When it comes to God games I can’t help but to think of classics like ‘Populous’, ‘Spore’, and my personal favourite ‘Black and White’ – what a great game, right!? I’ve always been a fan of them so had been looking forward to trying out Reus, a title that takes a completely different approach to the genre by giving you control of four giants of the world; the Water Giant, the Earth Giant, the Mountain Giant and the Swamp Giant (which I have to admit looks like a very ill Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle). Each Giant allows you to control nature by crafting the world and interacting with its eco system in different ways. What you don’t have control of however is those pesky beings known as mankind!
Reus offers three game modes, though one of those is a simple tutorial that introduces you to the game mechanics. The other two are the ‘Era mode’ that acts as the game’s main campaign, and ‘Free play’ which allows you to play through the game without the limitations that the campaign imposes on the player.
It’s certainly worth playing through the tutorial as it’ll teach you everything you need to know about what each Giant’s powers can do and the ‘Symbioses’ (the synergy of the game’s eco system) that’s created by placing certain animals next to certain plants. I wouldn’t recommend jumping straight into the game without tackling the tutorial first, especially if you’re hoping to be a good God…
Whilst ‘Era mode’ is the meat and bones of Reus’ single player offering, it doesn’t exactly have a story; instead it offers challenges to complete and achievements to unlock in order to give you a sense of progression. ‘Free play’ mode actually feels the same, but gives you all of the powers at the start and you are free to play how you want – you won’t have any challenges to complete though and nor will you unlock any of the game’s objective achievements.
The main aim of Reus is to create luxurious lands so that villages can thrive and mankind can survive. This is all done by utilising your Giant’s powers in each different way – the Water Giant makes oceans, the Swamp Giant creates swamp lands, the Forest Giant creates Woodlands and the Mountain Giant creates… you guessed it, mountains. The rest of the Giant’s powers offer varying effects and introduce different things to the land, though they’re all typically tied to the Giant’s specific power. You’ll have to be sure to take advantage of all of your powers if you’re going to create a world that humanity will be happy to live in.
Once you have used a Giant’s power to craft some land and planted a few trees and animals around the place, humans will soon arrive and build a settlement. These humans will then start working on ‘Projects’; small jobs that are made up of building essential things such as granaries, schools, and barracks, but will eventually progress into things such as observatories, light houses and even grand castles. These ‘Projects’ all have a time limit and a certain amount of prerequisites before they can be completed, essentially demanding that you’ve provided the humans with the means to progress. Taking advantage of ‘Symbioses’ effects made by the placement of specific objects will help you, whilst upgrading the Giants and their powers can make life easier too.
It’s funny then that the biggest threat to the Giants in Reus is the thing they strive to look after – the humans. You do everything to keep the humans happy, but they never want to make life easy for you. Grow a village too quickly and they become too greedy. Favour one village over another or create one village too close to another and humans will start a wa r- whatever happened to ‘make love, not war’?! Villagers can even begin to attack a Giant, something which can result in a ‘game over’ if the poor Giant meets his demise.
There are ways to stop an attack on a Giant though. You can always ‘try’ to stop the humans by using a Giant’s power such as an earthquake or a swamp ball attack, though my experience suggest this would never really stop them. I’d typically have to resort to completely destroying a village in order to stop a war; something that quickly became frustrating after working so hard to make my villages prosperous.
I enjoyed playing Reus and there is a real satisfaction to be had from crafting a world and seeing how the human population respond to it, though it does have a few problems. The background music consists of just the one track and it quickly becomes very tedious to hear it over and over again – especially since the game demands hours of play to really get into. I also found that ‘Era mode’ was a little lacking. It might’ve been more enjoyable if it offered a better sense of progress and didn’t give you all the Giants to begin with, instead drip-feeding content to you and therefore giving the feeling of ‘something new and something gained’ the further you progress. Last but not least as far as my frustrations went was the movement speed of the Giants – it’s painstakingly slow and the game is in desperate need of a fast forward button to speed things up a little.
It has its flaws, but Reus still manages to offer an enjoyable take on the God genre with its colourful 2D visuals and dependence on multiple Giants to do your work. It’s gives players a different way to play and whilst the campaign won’t hook you in with a sense of depth, it will keep you entertained. It’s certainly a better way to spend a few hours of your human life rather than warring with others in a neighbouring town…
Developer: Abbey Games
Release Date: 14/10/2016
Format(s): Xbox One (Reviewed), Playstation 4, PC, Mac, Linux