Reus Reflex Review: Intelligent Design Intelligently Designed
Reus caught my eye a few months back due to its charming graphical style but it was its unique take on “god games” that really sucked me in when I finally got a chance to
play experience the title. Where as most of the games in this particular genre put you into the shoes of a powerful deity with unlimited power over creation, Reus makes influence the most important tool in shaping your world.
It Takes 4
In Reus, you control 4 elemental giants tasked with creating the foundation of a human civilization. Each giant is connected to a particular “biome” within the game (mountains/desert, forest, ocean and swamp) and must use their individual sets of creation skills to shape the world around them and fill it with the things that the human inhabitants enjoy. While the giants can physically alter the world around them (a process that’s essentially taken care of at the beginning of a particular game), it’s the giants’ abilities to place animals, plants and minerals into the landscape as a means of influencing their “subjects” that is most important.
To the naked eye, Reus may seem like a simple game but the complexity evolves as you play. Being that it is an unconventional title, the completion of Reus isn’t defined by a beginning and end or constrained to one particular game session (called an Era). The goal of the game is spread across a system of achievements that sees you unlocking new content (animals, plants, etc) by meeting certain criteria throughout the timed Eras. Achievements are accomplished by assisting the humans with completing developments (building projects that require certain resources), by pushing a society to focus on a certain trade (such as one that focuses on war or science), or by helping create successful societies in general. This means that every era you play is building upon the one you played previously as well as enhancing the ones you’ll play in the future. It’s an interesting concept as it ties the achievements we blindly seek into the actual game.
A Balanced God
The main theme of the Reus is balance. Every choice you make will impact the success or failure of your world. The first part of this balance is realized in the synergy system, which equates to the placement of certain resources impacting the resources nearby. Certain plants, animals and minerals gain bonuses when placed in the vicinity of others, which becomes important later on as land space becomes a hotter commodity and the resources needed to create developments becomes greater. Completing developments results in ambassadors joining your cause (they unlock new powers when attached to your giants) so it’s important to make sure that you’re focusing on the synergy system and not wasting space. This results in a puzzle of sorts, where placing new plants, animals or minerals will take more thought than merely picking the item that interests you the most.
The second half of this balancing comes into play with the greed system. Humans are naturally born to be gigantic jerks, so too much success will lead to them becoming greedy and eventually attacking other villages. Not a problem if you’re the war mongering type, but should you be trying to foster a peaceful planet you might actually have to step in a more direct capacity. Fortunately, you’re a giant and can easily squash conflict, though sometimes the conflict can be aimed at you. All of the giants are armed with some sort of attack, though I found myself turning to the stone giant when things got out of hand. He just seemed more suited for the job.
All of this balancing can equate to a sometimes chaotic juggling act should you be the type that strives for perfection. Accepting the fact that trial and error will play a big role in your progression is the best thing you can do. You also really need to plan ahead as the giants walk incredibly slow (most likely due to their size and the possibility of putting fissures into the earth with every step). That being said, you can also take your time and just poke around in the world too as the art and music is very pleasing to the part of your brain that enjoys nachos, cool breezes and teddy bears.
For me, it is not the sort of title that is going to replace the other strategy/sims games in my library as its hooks were not quite deep enough to keep me playing endlessly. That being said, I can definitely see Reus it being the sort of game I turn to when I want to go to my “happy place.” As I mentioned above, Reus is just an all around charming experience and I liked the indirect method of controlling the action because it meant I could turn my brain off for a bit and just watch events unfold. Even though it’s a new title that I just thought up, I can definitely see Reus in the running for “Chill Game of The Year” during the Grimmy’s.
Reflex Review – Like a memorable meal, some games make a big enough impression that you’ve got to tell other people about them before they’re fully digested.