Terra Nil Preview

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From developers, Free Lives and published by Devolver Digital, available for Windows (Steam) comes Terra Nil. Free lives are more known for their wacky games, that don’t take themselves too seriously (Cricket through the ages, Gorn and Broforce) They’ve taken a slightly more serious approach for Terra Nil. If you’re a fan of city builder games, you’ll love this, It offers a different spin on the genre, which is new and refreshing.

Rebuild the wasteland

Being a fan of city-building/management games, I was very interested in the opportunity to check out Terra Nil. After seeing the launch trailer I was keen to jump in. Carry on reading to find out what I thought of this early preview build. If you enjoy this article you can check out my previous review for Lumberhill here. As always you can find me, and the rest of the Thumb Culture team over on Twitter.


The barren wastelands

Terra Nil starts you off with a barren wasteland and a short tutorial on how to get yourself started. The player will be shown how to operate the camera, and how to place objects before pretty much being left alone to their own devices. The player starts with 1000 research points to spend how they wish. Everything you do in Terra Nil will cost research points. The main goal here is to rebuild a thriving environment from the wasteland, full of greenery and wildlife.

Oh no! What happened here?

Placing power is the foundation of your environment restoration, you need this to build anything else. Placing a windmill will start to create power and allow you to place other objects. With the power placed you need to build toxin scrubbers in order to create healthy soil in order to start creating greenery using irrigators.

Next up is riverbeds and rivers. Massive, military-looking excavators will take care of that. A missile is then shot into the ground, which will create a narrow river bed for water to flow. This will be created using a water pump placed near both the windmill and the river bed

These are the basics the player is going to need. Once you’ve collected enough research points and restored enough of the wasteland to greenery, you will transition to the second phase which includes restoring forestry amongst other things. We won’t tell you everything here, we want to leave you to discover most things on your own when the game releases.

A small taste of the later phases

Of course, there are various phases, to Terra Nil each with a different level of restoration you will need to utilize, while also looking after the previous phases you have already cleared. It can get quite puzzling figuring out what to place where to maximise growth or area of coverage so as not to waste research points. If you lose all your research points it’s game over! You will have to start from scratch.

Graphics & Audio

Example of the UI

Terra Nil has changed a bit from the prototype build we were given in January this year. Gone is the pixel art style, and in its place is a lovely 3D modelled isometric world. Terra Nil is a simple looking game on the surface, the visual effects when placing an item, however, are very nice. Seeing your research points flow in, while also seeing the effect of the item you have just placed makes the presentation very nice, even in this early preview stage.


Image credit – Free Lives

Being a preview build of Terra Nil, I can’t comment on the overall longevity of the game upon release. I can speculate that it will be very much like your typical sandbox building/management game. The player will definitely get as long of an experience as they want with this one.

Final Thoughts

Terra Nil impressed me with its new take on the sandbox building genre. I enjoyed building up from literally nothing to a thriving environment. It was a nice breath of fresh air and I look forward to seeing how the game improves leading up to its release in the future.

As of writing Terra Nil does not have a release date. However, be sure to check out the steam page here to keep up to date with the progress of the development.

Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.

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