eco message shines as you use beehives and upgrade your biodomes to help add more elements to the map that you’re on to help make the area a little more unique and make it more habitable for animals to live and play around in.
However, to advance towards the third phase of the level, you must upgrade enough buildings and create enough forests to unlock multiple new vehicles, such as a monorail that transports eco-friendly resources, which come in handy, as well as machines that help remove pollution in oceans and create clouds that help change the temperature on the map, allowing you to add more nature-based elements.
Each building, vehicle, and machine you place around the map doesn’t come without a price; however, as you will be using leaves to help pay for these resources, your tools become more and more expensive the higher the difficulty. For players that might be frustrated at not having enough leaves to continue with the level, there’s an easier difficulty known as Zen mode. Here, players will find a more relaxing experience if they’re unfamiliar with the strategic genre and for players who want to create a beautiful map without worrying about currency.
As you reach the third phase of the level, you’re asked to locate animals that will start roaming around certain areas on your map. Examples are a herd of deer in fields and aquatic life in the ocean. With each animal you find, from frogs to sharks, an entry about them will be added to the eco-themed journal acquired during the early moments of gameplay, which also provides hints if you’re stuck in certain parts.
In addition to locating and researching the animals in the third phase of a level, you must start recycling every single tool used during the first two phases to create an environment that’s only filled with wildlife; revealing a beautiful scenery. Although this task sounds easy at first, it quickly becomes difficult if you place buildings at the corner of the map or in places where boats or monorails aren’t able to reach to recycle.
This will force you to place new buildings and vehicles on the map to reach these parts and collect the remaining buildings that you placed earlier, requiring several minutes to get rid of these newly placed buildings and resources in the process. Sometimes, you might even come across another roadblock and decide that the best course of action is to restart the level again to get a better result.
Terra Nil doesn’t punish the player for starting again; in fact, it even encourages them to try again to find a better solution to completing the level or to complete it from a new perspective that they haven’t tried yet. You’re bound to restart the first few maps before getting used to how the eco-related resources and tools work.
There’s a showcase of how the player can create beautiful scenery on each map with the element-based tool, helping add more beauty to areas. However, near the end of the level, the game won’t run as smoothly as it initially did and will even slow down at times to take in the filled maps, so be prepared for your computer to sound like a boat engine during these moments.
Terra Nil delivers an eco-based message with themes found in its core experience as you aim to bring Earth back to its glory days. Although terraforming each map can be difficult, even in zen mode, you’re encouraged to keep trying thanks to a relaxing gameloop. Its pacing allows players to focus on creating what is essentially a painting of a beautiful eco landscape which makes completing each area of the world worthwhile. From wasteland to beauty, Terra Nil delivers a much-needed vacation to players looking to sit back and create.
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