Terra Nil Review - Building Life
When I think back to some of my earliest gaming memories, a handful of games immediately come to mind. I am also immediately reminded of just how old I am now (sad face). One such classic from a bygone era is Sim City. We all know Sim City, whilst not the first city builder game, was easily one that many refer to or think about when it comes to the genre of creating and planning your very own metropolis. This genre of games will forever hold a special place in my heart with their methodical, non-sweaty style of gameplay and that intrinsic feeling of formulating a design plan and being rewarded for my good choices.
However, for a while now I never felt like this particular genre couldn’t surprise me anymore. Not that there have not been titles that have refined the systems or delivered a fantastic gaming experience, but something that would immediately grab my attention and beckon me to play it. That was until I saw the trailer for Tera Nil, which not only looked elegantly beautiful but seemed to be a reverse city builder! Only so much could be taken from a trailer, but the idea of creating an environmental utopia and restoring a planet’s flora and fauna to a self-sustaining state really spoke to me, and so, when this one was on offer to review, I dove right in.
Now, what do you actually do in Tera Nil exactly? Very simply, you’re dropped into a wasteland terrain and your goal is to utilise environmentally friendly gadgetry to terraform the area into a wonderland where trees, animals and plants can flourish. Each area consists of three phases, each other specific objectives to complete before progressing further until you complete your final set of tasks, which is recycling all your equipment and scooting off to the next stage.
Starting out, Tera Nil takes it really easy on you and lulls you into a false sense of security. Your resources (in the form of leaves) for building equipment, are overly abundant and transforming the land is relatively straightforward. The more flora and fauna you create, rewards you with more resources to build more, you’re initially never really at great risk of running out. It’s relaxing, and fun while finishing a level gives you a nice fuzzy feeling and a smile on your face.
The further you go though, you quickly realise that Tera Nil being a reverse city builder is only half correct, it’s also a deceptively challenging puzzle game! You see, the later stages give you limited resources to build with, forcing you to stop and think very carefully about what to lay down and when to re-coup your leaves. But just to get your brain cogs cranking some more, the environments themselves pose specific problems that you’ll need to experiment with combinations, ingenuity, and smart planning in order to meet the requirements for the current objectives. It gets quite difficult, very quickly, and don’t be surprised if you need to reset the entire map and start fresh a few times, just to get your builds just right and get the desired result.
This is by no means a negative criticism. It is incredibly satisfying to set a design plan in motion and overcome the adversity you’re facing. It’s challenging but oh-so rewarding. Further to this, certain terrains can also transform when you start doing things right, something that I can’t exactly go into without giving away spoilers. But when it happens, and it will, your face will light up with surprise and happiness. It’s hard to find games nowadays that can still manage to do this, and yet here’s one right here that caught me off guard and delivered those feelings that reminded me why I still love playing video games.
Tera Nil does have a few minor issues though that are important to mention. Firstly, there are some specific parts in a level where you’ll likely have to restart the map and go again, purely because you were unfamiliar with what was coming next. This was rare for the most part, but those specific objectives felt less rewarding as it was more of a predictive solution rather than a puzzle you’re trying to solve, a crude example is a game making you choose between two doors. Once you choose the wrong one, you’ll easily pass it every other time after that. There was also one particular item where you erect a shade cloth between three poles, this allows for specific flora to grow. The poles though can only be placed on the edge of cliffs. On one hand, this really locks you into where you can place them, but it was easily the most frustrating thing to get right and I would often struggle to meet this objective as it never felt intuitive over time. Both these examples are minor at best and are far from dealbreakers to the overall enjoyment I had reviewing this title.
After spending 20+ hours on this one, I left wanting more. More content, more maps, more puzzles and definitely, more challenges! Even restarting a terrain was a case of my brain going “ok, one more try” instead of any frustration or annoyance. It was always fun to figure out and taking my time didn’t feel wasted, it made the result feel earned. Tera Nil, the reverse-city-builder-puzzle game is definitely a title I can easily recommend to most people. The challenge compels you forward and the results will leave a smile on your face. Keep an eye out for this one and if it even remotely sounds like your sort of game, don’t hesitate to pick it up.
Terra Nil was reviewed on PC with code kindly supplied by Devolver Digital