The first level of Terra Nil feels like perfection. What you give to the land and what you take from it renew each other, and so tasked with restoring a barren quarry to a thriving ecosystem, you start small. Far from the city builder convention of widely mapping out your infrastructure, you attend to small patches of land – one wind turbine and a handful of toxin scrubbers to clean the earth at a time, paid for by the irrigators you place to restore the grass on top of it.
With a foundation set, the next task is to restore local biomes, of wetland, forest and fynbos. There’s something tactile and immediately satisfying about converting one of your irrigators into a hydroponium and seeing it ripple out into wetlands, or placing a beehive and hearing the brush of flower and scrubland pop up.
At the same time, it’s made clear that you aren’t freely zoning the land like an architect, or even a gardener. There’s a moment when I start a controlled burn when I expect it to only take the flowers I targeted – only for the fire to rip through to the natural boundaries of cliffsides and water edges. And while I’m able to put down the machinery that raises the humidity to bring back rainstorms (and salmon, and mosses), the rain by itself does a better job of cleaning up than I did.