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Terra Nil is a beautiful ‘reverse city-builder’ from the developer behind Broforce

Rejuvenate the land after an ecological disaster

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Terra Nil is a new “reverse city-builder” from Free Lives, the developer of Broforce, a stylish action arcade game released in 2014. Terra Nil will be featured as part of the Steam Next Fest, and a demo will be available as a free download on June 16. The announcement was made Monday by publisher Devolver Digital.

Terra Nil presents players with a task of global environmental rejuvenation,” Devolver said in a news release. “The open-ended strategy progresses through multiple stages of restoration, including cultivating biodiversity, fixing the climate and even recycling the buildings players used to get there. Traverse the planet, restoring different geographical regions, each with their own unique challenges, flora and fauna.”

Devolver’s announcement was accompanied by a YouTube trailer, which we’ve embedded above. The game feels surprisingly intimate, with a laid back soundtrack and lots of natural sounds. It’s all shown from the classic isometric perspective fans of classics like Sim City have come to expect.

A screenshot from Terra Nil showing a river running through a verdant landscape.
A wildfire scars the land. Arid river basins divide green islands, which are burning.
The same scene with all the land brown and cracked. Dead trees dot the landscape.
A monsoon fills the arid river basins with flowing water. Geese fly overhead.

Terra Nil has an interesting development history. Before officially coming to Free Lives, the game was originally developed by Sam Alfred, Jonathan Hau-Yoon, and Jarred Lunt and released on In October, developers announced the new partnership with Free Lives.

“The new version is going to be the same game you all know and love,” wrote Alfred and Hau-Yoon in a joint blog post, “just reimagined with better levels, a better metagame, a bunch of new gameplay features, new content, and a wonderful new painterly art style, inspired by the work of Studio Ghibli.”

Fans who would like to learn more are encouraged to join the Free Lives Discord channel.

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