It’s a god game in which you control an “avatar” of sorts. It’s been done before, and of course, because of this Reus was always going to be, even fleetingly, compared to Black and White. However, upon closer inspection it feels more like a strange shade of grey than anything similar to Peter Molyneux’s great work. Reus is a vastly different game, with a greater focus on strategy and resource placement, and a less-direct approach to village management. You are both the God, and the controller of Gods, or Giants. But is this vast difference enough to carve out it’s own niche within a stagnant genre?
Parts of the premise itself are actually quite original; you are the planet, and with the help of your four Minions you must reinvigorate your barren shell and help humanity prosper before you return to your slumber. You do so by instructing your Giants to place oceans, mountains, swamps, plants, animals and minerals, and by upgrading the aforementioned using a variety of abilities. This cycle repeats with your shell made empty once more each time you awaken. Whilst potentially a poor way to simply justify the arbitrary time limits, the personification of the landscape as the player makes sense and makes an interesting game-play concept.
So how do you actually do it? Your four Giants; swamp, ocean, forest, and mountain, start with a limited range of abilities, with which you first create your environments and starting resources. Once you have habitable land Nomads will settle and form Villages, who in turn will ask for certain requirements to be met so that they can finish projects. These requirements are met through placing and upgrading resources, or by helping the village achieve certain things, like win a war with another village. Upon the completion of a project the village gifts you a biome-specific ambassador which can be picked up by giants, effectively upgrading them by unlocking abilities; most of which lead to resource upgrades themselves.
With many different projects to strive for, the cycle creates a flowing through-line. With the initial time limit, 30 minutes, you only really have the chance to acquire a few upgrades, but as the limit increases more become available in a single match, allowing higher progress up the tech tree. However, the after the first projects it becomes much more difficult to achieve the goals within specified sub-time-limits. Demands often feel like they are a steep rise from the previous level and become much more difficult as time progresses. Logically I can’t help but feel that I take issue with the puny humans ordering their deity and his titans around, especially when their demands grow so fast. A feature which I feel is missing is the ability to punish them for asking too much, potentially decreasing the required amounts, but perhaps I ask too much of an indie title.
Regardless, the relationship you build with your followers is central to your understanding of the experience. If you give them too many resources at once, they become greedy and may go to war. Too few and their civilisation will either fall or stagnate. A balance much be carefully maintained as to prevent both, often through the use of Awe and impressive feats. You begin to fee, responsible for maintaining this balance, and as such, perhaps Reus could be better described as a Mother Nature Sim than a God game.
The problems with Reus begin after the initial honeymoon period. At first, everything flows quite nicely, with the bonus’ stacking smoothly. The planet is divided into many small pie-slices, meaning that things are placed on the direct left and right, and at first this is sufficient. However, as progress is made and so many resources are required that, alongside the “aspects”; the bonus’ applied by giants, you need to take advantage of the other form of bonus and things quickly become chaotic.
Symbiosis, the central strategy mechanic, is all to do with placement, and this is where the whole experience falters at times. Every resource has a certain list of requirements which, if it fulfils then, provides extra resource bonus’. Whilst some make sense, such as Rabbits enjoying the company of other Rabbits for…certain purposes, others make little to no sense whatsoever. Why Strawberries and Blueberries flourish together is a mystery!
What makes this annoying is the sheer strictness of the restrictions and the lack of clearly displayed explanations of said restrictions before placement. This becomes especially painful later on, when your entire symbiosis changes due to a single resource’s upgrade. When a Strawberry upgrades to a Cherry tree, the symbiosis requirements change from adjacency to fruit into adjacency to minerals, forcing a complete resource swap. With each individual resource having their own requirements, and with not all matching up, it all becomes incredibly complicated. Micro-management becomes the name of the game, and it distinctly breaks the otherwise wonderful flow.
Another issue is the Achievement based progression system. Rather than encouraging the player to vary their style, it practically forces them. Progression is constantly stunted by the artificial tech and upgrade restrictions, which again breaks the flow. Yes, it can be argued that this makes the learning curve stepped, but unless you actively enjoy achievements and progressive evolution of mechanics, this put a severe spanner in an otherwise well-oiled machine.
Visually and Sonically, Reus is beautiful. The stylised, classically 2D Indie stylings are clean, colourful and simple, from the world to the minimalist HUD. Environments are well realised and resources agreeably pop into existence. The sound design reflects the powerful nature of your avatars, with satisfying thuds and crashes aplenty. The backing music is unobtrusive and pleasant,; Wind and chirping is augmented by the gentle chimes and windy-whoops rather than overcome. What this combination creates is a magical setting where you feel suitably epic, but which also has a somewhat calming effect, despite the frantic mid to late game.
So what can I say about Reus in conclusion? It’s certainly different. Whilst it doesn’t have quite the same grand scale or direct power play found in other titles, it makes up for this in sheer charm and imagination. Whilst severely stunted by a few obtrusive design decisions and a steep learning curve which requires memorisation of full symbiosis trees, things slowly slip into place the more you play and slowly feel less confusing.
All in all, for £6.99 you’ll struggle to find a more interesting and charming God-Sim, especially if you want something a bit different. If you cant stand tech trees and micromanagement, avoid at all costs, but if you enjoy Deification, complexity and a bit of the above I recommend giving Reus a try, despite it’s status as a flawed precious mineral.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.