Reus Review: A Giant Among God Games
Most god games focus on the villagers and armies more than the environment. Sure, you can raise or lower land and cast spells to make trees, but the main goal in games like Populous and Black and White is to get your army big enough to roll over the enemy.
Reus encourages you to do the exact opposite, and as a result ends up being the first good god game in a really long time.
Platforms: PC (Reviewed)
Developer: Abbey Games
Publisher: Abbey Games
Released: May 16, 2013
Reus’ concept is simple. You play a barren planet – visualized in 2-D – that has control over four giants: Water, Rock, Forest, and Swamp. You must use the powers of your giants to spread life across your surface, encouraging the development of human civilization. However, if you allow the people under your protection to become too bloated or greedy, you’ll have to visit disasters to teach them to not misbehave. Your end goal is to reach certain development milestones within a limited period of time in order to unlock new resource types and game modes.
The start of your average game of Reus begins with either raising a mountain (and thereby creating a desert) or digging an ocean (and thereby watering land that can be turned into a swamp or forest). Once you have settled on a climate type, you must create resources that fit the climate. Forest areas prefer resources that produce food, desert areas prefer ones that create wealth, and swamp areas prefer more technology. Once you have laid down any resource type (even one not normally suited for that climate), a nomad will settle and create a village.
Villages are your endgame, as your overall goal is to make each village grow as large as possible. In order to do so, you must use your giants to place down resources for the village to use. These resources are grouped into three types: Plants, which supply food and technology; Animals, which give food and wealth; and Minerals, which provide wealth and technology. Whenever a giant places a type of resource on a tile, it changes depending on the land type. For example, using Exotic Animals on desert terrain will create a tortoise nest, while doing so on forest terrain will create a fox nest.
On top of this, you are expected to regularly upgrade the resources you place with “aspects” and “synergies”. Aspects are given out by specific giants (Forest Giant always gives Leaf Aspect, for example), and they do two things. First, they give a permanent buff to the resource’s output, such as giving it more food or tech. Second, they allow you to “upgrade” the resource to a new type in that resource’s “tree.” For example, a blueberry bush upgraded with Leaf Aspect can be turned into a strawberry bush – which gives more food when next to certain plants – while upgrading it with Fruit Aspect gives you access to the apple tree – which gives more food when next to animals. These changes depending on the environment are known as synergies. Synergies are type-specific (as in, blueberries and strawberries have different synergies) and activate when certain conditions are met, such as having minerals nearby or having a certain amount of food in use.
Resource management is a very theoretically complex system, but thankfully it is presented in a way that keeps it simple. Upgrading or choosing resources are processes executed through your giants, and there are plenty of well-written tooltips and tutorials to help you understand how they work. Getting a resource chain set up and functioning smoothly is one of the game’s more satisfying aspects, as it rewards careful planning of synergies and upgrades. The potential complexity of your resource choices is also heavily constrained, as villages generally prefer one specific resource (food, wealth, or tech), which helps keep things from becoming too complex to follow. Of course, you can go off the beaten path if you like – for example, putting down lots of food items in the desert – but it’s not especially advised if you want to progress quickly.