Terra Nil was announced a couple of weeks ago with a beautiful trailer that showcased what developer Free Lives is describing as a reverse city-builder: this is an apt description; your goal is to create nature using leaves as resources. However, one big difference between Terra Nil and city-builders is the difficulty and immediate goals for the player. As a result, Terra Nil isn’t as relaxing as you may believe and is much more of a challenging puzzle game than a wildlife holiday.
Each time you start a level, there’s a level of randomization to the overall layout, but re-building wildlife and trees remain the same. Similarly, your first few actions will be the same. For example, placing a wind turbine allows you to place toxin scrubbers, which cleans the dirt and turns the ground into grass which makes leaves, your currency to create other things, like the turbines or toxin scrubbers. The tricky part of this puzzle is that you have to place each machine on the ground in the optimal position that’ll cover the most ground; this will enable you to earn the maximum amount of leaves with the irrigator and continue building the level progresses.
After turning the majority of a level in greenery, you’ll transition to the second phase, which involves using fires, beehives and creating rivers to reach the desired temperature and desired percentage of forest, wetlands and flowery.
One of my favourite moments in the game is when you set fire to everything you’ve built so you can build an even better forest upon the ashes. It’s scary and beautiful at the same time.
It took me well over an hour to wrap my head around the earlier stages of what I presume will be the first level in the full game when it releases. Terra Nil does an excellent job at hiding away tools you don’t need and feeding you the correct information for your current goal, but it’s very easy to screw up the whole level with a few too many wrong decisions. You have an undo button, but it’ll only let you rewind one action. I reached the game over the equivalent screen a few too many times that I’d like to talk about.
I’d love to see a quick-save button implemented, but maybe that’s just me finding the punishment of starting the level over and over annoying, as I failed messed-up a few too many times.