Nearly three years ago Edgeworks Entertainment launched TerraGenesis (Free) to the App Store, a freakishly deep simulation and strategy game about terraforming planets and creating thriving civilizations. Its main hook upon release was that it utilized actual science and data from NASA to provide the most realistic simulation possible, and in terms of the types of things you’re able to do in TerraGenesis my previous description holds true: It is freakishly deep. Adjust various planetary properties like oxygen, sea levels, and atmospheric pressure to try and create a habitable environment for human colonies to live on. There’s also a base of 26 different phyla and 64 unique genes you can mix in to create all manner of different living organisms, both above ground and underwater, to live and evolve on your planet. All of this takes place on planets in our actual solar system, like Mars, Venus, or Earth, or on a number of fictional alien planets. And this is really just the basics that scratch the surface of what’s possible in TerraGenesis.
Anyway, while TerraGenesis has flown mostly under the radar around these parts, it has garnered a substantial and incredibly engaged fan base over the past three years, to the tune of more than 10 million downloads, and has seen a number of hefty content updates in that time. However, the biggest update to TerraGenesis has just arrived this past week and adds a whole host of new features to the game, as well as a completely revamped graphical engine.
First up is a bundle of seven “Historical Earths" that let you play a game across a variety of different historical versions of Earth, like the Age of Dinosaurs era or the Ice Age. This Historical Earths bundle features a storyline to play through that spans across all seven versions of Earth. Then there are new “World Killer" events, which as you can probably guess are “Planet-scale threats such as asteroid impacts" that are “unexpected and lead to down-to-the wire races, kicking-up the difficulty for veteran players who must learn to protect their planet from an impending extinction-level event." Anybody who has ever played SimCity knows how fun it can be to have to deal with catastrophic disasters.
Another major feature of this update are native species that can be procedurally generated on planets and can have “unique needs, settlements and cultures." The tricky part about this is how you deal with the natives on a planet, and it’s really a question of morality. Do you try to coexist with these natives and find a balance between your own needs and their unique needs so that everyone can live together in harmony? Or do you just wipe those suckers out and “terraform them into extinction?"
But wait, there’s more! TerraGenesis version 5.0 also includes improved faction identities (oh, did I mention you can join one of four different interstellar factions in the game?) which provides a richer culture and history for each faction, as well as differing opinions on terraforming. This means that some factions may want to terraform a planet back to its original form, even if that means it becomes inhospitable to humans. Not everyone thinks it’s ok to just mess with the makeup of a planet’s natural balance for selfish reasons like, you know, being able to LIVE on it, so you’ll have to determine which faction your values line up with the most.
During GDC back in March I had a chance to sit down with Alexander Winn, founder of Edgeworks and lead developer of TerraGenesis, to get the lowdown on this version 5.0 update, and I was absolutely blown away spending the better part of an hour seeing not just all the interesting new features for the update but also what TerraGenesis is capable of as a whole. This is a seriously cool game, and I’m not surprised at all that it has amassed such a following despite not doing much in terms of traditional marketing. It also helps that it’s free to download and try, and while it can feel a bit overwhelming at first, it has a good tutorial to get you going and before you know it you’ll be terraforming planets left and right and spawning lifeforms and battling factions.
If anything I’ve described sounds interesting to you, don’t hesitate to give TerraGenesis a download and check it out. There’s a discussion thread for the game in our own forums that hasn’t seen much action since the game launched three years ago if you want to offer your thoughts over there, and there’s also a super active sub-Reddit, a Discord chat, and a Facebook page if you want to connect with the fanbase through official means.