Free Lives is best understood for its 2014 side-scrolling action game, Broforce. The game features pixelated caricatures of action film heroes blowing stuff up with big weapons and even bigger American flags. So envision my surprise in early June when the team announced its next project, Terra Nil, a “reverse city-builder” about bring back wild locations after an ecological catastrophe.
After spending a few hours with an early demo of Terra Nil, its difficult to picture a larger departure for the studio, however Im all in. After almost 2 years of homebound hyper-vigilance induced by political mayhem and an international pandemic, this is the deeply chill diversion that I required.
My demo of Terra Nil started out on a flat airplane laced by dry riverbeds and dotted with split earth. From there, I was able to place watering systems that would turn the land green and rich.
You can use regulated burns to make space for thick forests when youve grown fields of flowers. Riverbeds work as natural firebreaks, but they need preparing to get the most benefit.
Image: Free Lives/Devolver Digital
Each watering system could be configured to shower water in multiple instructions, developing tetromino-like locations of plant on the now fertile soil. I might pick which of these shapes worked best to cover the most area.
As these interleaved systems– soil, power, and watering– infected other corners of the map, I began to refine my style. Instead of crowding four soil cleaners around each wind turbine, I found that using just three of them would enable more efficient watering. There was a wonderful stress to utilizing the least amount of resources possible to have the best effect on the land.
However it was a thoughtful, distant kind of tension, mind you, the same sort of tension felt when planning the layout of a vegetable garden or selecting which wall to make an accent color in the living-room. Which tension was at all times alleviated by the games delightful, Ghibli-inspired landscapes and animations. As the land came back to life, flocks of geese crowded the sky, while herbivores and frogs caroused in the forests.
Using explosive devices, its possible to carve new rivers. That can alter the geometry of specific sections of the map, enabling more efficient placement of power and irrigation systems.
Image: Free Lives/Devolver Digital
Free Lives is best understood for its 2014 side-scrolling action game, Broforce. The game features pixelated caricatures of action motion picture heroes blowing things up with huge guns and even bigger American flags. Picture my surprise in early June when the team announced its next job, Terra Nil, a “reverse city-builder” about bring back wild areas after an eco-friendly catastrophe.
And that stress was at all times alleviated by the video games delightful, Ghibli-inspired landscapes and animations. That earlier variation of the video game enables you to explore an entire island setting, with lots of different maps to pick from.
Terra Nil is one of the most lovely little games that Ive seen in some time.
My only wonder is if the lots of interleaved systems can sustain more intricate, advanced levels. Much of the games success will depend on the last rounds of polish– on how Terra Nil introduces players to brand-new kinds of landscapes, and what tools are offered for cleaning them up.
Some of that design work appears to have been done currently. You can check out the original version of Terra Nil on Itch.io as a pay-what-you-want download. That earlier variation of the game enables you to check out an entire island setting, with many various maps to select from.
You can try this most current model of Terra Nil for free on Steam during the Next Fest, which runs from June 16 through June 22.