Review – Terra Nil


Ronny Hammond

Terra Nil is a game that knows exactly what it wants to do and does everything it sets out to with flying colors. It takes the city building genre and flips it on its head. The game prioritizes rebuilding nature rather than urban sprawl. It is truly a game that’s one of a kind and is a refreshing change of pace. Throughout my 5 hour playthrough I was continuously impressed by what the team at Free Lives have created. Here is my review for Terra Nil. Thank you to Tinsley PR and Devolver Digital for the early release code.


Like I mentioned above Terra Nil technically is a city builder game without, well cities. After you choose from the 3 difficulties the game offers you will start a level with your main goal being to take a barren wasteland and bring it new life. When you are done you will recycle all of your buildings and leave no trace of human intervention. Sounds simple enough right? Well the team at Free Lives have more than a few interesting gameplay mechanics to keep things challenging.

The games fairly straightforward and easy to understand tutorial will show you how to use the different buildings that will help bring the wasteland back to life. These range from windmills that generate electricity for your buildings, to ground purifiers and machines that bring greenery back to the land. 

Each map will have different conditions for you to satisfy. For example one of the maps will need you to use lava to generate electricity. To do so however you will have to strategically detonate pieces of rock that will allow the lava to spread. Each map also has different biomes that are unique to each, that you will have to bring back such as tundras and forests. These biomes have their own conditions that must be satisfied. Such as tundras needing higher elevation.

The last two goals of each map will be to bring back the animals then recycle the buildings that you have used to leave no structures behind. The only thing that I found that didn’t work fully on the gameplay side of things was the animal system. To bring back the animals you basically have to use a building and click around the map to see which areas satisfy the animals living conditions. This system felt just really janky to me and really just had you clicking all around the map randomly. It involved little strategy or thought which was disappointing considering how much the other gameplay systems shine.

It seems like a lot to keep track of but the game manages to dole out the more complex game systems over time to not overwhelm you with systems straight away. This makes the game deceptively easy at first but as things start to get more complex it offers very fun but challenging problems to solve. This section only really scratches the surface of how well the game systems work together but what’s achieved here gameplay wise is familiar to the genre but truly unique to Terra Nil.


Aside from the gameplay, another thing that works in Terra Nil’s favor is the overall feel of the game. The art style is colorful and vibrant and the soundtrack calm and wistful. These two elements work together to make Terra Nil a comforting experience. Other city building games have great soundtracks that relax but what Terra Nil has in its favor is that the art style synergizes with the music.

The way the map starts off as a dead wasteland and slowly transforms around you is truly breathtaking to behold. It also helps that the game runs fantastically and I encountered no bugs throughout my entire playthrough. On both technical and artistic sides Terra Nil excels.


I think it is important to take a moment and mention the social impact of Terra Nil. The team at Free Lives say that they will donate a portion of all sales of Terra Nil to the Endangered Wildlife Trust. The Endangered Wildlife trust is an organization that protects wildlife and conserves habitats in South Africa and around the world.

With more and more games being dedicated to real world change I thought it apt that Terra Nil, a game focused on nature preservation would donate to an organization doing the same thing. I hope going forward we see more games follow this trend.


Terra Nil as a game is genius. It appeals to not just fans of the genre but to all gamers. Its gameplay, art and sound work together to create an experience that is uniquely Terra Nil. While challenging, its gameplay forces you to make calculated decisions to bring nature back to the wasteland.

Terra Nil is available on PC through Steam and Mobile via Netflix on March 28th. It also runs great on the Steam Deck. For more game reviews and other Geek content check it out right here on The Geekwave.