The Terra Nil demo made me feel full of hope in a hopeless world

Did the death march toward a climate disaster let you down? Is the never-ending pandemic slowly worrying you? Do you feel like there’s no hope in the world and we’re all completely damned? Play the Terra Nil demo. It won’t fix anything, but it might make you feel a little better – and that’s better than nothing.

Terra Nil is an upcoming “reverse ecosystem city builder” from Devolver Digital, featuring a free demo on Steam. Devolver may be known for Tim & Eric’s sense of humor and obvious sarcasm, but Terra Nil is not. This is a game about the beauty and perseverance of the natural world and it was exactly what I needed to start my 2022.

While the ‘reverse city builder’ might remind you of Sim City, Terra Nil feels closer to a puzzle/strategy game than a management or sim games. It starts with an isometric view of a tiny wasteland and when you complete the demo it will be transformed into a lush world filled with complex biomes teeming with new life. . If you ask me, it’s a lot more satisfying than building a bunch of shops and office buildings.

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You start with a simple wind turbine and toxin purifier that you will use to transform barren land into fertile soil. You can then build irrigation hydrants to create greenery and water pumps to fill the riverbed with fresh water. Your goal is to place your machines as efficiently as possible to cover as much land as you can without overlapping. Each machine you buy takes resources and adds extra stuff that will need to be cleaned up and removed at the end.

Once you’ve brought water and plant life back to the soil, you can begin to diversify your biome. Building hydroponics on top of irrigation pipes will turn the surrounding areas into wetlands. Adding beehives to your plants causes them to pollinate the surrounding area, creating vibrant flower beds. Using a dessert you can then initiate a controlled burn that will destroy everything in the area and leave a nutritious ash that can then be used to create a forest. This includes burning down your wind turbines and other buildings you used to create trees, which gave me pause the first time I did it. However, we are not here to build everything, we are here to bring nature back and all the buildings and machines are just the tools we need to get there.

Once the ecosystem is diverse enough, it’s time to clean up. Everything we build has to be recycled and transported by shuttle, and you’ll use the rivers you’ve created to do that. When all is said and done, no man-made objects will be left behind – just a beautiful, prosperous world you have helped create.

Playing Terra Nil has helped me find some peace – something that is extremely rare in my online life these days. It is beautiful and peaceful, with a sweeping ensemble built in perfect harmony with the return of the natural world. The short demo only took about ten minutes to play and I’ve gone through it three times now only to unpack at the end of the day. I’m looking forward to the full release of Terra Nil later this year. I don’t know how we can save the planet, but it’s nice to imagine that it could be restored one day.

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