I generally consider myself to be a fan of most genres of video games. Possibly my favorite genre though is the puzzle platformer. Ever since I was a kid I have enjoyed platformers and I am a huge fan of puzzle games. I enjoy most games from the genre but they can sometimes be a little hit or miss. This is because this genre is so dependent on the level design. A game in this genre that doesn’t have good level design is going to have a hard time succeeding. Designing a good level requires designers to carefully craft them in order to bring challenge while remaining entertaining. Despite this I was intrigued when I first saw Terraforming Earth as the game claimed its levels are procedurally generated. Procedural generation has really grown in indie games and for some genres it works really well. I was a little skeptical whether it would work with a puzzle platformer though but I really wanted to try it out. The procedurally generated levels can be a little hit or miss at times but Terraforming Earth is already off to a great start towards becoming a really fun puzzle platformer.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Lost Robots for the review copy of Terraforming Earth used for this preview. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to preview, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this preview. Receiving the preview copy for free had no impact on the content of this preview.
In Terraforming Earth you play as a group of three robots. These robots are communicating with their human creators when everything goes black. All life on Earth is suddenly destroyed by some mysterious force. All alone these three little robots must use the tools that they have been equipped with to terraform Earth and return life to the planet. As they explore and gather the resources needed to complete their mission they will discover the truth behind the planet destroying event. Can the three robots work together in order to successfully return life to Earth?
At its core Terraforming Earth is a puzzle platforming game. The game is divided into small little levels which have various objectives that you need to complete before heading for the exit. Standing in your way are various switches and levers as well as hostile robots that will kill you if you run into them. To help you with this task you are given three different types of robots with a couple of each type joining you for the mission. Opi is a cube robot that has rocket boosters and arms that can pick up other robots or items you encounter in your adventures. Curi is a round robot that can hover a little above the surface as well as reverse gravity later in the game. Finally Spiri is a spider looking robot whose task is to terraform locations and it also has the ability to teleport through walls and doors. You must use these three robots’ abilities together in order to solve puzzles and reach the end of each level.
After completing each mission you are brought to a central area where you are able to use the metal and plastic that you gathered on your missions. You can use these materials to build additional robots. While these additional robots are just copies of the three I have already mentioned, each one gives a benefit to your colony of robots. Each Curi you build will increase your research rate which will eventually unlock additional benefits as well as progress the story. Each Opi increases your production ability allowing you to build more robots at a time. Finally the more Spiri you build the faster you will create the resource required to terraform a new section of the Earth. Between missions you will have the opportunity to decide how you want to allocate your resources which will impact how quickly you can terraform Earth and progress the story.
At this point Terraforming Earth probably sounds like your typical puzzle platforming game. You play different levels where you use the robots’ special abilities to make a path towards the exit. On its own this would make for a fun little puzzle platformer but it wouldn’t be particularly original. The overall premise may not be super original except for the fact that the entire game is procedurally generated. When choosing your mission there will be a set of missions displayed on the map. These can be broken down into a couple different types which include missions to acquire resources, terraform parts of the Earth, and some other special missions. For each of these type of missions the game will procedurally generate a level following guidelines to create a level that is solvable.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review I am a big fan of puzzle platformers. When I saw that Terraforming Earth was attempting to find a way to procedurally generate levels for a puzzle platformer I was intrigued. The idea of procedural generation works really well for a lot of genres but I didn’t really see it working all that well for Terraforming Earth. I thought good puzzle platformer levels required designers to handcraft them so they would be both challenging and entertaining. Despite only being in early access I have to say that I might have been wrong. I was pleasantly surprised by the game as it does a considerably better job designing levels than I thought procedural generation could accomplish. For the most part the game does a good job creating fun and engaging levels. There are some occasional outliers as we encountered a few levels that were quite basic and kind of boring. I would say that we enjoyed most of the levels as they brought enough challenge and fun to keep us entertained.
The one caveat with the levels being procedurally generated though is the fact that they can’t be as complicated as your typical puzzle platformer. It makes sense as there is no way to procedurally generate a complex puzzle with many variables to juggle. Instead the game mostly focuses its puzzles on door/lever puzzles. You basically have to figure out how to use the different robots’ abilities to find a way through the various doors and activate the platforms. Figuring out how to proceed through the levels is still fun as some levels can be pretty challenging. The puzzles are not as complex as your typical puzzle platformer though. I didn’t really encounter any times where the game really stumped me as I tried to figure out how to proceed. This also leads to the levels being pretty short. I would say that most of the levels can be completed in around one to three minutes with maybe a couple levels taking a little longer.
Ultimately Terraforming Earth gives you a couple different ways of playing the game. You can either play the game by yourself or with partner(s). I ended up playing the game co-op. In the co-op mode each player controls one robot at a time and you press a button to switch to a robot that isn’t currently being controlled. As a fan of co-op games I thought this worked pretty well. As the game can be played single player there really aren’t any puzzles that require two players, but I thought it was still fun to play the game with another player. If you are a fan of co-op and puzzle platformers I think you will enjoy the game quite a bit.
As for the game’s length at this point it really depends on what type of player you are. In order to beat the game you have to complete enough resource missions in order to build enough robots to unlock the story missions. You will eventually unlock the final story mission which will complete the game even if you haven’t fully terraformed the Earth. At this point you can either continue playing to terraform even more of the Earth, or you can restart from the beginning. At the end of the game it will give you a score based on how quickly you beat the game (number of days/levels completed) as well as how much of the Earth you terraformed. We ended up reaching the end of the game in around 3-4 hours with about 80% of the Earth terraformed. If you wanted to really rush though and do the minimum with acquiring resources and expanding your number of robots you could probably shave off a little more time. As the levels are procedurally generated you can keep playing the game as much as you want though as each level will be different. How much time you ultimately get out of the game will likely depend on how much you just want to play random levels just to play them. If you really like playing random levels I think you could get a lot of time out of Terraforming Earth.
For a game that is in the beginning stages of early access I was quite impressed. I had a lot of fun with the game as it already has a strong foundation. The game is already fully playable and the procedural generation already works pretty well. Terraforming Earth is unlike many early access games where it feels like a complete game instead of just part of a game. The early access process seems like it is more about tweaking and adding more content to the game. At this point I think Terraforming Earth has a lot of potential. There are a couple things that I think should be addressed though during the early access process.
I would say that the biggest thing that the game could use is some more variety in the level creation. Each level in the game is unique but at times they kind of feel similar to one another. You will have to do different things in each level, but most of the levels boil down to doing the same things in a little different order. This is still fun but it might reduce some of the game’s replay value. I don’t know if it is possible but I would also like to see some more complex puzzles in the game featuring some more puzzle mechanics. Most of the puzzles are pretty easy so I hope the difficulty is increased a little. Finally I hope the level consistently will be improved a little. Most of the levels are good but there are occasional levels that are just kind of dull. I am guessing that this will be sorted out as players start playing through the levels and weeding out the bad ones. It is not a huge problem either as you will quickly move onto a new level that is considerably better .
The next issue with the game has to deal with the story and how the game introduces players to various mechanics. I found the story to be solid even if it is sometimes a little hard to follow. I hope the game decides to develop it further throughout the early access process. As for direction I think the game could give players a little more at times. This mostly applies to the early game as it doesn’t fully explain what you are supposed to do. None of the mechanics in the game are particularly difficult. Parts of the game are a learn as you go proposition though. You should pick them up pretty quickly but the game probably could do a better job in the early game explaining what missions you should pursue and what robots you should build.
My final issue with the game is something that you can basically expect from every early access game. Terraforming Earth has some occasional bugs. None of the bugs are game-breaking and are more of a nuisance than anything else. We occasionally encountered levels where characters could get trapped if they entered a certain part of the level that they shouldn’t have. This lead to us having to kill/sacrifice robots in order to get them to a position where we could finish the level. Otherwise I am not sure if this is a bug or a feature but we occasionally encountered some bugs while jumping. When on rising platforms if we jumped with Opi it would be launched into the air. Also each time we jumped on one of the enemy robots we would jump progressively higher with no apparent limit. This means we could be launched so high in the air where it took quite a while just to return to the platforms. I am not entirely sure what to think of these jumping “glitches”. They do make the levels considerably easier as you can exploit them to reach parts of a level way before you should. I found exploiting these jumping mechanics to be kind of fun though and they helped when we got into a situation where we otherwise were stuck.
When I saw Terraforming Earth I was intrigued. The concept of a procedurally generated puzzle platformer really intrigued me but I was not sure how well it would work in action. For a game in early access I have to say that I was impressed. There are occasional issues with the game generating some basic boring levels but most of them are pretty enjoyable. The puzzles are on the easy side most of the time but the gameplay is quite fun. The game could slightly tweak the level generation but I thought it was already quite good. Outside of a few tweaks here and there I think Terraforming Earth is on pace to becoming a good/great puzzle platformer.
If you aren’t a fan of puzzle platformers or don’t really care for games with procedural generation I don’t know if Terraforming Earth will be for you. People who really like puzzle platformers though and like the idea of procedurally generated levels should really enjoy the game. If this describes you I would recommend that you look into picking up Terraforming Earth.
If you would like to purchase Terraforming Earth you can purchase it on Steam.