TerraScape, as the name suggests, involves building, but also incorporates interesting card mechanics and point accumulation mechanics to create a gameplay experience that doesn’t lend itself to easy characterization. However, if you’re looking for a relaxing title with an interesting premise, TerraScape may be for you.
TerraScape really isn’t the sort of title that lends itself to plot. The basic concept is that you’re building a city on islands that float in the air, but you can only place buildings according to the cards in your hand. Sound simple? It is, and it also isn’t. Your objective is to place buildings or personnel next to other buildings that will maximize point awards. However, adjacent buildings are but part of the recipe. You need to pay attention to available resources, terrain, etc.
All of these factors are dubbed influences. As such, be aware that poor placement can result in point deductions from negative influences. Sometimes, the influences make clear sense. Lumberjacks get more points when they’re placed next to trees, but adding another lumberjack to the mix results in a point deduction. Obviously, the two lumberjacks will be competing for resources, so they will be less productive than if you’d deployed the lumberjacks farther apart.
The real challenge here is that you’re limited to the buildings in your hand and a very limited amount of space on your procedurally-generated, floating island, so you’re limited in how you’ll be able to avoid point deductions. The point of the game is to amass as many points as possible, resulting in one of three standard trophies, gold, silver, and bronze. If you do spectacularly poorly, you can walk away without any trophy at all, but as TerraScape is currently set up, that’s a rare event.
Aside from the trophies, point accumulation allows you to acquire new cards to add to your deck, increasing your repertoire of buildings.
The first thing you need to know is that TerraScape isn’t a typical city builder. Hard core Civilization fans aren’t going to be overwhelmed by TerraScape because it’s a less complex title with fewer moving parts than get balanced in a more traditional city builder. By that I mean that resource management isn’t a primary gameplay mechanic here. Sure, your success does depend on some resource acquisition and management, but it’s nothing like a traditional city builder. However, neither is it a true deck builder either due to the aforementioned resource management and building mechanics. If you’re looking for a pure example of either one of these genres, TerraScape just isn’t it.
However, by incorporating the deck-building mechanic, TerraScape’s devs, Bitfall Studios, has created something entirely new and perfectly targeted at casual gamers. That’s not a criticism because frankly, not everyone wants to be immersed in a game of Civilization for hours. Rather, TerraScape’s gameplay represents an interesting departure from the norm.
The second thing that’s important is that TerraScape, despite having minimal system requirements, is beautiful. Add to that beauty a peaceful soundtrack, and you get a profoundly relaxing experience. Despite being in Early Access, TerraScape feels polished and ready for players to enjoy right now, although the developers are still adding new features, and probably will be up until the official release.
TerraScape has two general modes—puzzle challenge and free play—with free play mode being divided into a sort of sandbox mode dubbed “Relaxed” and a scenario-based mode that forces you to achieve certain objectives. The puzzle mode operates somewhat similarly to scenario mode but with more limited resources. There’s a set path of puzzle challenge that you have to follow, and in order to clear a stage, you have to pass with at least the bronze level. You do have to complete the puzzle challenge mode at the silver level or above for a certain level in order to unlock it for free play. TerraScape does offer a multiplayer mode that would allow you to compete with someone else to place your cards in a turn-based style of gameplay.
TerraScape is ideal for a quiet afternoon and a cup of tea, and you don’t have to worry about remembering which buildings or cards do well with other cards because the tooltips will tell you. While I’m sure multiplayer could be fun, I do think TerraScape shines as a title for those moments when you want to curl up with something relaxing that still requires brainpower. I don’t know that TerraScape’s levels offer much in terms of replayability yet, but the procedurally generated aspect of the map means you’ll be playing something new every time. This would be a great title for kids who like to do activities requiring a lot of focus.
TerraScape retails on Steam for $12.99.
Stray Thoughts From Behind the Keyboard
- Be really, really certain where you click to place your building; there’s not an undo option.
- There are buildings that can stack/combine to increase point awards, so watch for those.
- Demolition cards exist in TerraScape, so you can undo mistakes. It’s just costly.
- This is an Early Access game, so the available biomes are pretty limited.
Developers: Bitfall Studios
Platforms: GoG, Steam