Terra Nil subverts the city-builder genre with an eco-friendly demo next week

Terra Nil is a new eco-minded twist on the city builder genre where you're tasked with restoring an ecological wasteland, and it's got a free demo coming out next week.

Free Lives, the studio behind the run-and-gunner Broforce, describes Terra Nil as a "reverse city builder." Whereas the traditional city builder/management sim encourages rapid industrial expansion with little regard for things like biodiversity and climate control, your number one goal in Terra Nil is environmental rejuvenation. That's right, no capitalist rat races to win, no invading armies to defend against, just a world in its ecological twilight years depending on you to rewind the clock.

When I first heard the term "reverse city builder," I imagined some sort of deconstruction sim where you've received carte blanche to bulldoze the least environmentally friendly cities in the world and replace them with trees and animals. But Terra Nil doesn't seem to interpret its genre label so literally. You're still putting down structures where there weren't any before, but you're building them atop dead zones with the aim of creating a sustainable climate, self-sufficient garden, and diverse wildlife system. Once you've restored the desolate ecosystem, it's time to recycle everything you used to accomplish the task and move on.

Like any project on this scale, you'll start with fixing little problems like purifying soil and cultivating greenery. Eventually though, you'll be able to take on more existential threats like the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. Maps are procedurally generated, which means that even within the same region, each playthrough will feel different from the last.

Despite placing a pretty hefty weight on your shoulders, Terra Nil is a beautiful game aesthetically. The hand-drawn environments are perfectly shaded and really pop out of the screen, especially once you've done your job sorting out their environmental crises. The music is also really calming, but don't let yourself drift off on the job - after all, the survival of the planet is at stake here.

Terra Nil is getting a free demo next Wednesday, June 16, as part of the Steam Next Fest (formerly Steam Game Festival). Head to its Steam page to add it to your wishlist and keep up with any other updates.

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Jordan Gerblick

After scoring a degree in English from ASU, I worked as a copy editor while freelancing for places like SFX Magazine, Screen Rant, Game Revolution, and MMORPG on the side. Now, as GamesRadar's west coast Staff Writer, I'm responsible for managing the site's western regional executive branch, AKA my apartment, and writing about whatever horror game I'm too afraid to finish.