Generally, when it comes to the genre known as, “God Games,” the pinnacle, and shining example, is Black and White. Reus claims to draws its inspiration from this underrated king, as well as other fantastic titles such as Populous, Civilization, and even The Binding of Isaac. With such a strong manifestation to base a game off of, can Reus shed new light on a genre with seemingly endless possibilities?
In Reus you are the decider, provider, and taker of life. On your newly awakened planet, everything is connected, and balance is key if you wish to make your planet prosper. The oceans provide life to the forest and swamps. Mountains pave way for barren deserts. And within these biomes, society can form – wandering nomads will settle into your newly terraformed lands and thus Happy Town is created.
Your primary means of taking action in Reus is in the form of four mighty giants: ocean, mountain, swamp, and forest. These gentle beings offer you a unique array of powers called aspects. Aspects can range from creating simple tiles of blue berries – or cute stoats – to turning your stoats into beavers or foxes. Additionally, Reus tosses in an interesting twist when using aspects. One would expect that when using your forest giant, you’d primarily have aspects that only influence your forest biome. That is not the case, however, and you’ll find yourself having to constantly move your giants around in order to increase your natural resources. This is not a bad thing, as it forces you to utilize all of the giants, rather than limiting yourself to just one type. That’s not to say I still didn’t have a favorite, though.
Suddenly, a wild objective appears! The little folks of Happy Town would like to build a school, and schools require a boatload of materials. It takes some work, but by completing these objectives, the borders of Happy Town can expand. Gathering all the necessary materials is achieved by mastering an in-game mechanic known as Symbiosis. By placing specific tiles adjacent to each other, you gain various boosts. This can be as simple as placing a blueberry tile next to a strawberry tile, but it becomes much more complicated nearing the end of the game. Symbiosis is meant to provide a puzzle-esque experience to your game play; the unfortunate penalty is that every game you start begins to have the same, “copy and paste,” pattern with no variables. And then we stare at the screen, as we wait for resources to be gathered.
After a slow build up, we finally reach the climax of Reus. When the little folks of Happy Town, that you loved and cared for, decide that you aren’t providing them enough, they see that the neighboring village of Poop Town has become quite prosperous. They ready spears, bows, and war vessels, and begin a war march towards the unsuspecting villagers of Poop Town. Being the upstanding God that you, are you cannot simply just watch…So what are you to do? Use your righteous powers to smite their unruly asses of course! You destroy the little folk of Happy Town and the process repeats until you finish your run. Unless of course you’re having a really good time killing innocents, then you can continue in free play.
Overall, the look, sound effects, and music in Reus provide a very charismatic experience, it was really quite charming. The moment you dig your first ocean, or raise your first mountain, you become engaged in the quirky sound effects and nicely done, “pop-up book,” animations. Regrettably, the charm of the game was only able to keep my attention for so long, after I saw everything. Also, time tends to move at a snail’s pace when you start a new era, and the slow pace even moves into mid-game after your 3rd playthrough. And that’s probably the biggest problem in Reus I encountered – if you are quick and efficient with how you build your tribes, you’ll literally spend 75% of your time waiting for things to happen. Waiting for giants to get from point A to point B. Waiting for villagers to collect resources. Waiting. Reus is a great game for the short term player, something to pick up a play for 15-20 minutes at a time. However, play this for any longer, and you are asking to turn this game into a chore.