Terra Nil is Terra-ffic. Sorry, I had to! This wee environmental adventure gets you thinking and drives your determination to strive for the greater good as you scrub the land and build a bountiful set of biomes in each location you find.
So, what does Terra Nil want us to achieve? The aim is to perform hefty reclamation of wasteland and bring it back to a self-sufficient level where nature sprawls and animals can live happily. Starting with a barren patch of land, you must use the available terrain to build power supplies for machines like toxin scrubbers to clean the land.
Next, you can start making some biomes by using irrigators to bring a bit of green back and soon, flourishing fields are ready to scan for wildlife that has hopefully returned (almost all of mine did – I’m great at this). There are a few more steps and tricks before you get to this point, but I’ll let you discover those for yourself.
There’s a beautifully illustrated guidebook at your disposal the whole time should you get lost. Fun fact – I collect nature books and now I really want this one on my shelf. It has dissections of each machine that’s usable in the game and depictions of every animal you can bring back.
Terra Nil has four ‘levels’, each of which encapsulates a different environment with its own challenges to overcome and new-fangled technology to use to reclaim the area. These are a forest, a tropical island, an arctic tundra, and a destroyed city for us to rebuild. Or… un-build.
Each stage has its own flora and fauna to bring back, with the selection of animals and biomes matching the climate and available weather patterns. For instance, your first area has brown bears in the forest and beavers by the river, whereas the tundra is populated with deer and narwhals in the ocean. I’m a sucker for any game with animals and nature, so seeing these little guys pop up on the map and start plodding along is absolutely wonderful.
Once your environment is leafy and populated with animals again, it’s time to pack up and leave. There’s technology in each level that allows us to recycle absolutely everything and leave without a trace of any intervention having been there. Little boats and drones head to locations you ping on the map and scrap all the machines in the vicinity, then use the scrap to finish building the ship to take them away again.
These four levels aren’t the end, though – when you complete them, alternative versions become available with a mixed-up array of machines to use, creating a new challenge. For instance, there I was in an area with lava rivers, but no geothermal power plant. What is a girl to do? Accept the challenge and bring back plants to the boring brown land, that’s what.
If it’s a little overwhelming trying to afford each machine at every turn (those leaves run out fast!), you can turn on zen mode, which lets you place things free of charge and with no stress. I highly recommend this so you can clean up each area and make it thrive. Or, you can make the game more difficult if you so choose.
Overall the game takes about five hours to beat the main levels unless you’re like me and kept restarting in order to get the perfect layout and mix of biomes, in which case it takes a little longer. It also depends on whether you’re going for 100% completion by ticking off every single climate goal like bringing moss back to the rocks and making sure rainfall remains, or if you just want to get the animals back as quickly as possible.
Terra Nil is brought to us by Devolver Digital and Free Lives, working with the Endangered Wildlife Trust. The African conservation organisation works to preserve habitats and endangered species that need our help the most while working with renewable energy providers and local communities. Their goals align with those that we strive to achieve in Terra Nil, and as such, 8% of profits from the Steam sales are donated to the Trust by Free Lives. Isn’t that neat?
While I have no issues with the game itself, I feel like Terra Nil would work very well on the Switch as it’s a perfect game to chill out with while going shrimp-mode in bed – but as it’s on mobile via Netflix Games (and Steam Deck if you’re lucky enough to have one), this essentially negates the issue.
I feel like David Attenborough would approve of Terra Nil, and that’s a very high compliment in my eyes. I absolutely love playing this as it scratches the same itch that the likes of Let’s Build a Zoo and Civilisation do, by figuring things out and placing things on tiles to reach your goals – but this time, being excited when it rains and when jellyfish return to your oceans.
If we’ve got your lizard brain going, check out some more wholesome games set in the animal kingdom – here are the best wildlife games, bird games, and ocean games to show you the wonder of the world.
Try your hand at restoring the earth in the eco-friendly game Terra Nil as it sprouts on mobile and PC, bringing satisfying gameplay and scientific mechanics to reclaim the environment.