Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Reus Review (XONE)

Reus takes the world building God sim genre and puts it on a simple 2D plane.  Don’t think the smaller scale means it is shallow, however, as it is actually incredibly deep and complex and gives you a multitude of tools with which to build your world.  There is a fairly steep learning curve that comes along with all of that depth, of course, but once you wrap your head around everything Reus is pretty fantastic all around.  See all of the details here in our full review.

Game Details

  • Publisher: SOEDESCO Publishing
  • Developer: Abbey Games
  • ESRB Rating: “E10” for Everyone 10+
  • Genre: Strategy
  • Pros:  Unique gameplay; nice presentation; deep and strategic;
  • Cons: Steep learning curve; not a lot of room for creativity; price
  • MSRP: $25

Reus sees you taking on the role of a planet that can make use of four giants to terraform the land and make it livable for humans.  The planet is a barren wasteland when you first start, but by using the ocean giant to make water, forest giant to create forests, swamp god to make swamps, and stone giant to make mountains and deserts, you can cover the surface of the planet with different ecosystems that can all support life.  Each giant also has different individual abilities such as making plants or animals, creating mineral resources, transmuting plants and animals into new ones, and so on.  When you pair certain plant types next to specific animal or mineral types you create symbiosis, which makes them more productive.

The point of the game is to provide your human settlers with food, technology (derived from plants, oddly enough), and mineral wealth so they can build their civilization.  The villagers will also start projects for things like schools or shrines, among other things, that require specific resources to complete so you have to provide them enough “stuff” to get things done.  If the humans acquire too much wealth too fast, however, they will become greedy and start doing bad things like fighting wars with neighboring villages, at which point you can instruct one of the giants to cause a disaster to knock them down a peg or two.  You don’t actually have any direct control over the humans and instead just sort of guide them along and provide what they need to be prosperous.

The real kicker is that all of this is done on a 2D sidescrolling planet with only limited space for everything.  Each resource like food or animals or minerals takes up one slot on the planet’s surface, so making new stuff for symbiosis or to meet other requirements usually means tearing other things down.  Mind you, you don’t ever make buildings or anything like that.  You’re just creating plants and animals and stuff that the humans then use to build their own civilizations, but it is really fascinating to watch how everything comes together. 

Because there is only limited space, though, there is a definite order to doing things the right way, which sort of means you don’t have a ton of freedom to mould a civilization the way you want.  You’re sort of just along for the ride here much more so than in most “god” games.  There is also virtually no incentive to be an evil and vengeful god (you can, it just isn’t worth it), which also somewhat limits how creative you can get with things.  It is still absolutely fun and very satisfying, but in different ways than we’ve come to expect in the genre.

It also has to be said that the learning curve for figuring out how to do everything and how it all works together is quite steep.  Because it is a 2D game, the controls are actually quite simple, but there is so much to remember and so many layers of depth to everything that can be hard to keep track of what to do.  The game takes you through the basics in a handful of tutorial levels, but then sets you loose on your own and it takes a few games to really get the hang of it.

One thing the game does, probably wisely, is that it doesn’t just let you do everything all at once.  Instead you have to unlock new abilities for the giants by playing through the game.  At first you can only play 30-minute eras, but eventually you unlock longer and longer games that give you more toys to play with.  It’s a smart system that eases you into more advanced tools and techniques, though the learning curve is still pretty steep.

The presentation in Reus is quite nice all around and the scale of everything is pretty impressive.  You can zoom all the way out to see your whole planet at once but also zoom in super tight on a village and see the little people going about their lives.  The art style is sort of cartoony and not realistic, but it is undeniably charming and looks great.  The giants in particular have awesome designs.  Having the game take place on a 2D plane instead of an open 3D planet gives the game a totally unique look and feel, which we also really like.

Once you get into it, Reus can be a lot of fun if you have the patience to learn how to do everything properly.  It plays surprisingly differently from other strategy games, thanks largely to the 2D perspective and limited space, but also just the way the symbiosis system works and how seemingly simple things work together to create new stuff is really, really cool.  It is a totally unique experience that you won’t find in any other game on Xbox One, which also makes it worth a look.  The $25 price tag is probably a bit much, particularly for a game that takes a fair bit of effort to get into, but if you like strategy games and god sims you’ll find a lot to like with Reus.  
Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.