Enjoyable Challenges: TerraScape’s Early Access City Builder Keeps You Engaged, Not Frustrated

I was pleasantly surprised when I first ventured into the world of TerraScape, an early access strategy city builder recently launched on Steam. Placing a cluster of cottages seemed routine, but as I put down my fourth cottage, an unexpected transformation occurred. The humble cottages suddenly merged into a massive wooden longhouse that dominated the surrounding homes. The act of merging buildings had begun, and I was eager to continue.

In TerraScape, merging buildings is a fascinating feature achieved by placing specific structures in a particular arrangement. Cottages can combine into grand longhouses, while chapels and churches can form powerful cathedrals. Even large homes can unite to create stately villas. Careful placement of these structures is essential in TerraScape, not only for aesthetics but also for scoring extra points. Moreover, it provides players with a valuable tool – a bomb to demolish undesirable structures and make way for new ones.

TerraScape’s gameplay takes place on a hexagonal map. Instead of building a map using hexagonal tiles, the game generates a hex map for you. Players use decks of cards to populate this map with various buildings. Each card placement yields points based on the chosen location, following logical rules familiar to city builder enthusiasts.

For instance, a lumberjack’s building earns more points when adjacent to a greater number of forest hexes, while cottages thrive near the city center, markets, or churches. Iron and stone mines are more profitable when situated on craggy mountaintops rather than in the fields below. Negative placements should be avoided, like situating fishing boats too close to each other, resulting in decreased fish catch. The game revolves around selecting optimal locations to maximize points and combining cards intelligently.

As you play cards in specific categories like forestry or farming, you accumulate points to unlock new buildings in those categories. For example, lumberjacks may be joined by sawmills and hunting cabins. As you progress, new decks appear, such as the city deck, allowing you to add larger houses and taverns to your map. Gradually, you can upgrade your city center, transforming it from a small cluster of wooden structures into a towering stone keep. Watching your village evolve from a small settlement into a bustling city is immensely satisfying.

TerraScape’s single-player mode lacks time pressure, allowing you to leisurely plan your city and enjoy zooming in to admire its growth. The game boasts charming animations, from fishing boats casting nets in the lake to smoke rising from chimneys in cottages and longhouses. Eagles soar in the sky, and deer graze in the meadows. Even the tiniest details, like a barrel beside the fishery building, filled with water and a small leaping fish, add to the game’s charm.

One notable absence in the city, however, is the lack of visible citizens. It would be a nice addition to see tiny inhabitants working the fields, enjoying the gardens, or visiting the market, but the absence of people doesn’t detract from the overall visual appeal.

TerraScape offers two distinct gameplay modes: puzzle mode, where you aim to score enough points to unlock new maps using new decks, and freeplay mode. Many players find freeplay mode more enjoyable, as it allows you to maximize your existing map instead of moving on to new ones. The largest procedurally generated map can take around 45 minutes to complete and provides a highly enjoyable experience.

Bitfall Studios, the developer of TerraScape, has plans to enhance the game during its early access phase, with promises of new merged buildings, card decks, map biomes, and a cooperative multiplayer mode. Despite being in early access, TerraScape already offers an enjoyable and relaxing gaming experience with visually pleasing aesthetics. As of now, the game is available on Steam, and until April 12, you can grab it at a 25% discount off the regular $13 price.