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Reus

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By Mokman31-05-2013
Bis18marck70 (editor)
MrJenssen (editor)
Reus

The Defence

Developer:
Abbey Games
Publisher:
Abbey Games
Genre:
Strategy, Indie
Release Date:
16-05-2013

The Prosecution

CPU:
Intel Core 2 Duo @ 2.2 GHz
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4600+
VGA:
Nvidia GeForce 8800
AMD Radeon HD 3870
RAM:
2 GB
HDD:
500 MB
DirectX:
9.0c

The Case

 

God games have recently gone into decline, alongside a few other strongly-missed niche genres, but public interest and desire for yet another one still burns strong. Few gamers have forgotten the joys of playing Populous, or of ruling your civilization in the Black and White games - and in recent times, this has resulted in a few god-games being made - one of which is Reus.

The Trial

 

Three cities reigned over the world, three burgeoning civilizations that straddled the globe, growing larger and larger with every minute. Vastly different, each city-state, took influence from the environment surrounding it, from the mineral-heavy desert city, to the peace-loving farmers of forest city, to the enigmatic mad scientists plaguing swamp city.

Let’s crack this egg.

Let’s crack this egg.

They had come so far, but not without help. For over all three cities, serving with pride and authority, stood the four giants, Gods in their own right - who had forged the world and its landscape with their own hands. They had watched over the cities thus far, helping where they saw fit, introducing what the humans could not create with their own hands, giving them the means not only to survive, but to thrive.

But it was not enough. Hubris infected the people, easy lives giving way to the encroaching greed that marred the hearts of men. A new desert city popped up on the other side of the mountain - the work of a few nomads looking for a fresh start, away from established civilization. Not too far away, the lords of the desert city were in uproar for this was unprecedented. They could barely stand their two neighbours as it was, and now they had to compete with these upstarts? They prepared for war. Soon, an army marched its way across the lands, aimed straight at the heart of the new city. The Giants were displeased, yet the desert people had long since discarded their advice, seeking from them more than their due. Nothing would stop them. Nothing, except...

...except this. With a heavy heart, the rock Giant sidled over to the thriving desert city. Then, with a look of almost apologetic sadness, the rock Giant raised one giant fist, and sent it crashing down. Towers crumbled, people died. Another first, the killing blow. The city was no more.

The game ended shortly afterwards, hitting the one hour time limit. I got the "Peace" achievement I was aiming for, unlocking yet another item on the tech-tree, but it left me a bitter taste in my mouth. True, they had defied their gods at the very end - but they were still my children, bred from the lands by my hands. I couldn't help but feel a tiny twinge of guilt.

I’m so lonely, lo-lo-lo-lo-loooonely...

I’m so lonely, lo-lo-lo-lo-loooonely...

This is why I love God-games in a nutshell. The heady rush of power tempered with the tightening sense of responsibility, the feeling of pride as you watch your creations punctuated by difficult choices as to how you want to develop the land and the creatures that inhabit it. They are great. For those who don't know, god-games are a niche genre of video-games, commonly found within real-time strategy or occasionally turn-based strategy. It works around the basis of the player being an omnipotent or at least semi-omnipotent deity/being that develops the land and in most cases assists a civilization in one way or another in return for their worship. Thus, the player utilizes his god-like powers in crafting the civilization, for good or for evil, ruling through fear or through love.

Reus however, breaks from the common mold of these god-games, instead focusing more so on a score-based system, in some ways reducing the simulation aspect of the game in exchange for “gamifying” it. This isn't a god-game where you get to choose how your civilization develops morally, except indirectly, but instead is a game where you find yourself frantically working against the time limit to expand and thrive with your civilizations. It's frantic, with decisions tugging at your consciousness every few seconds, yet not overwhelmingly so. The inclusion of the pause button still retains the game’s strategic quality.

The gameplay itself is simple. You have four giants, Gods who act as the avatar of your will, each with their own specialties and powers. You have the forest giant, the rock giant, the water giant and the swamp giant - each a distinctly different being both visually and in gameplay terms. For example, the forest giant can only create plants and forests, yet has powers to upgrade animals and even minerals, whereas the water giant can only create domestic animals, but has powers to upgrade plants and so on. Each giant can create a certain form of terrain, the swamp giant creating swamplands etc - and each creative power works differently on the relative terrain. For example, using the water giant's 'create domestic animals' power in the ocean would result in mackerel, while using it in forests results in rabbits, and using it in the desert results in dingoes - and each type of animal has different statistics.

Yes, this game has statistics. In fact, it's a game about statistics, built for all you min-maxing lovers out there. As your city settles down near the resources you have created, they find themselves in need of food, technology and wealth - all of which may be provided by the various plants, minerals and animals that you spawn. Each patch on the circular 2D globe can spawn a certain type of flora/fauna/mineral and the city itself has an area of influence dependent on the size of the city. Thus, there is limited space for you to place resources. Commonly you find yourself unable to provide enough through simply creating a certain type of plant or animal. This is where ‘Aspects’ and ‘Symbiosis’ come in.

Just don’t press the red button!

Just don’t press the red button!

Aspects are powers that your Giants have to upgrade animals/plants/minerals. For example, the Toxic Aspect makes the animal upgraded with it produce more tech, while a Fruit Aspect causes the plant in question to create more food. Furthermore, upgrading patches with certain Aspects allows them to evolve, creating a whole new animal/plant/mineral type. Upgrading rabbits with the herd aspect may eventually evolve them to deer, which have their own statistics and Symbioses.

What is Symbiosis? Only one of the most devious and interesting mechanics I've seen in a game for quite some time. Certain resources gel well with other resources, for example apple trees produce a total of 4 food, but when placed next to any animal nest, they produce an additional 10 food, for a whopping total of 14. Thus, your environments are constantly evolving as you craft them by first maximizing the Symbiosis to squeeze the maximum amount of resources you can out of the available space, then upgrading them with Aspects, from which then you have a whole new set of Symbioses and a lot of shuffling to do.

Case Review

  • Amazing Depth: Take a huge amount of variables, all of which have a symbiosis with at least a few other variables, all of which can be upgraded with different aspects, some of which can evolve these variables into whole new variables. That’s Reus.
  • It’s All In The Details: An immense amount of details have been added into the game, which prolongs its longevity and also the pleasure of playing it.
  • Best Value For Money: Name another $10 game that’s brought you so much entertainment in the past year. I can’t.
  • Achievement Hunting: This one’s tricky, as the idea of basing games around achievement hunting is one that is quite controversial. However, Reus manages to do so in a way that is quite sensible.
  • You Can’t Have Everything: The graphics and animations are what you’d expect from a low-funded indie game such as this, sparse and not as amazing as the rest of the game.
4.5
Score: 4.5/5
Reus simply blows you away with its amazing depth and gameplay mechanics, as well as the huge quantity of, well...game, it can provide.

Appeal

If you want to be Gaia, step right up! In Reus, you are the planet that wakes up after a nap to see that humanity has scorched itself from your surface, probably via nuclear war. Time to start anew! This aspect of the game might be disheartening when you think about it - all those villages and civilizations you’ll built will eventually perish by their own hand when you’re not looking - nevertheless, guiding them through the process is still fun .

After all, you get to order around the cutest elemental giants to establish biomes, resources and resource combo chains. This might sometimes turn real hectic when there are competing great projects that require you to rapidly increase resource production and you just don’t have the time to do them all. But it the end, it’s a colourful and fun game. And the giants, especially the rock giant, are awesome.

 

4.5
Score: 4.5/5

Appeal

God games were almost an extinct genre not so long ago, but it seems the sheer will (as well as a lot of bitching) of gamers is bringing this almost dead genre back to life. One of the games to join the ranks of re-emerging God-games is - Reus. Reus is a very atypical game for this genre, as the 2D “sidescroller” camera perspective imposes a lot of gameplay constraints. Most notable of which is the limit of usable ground to build and act on.

But all these limits can be seen as a challenge, and even though someone who just wants to have unobliged fun might get frustrated, a person who wants a deep strategical gameplay experience will have a field day. And depth isn’t only in the usable tiles, it’s everywhere - from resources and how they interact, to civilizations and how they evolve. You can mix and match up resources to get a symbiosis and achieve better harvests. You have to watch over civilizations, help them evolve and prosper, and - when they become greedy, aggressive and defiant - destroy them. Combine all this with an extremely adorable art style and appropriately fitting sounds, and you have yourself a game that sucks you in, tortures you with limitations but also satisfies you with every lasting minute of gameplay.

4
Score: 4/5

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Comments (4)
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Posts: 233

This could give me that old B&W vibe.

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Posts: 123

Me thinks I need to play this game.

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Posts: 351

I think I am going to get this game after reading the review :D

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Posts: 2712

Still getting that Shdow of the Colossus feeling