Developer: Abbey Games
Publisher: Abbey Games
Platform: PS4[Reviewed], Xbox One, PC
Release Date: October 11 2016 [PS4, Xbox One]
Reus, the dutch word for giant, is a Strategic God Game, Independently developed and published by Abbey Games. Originally a Steam release in May 2013, it has now been ported to the PS4 and Xbox One, so now almost everyone can pretend to be God, Zeus, Shiva, Buddha or even Gabe Newell from the comfort of their own sofa. Though that may be a little misleading, because as much as I would like a God Game where you had the power to make Half Life 3 a reality or even port Red Dead Redemption to Steam, this game does not let you do such things. It does, however, allow you to control the ecosystem of a planet by commanding four elemental giants to shape and fertilize the land so that life may prosper and can then, ultimately, gain a really sweet high score!
The game will start you off with a tutorial, which is very much needed because there are some pretty deep mechanics in play here. All of it is displayed through text but you are given certain tasks to accomplish to prove that you have learned the lesson before you move on. It does the job but I would have preferred a slower paced tutorial as it seems to throw a lot of information at you in a very short amount of time. This might be okay if it showed you rather than told you everything. Never the less I took whatever rules that stuck, moved on to the real game and didn’t find it all that difficult to figure out.
You begin by choosing a game length, starting at a 30-minute game, 60 or 120-minute game, known as Eras. Your planet is then born and it’s up to you and your giants to shape the landscape and allow life to flourish. Each giant has a particular role to play in molding the planet to your liking. The rock giant can make mountains that will spawn desert biomes on either side. The crab giant can create oceans which give the adjacent land moisture so that the tree giant can create a forest, or allow the swamp giant to well, I’m sure you can guess. Controlling these giants is as simple as scrolling around the planet with your cursor and pressing X in the desired location. Each giant has their own hotbar-like selection of skills at the bottom of the screen wich allow you to gain certain benefits from the land. It’s a simple premise and it works really well, it reminded me of Peter Molyneux’s brilliant God Game ‘Black & White’ whereas God you would have these giant pets that each had their own sets of pros and cons. In fact, this title does bring me back to that game in many different ways and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a huge influence on the developers. Though if I had one complaint about the giants it would be they do move extremely slowly. I know they are giants and that kind of mass would not be able to move with speed but a fast forward button would have fixed this issue. They did add a pause button that allows you to order your giants, but I never found much use for it.
After some time making recourses appear on the land, human life will start to show up and this is where things get more interesting. Your people will start projects within the boundaries of their village or town and its up to you to give them the time and resources needed to accomplish them. This is crucially important for a decent round because if you fail then you have essentially wasted that opportunity to gain the benefits of that project and must wait for them to start up another one. This means you must take advantage of the bonuses provided with each resource you lay down. For example, you might grow some blueberries with the tree giant, but if you press triangle on that piece of land it might tell you that you will gain +5 food from it if it’s next to wildlife. This means you must be constantly be analyzing and crafting the land to meet the needs of your humans and get as many bonuses along the way. Once your humans complete a project you will be rewarded with an ambassador. These ambassadors can be put on top of your giants and unlock new abilities for them. Those abilities are then used to allow future projects to succeed with right resources. It a great gameplay loop and can be challenging as well as relaxing at the same time. The mixture of all the giant’s abilities work in such a way that they are all hugely benefiting from one another, not one giant is useless and each is needed and well thought out. It really adds to the optimistic feeling of harmony and co-operation that this game exudes in spades.
Graphically there isn’t much to say, if you have seen any screenshots then you already know exactly what to expect. It’s 2D art and though the planet itself can look a little dull and lack detail, it does have a certain charm to it and the giants look great. It is simple, but it is also clear what biome is what and what resource is on the land, after all, that is what matters for this game. It’s nice to see the little people workling on their project or mining for gold as it all add’s to making you feel like the almighty himself. In the sound department, it’s also quite adequate. The music is nice though I do wish there was a larger selection of tunes, and subtle nuances such as the sound of the village cheering when they complete a project add flavor and satisfaction. It really makes for a relaxing ambiance, that warms the soul. Overall, decent Music, and sound.
If you have ever played Black & White, back in the day and want something to scratch the God Game itch that Molyneux gave you in the 2000’s then I would highly recommend this title. If you are new to the genre and have done your fair amount of resource management in strategy titles before then this may be fun, if you’re looking for a more relaxed experience. If you have played the game on Steam and are looking for improvements to the console releases, I would say hold off on it, because even though it feels nice to control on the Dualshock 4, I don’t think it gains any real benefits and is essentially the same game. Overall, it’s a great game and is worth booting up again and again because there are many challenges for you to complete and unlock. It kind of like playing a board game over and over but the challenges give you new directions to experiment with and adds to the longevity. This will most likely be what I play when I have a half hour to kill or an early Sunday morning session with a cup of tea as I slowly awaken much like the planet. When my movements are slow and joints are aching much like the giants in Reus.