Reus by Abbey Games is an indie god game where you play the part of four giants who morph a lifeless and barren planet with seas, swamps, forests and mountains in order to bring life to your world. It’s a game which could possibly be pronounced “R-oos” (as in the Greek god Zeus), but I have taken to pronouncing “Ree-us”. It’s a completely charming and amusing experienced accompanied by a variety of challenges and obstacles all played along to with a pleasant graphics style and a melodious soundtrack.
The game plays out with you being given control of the four giants and their abilities and a whole world for you to bend to your will. You see your planet from the side on and so are given a side-scrolling view of the planet with a set number of spaces which you can morph and utilise. You can zoom in and out and click and drag to spin the world so that you can mould the whole place into whatever you desire. Then, once all the moulding you feel is necessary is done, you use your giants to place down a variety of animals, plants and minerals for humans to use.
Humans proceed to settle villages and these villages will grow by using three different stats: food, wealth and technology and these three things are all harvested from the plants, minerals and animals. Herbs, for example, are a plant which provide technology to be “harvested” while precious minerals provide wealth.
These objects placed by your giants can then be improved upon using various “Aspects” the giants have. These aspects add additional stats to the resource and, if the correct one/s, are used the resource can be upgraded to the next level. Each resource also has certain modifiers which can provide strong bonuses to the provided stats, these modifications rely on fullfilment of certain conditions, like being next to a mineral or a plant or within range of another specific resource
As the villages grow they provide challenges for you, their god, to provide them with a certain amount of each of the three stats (occasionally along with other criteria) and it is up to you to go about placing enough of the various bits and bobs you can in order to fulfil their wishes. Upon completion of their challenge they (depending on how advanced you are in the game) provide you with an Ambassador which one of your giants can pick up and carry about, unlocking new aspects and thus further improvements.
Each of these differing forms of modifying and altering and changing provides a massive variety of tactics and techniques to be used by the player to improve the score of each of his villages. The upgrading system also has several tiers going from tiny fish and bushes up to giant trees and whales. And as each of these different things have different symbioses the player also has to consider all the surrounding elements as well as what he is upgrading, or risk losing points where an upgrade ought to provide more.
It’s a great fun game and is, at it’s heart, a puzzler in which you have to think and plan about which objects and aspects to use to best make use of the space available to you in each village. The game never really slows down either because it only takes a few minutes for you to have at least three demanding villages on your world all wanting more. And there is another gameplay addition to this, should a village grow too large too quickly they become greedy and start going to war and maybe even destroying their neighbours. Should it happen really incredibly quickly they may even start attacking and risk killing your giants (which results in a game over). You can then set about either ignoring them or punish the wee greedy bastards for thinking themselves their own masters…
All in all you are pretty much always thinking and planning and scheming to advance in your age and in your power. Always trying to be one step ahead, something I personally absolutely failed at. On top of this the backing music is very much an atmospheric and pleasant addition which moulds perfectly into the background and doesn’t overpower the game. The graphics and aesthetic of the game are also very nice as well, a slightly cartoon-y but surprisingly detailed approach which makes the game just look absolutely fantastic.
It does have flaws though, for one thing the overall method by which the game is presented to you is incredibly basic. You play within the restraints of a time-limit known as an Era and depending on player level you are provided different time amounts. At first you can only play for half an hour, and then your time is up and your scores added together. Then it goes on to an hour and finally two hours. You advance through player levels by doing game challenges called Developments, things like “End the game with a village which has 100 prosperity” (where prosperity is the overall count of wealth, food and technology) which is a very easy one to achieve.
There are 69 of these challenges in game, and completing about a third of them will unlock the two hour Era mode. This is then essentially the end of the game because the only thing left to do is to try and unlock the rest of the Developments. Thus in the end you end up playing the game for the games sake and not for any overarching goal or end.
This strikes me as quite a poor system unfortunately. The fact of the matter is that the game must then stand up entirely on it’s gameplay, it must be entertaining enough to keep the player amused to reach the 100% completion because there is nothing else for it to fall back on. Even if the gameplay was something absolutely astounding which would never bore you the fact that to reach the 100% completion mark requires only slight and small changes to your tactics each time means that you end up playing essentially the same thing over and over. And despite the massive variation in techniques there is still a limit and eventually you will get bored.
Also, to reach the highest levels of the game you have to use the most upgraded plants, animals and minerals but you must first unlock these upgrades before you can then perform them in game. This means you must finish a game, in which you will have a cap on how much you can improve your villages, before you can then play it again and use the upgraded forms. Also, it’s incredibly frustrating that the game does not inform you how to unlock these forms. It provides the term “Try and develop the humans differently” but this could mean so many different things it’s quite difficult and actually very frustrating that you aren’t given any goals. Of course, it might seem a little pathetic for me to demand that the game provides me with answers instead of trying to work them out myself. But it doesn’t even provide any clues, do I need to complete a specific development? A certain number? A certain in-game challenge? I have absolutely no idea.
Overall I think the largest flaw in the game is that you are provided with a large amount of variety in the way that you can advance your villages but in the end you might always end up falling back on the same things again and again with only slight modifications. Despite having, what I believe is, a truly fun and unique gameplay experience you end up playing the same map again and again with differing time limits. And should there be specific Developments you seek, you can always load up that save at the end of a two hour Era, change a few things around and then when the game is over, voilà a new Development unlocked with absolutely no effort. And it’s a shame that it feels like this might be necessary to complete the game instead of trying to play it in a different way each time.
Despite this though I would recommend Reus. For the price of £6.99 (or equivalent) on Steam I would say it is well worth it. For all the fact that I mentioned that you will get bored with simply playing the game for the gameplay’s sake before the repetition sinks in you will have an absolute whale of a time. It’s a truly charming, fun and pleasant game to play and is well worth checking out.