Reus Review – Simple Godlike Complexity
It’s always been enjoyable to toy with human morality in games. Prior to branching dialogues giving us consequences for our actions, our dominion over social events came from god games, which is something indie PC title Reus is returning to with glee. Theming a simple visual style along with seemingly easy building elements, this crafty little game does manage to hide a surprising amount of complexity and management in just a few spaces.
Players are led to a small circle, which represents the spherical world in which Reus exists. From here, elemental giants will start appearing one by one in the tutorial. These represent a theme for water; rocks for mountains and deserts, sludge for swamps and wood for forestland. Each of these behemoths is only comprised of a few colors and simplified shapes that fill the rest of the world made with soft yet colorful tones. There is a soothing calm breezing through this pea of a planet that is just waiting to be filled with life. Even in 2D, this game manages to offer a full-fledged world for those that build it from scratch. That alone is impressive.
Still, humble beginnings are in order. All life comes from the giants putting down a patch of land and then planting some resources to attract nomads to settle a village. For the rock lord, it’s a simple matter of erecting a desert, but others will need the sea creature’s help to form a sea for humidity. Once a village is set, it’s possible to either just provide it with a set of goods or build towards a nearby project, which lists what it requires to be constructed. Resources are divided between wealth, food and technology, though there are advanced tiers that calm people down should they get rowdy or an element that makes god-fearing folk out of citizens. This is important to keep the impudence of man in check. To give these devious people their needs, giants can put down plants, minerals or resources, each set up in different tiers as well. Depending on where these are placed, they’ll yield separate items. Still, that by itself is manageable.
The tricky part comes when combinations start coming up. For instance, a certain mineral will be more efficient if there are nearby plants fueling it. Other things like feral animals will be more active if they can feed off nearby prey. In the meantime, having predators around heightens the danger villagers must face. As time progresses and the map fills up, it will become harder to balance all these things. Moreover, with higher projects come more demands and that will prompt basic resources to be enhanced with aspects. Each giant has some of these filters that boost a certain production. We’re not even done.
Aspects don’t come free; they need to be earned. To get more skills, giants must complete buildings that serve up an ambassador for that type of land. They’ll be able to increase the amount of abilities god creatures perform. More advanced still, higher levels of resources require additional sprinkling of boosting spells to obtain. These can once more offset the fragile ecosystem the entire world is balancing on. We seem so far from our simple world already and there are still included features to discuss.
All this grandeur will eventually and irreparably get to man’s head. This manifests in two forms: Its most common jealousy will spawn wars between neighboring villages. What’s yours is mine and once a town is greedy enough, they’ll take to arms and try to ethnically cleanse the lands of infidels. It’s up to the giants to strike some sense in these warmongers or calm them down with additional soothing plants. At the pinnacle of man’s hubris, a village can turn against the gods themselves. In that case, awe-inspiring methods may bring these mortals back down, but it may come to an ultimate showdown as well. As ambassadors live on the shoulder of giants, it’s not hard to imagine that this won’t be an easy task for mankind to accomplish.
Even more layers of gameplay come from when projects require sacrifices or extreme balancing of villages. For instance, one building wants another village dead before it can get completed and serve its purpose. Usually, these structures are good for a heaping amount of additional resources, so even with the best intentions it’s sometimes hard to deny its benefits. No matter where the gameplay is headed, it will have serious consequences down the line on some extent. If a village is geared towards a full-fledged science city, it may still receive a high demand for gold in the next event. Given that these tasks are limited in time and play sessions in themselves can only last so long, ignoring an objective is also not always wise. It’s going to take a lot of love and care to mold and remold each village over and over, without upsetting the balance elsewhere. For both a short play time and limited options, it’s mind-boggling how large the simplicity inside actually is.
Ultimately, the goal is just to be as good as a giant can be. Ending a session with lots of accomplishments gets accredited to achievements, which in turn unlock more content where this can be done once more, in an exponential manner. Its only flaw is that the grind of doing these tasks over and over may become repetitive, though the presentation and ease in which this is performed will lessen that crush considerably. It’s not like there’s a huge universe to overlook; this microcosm stays condensed for the user’s benefit.
Toying with life is a charming delight with the giants of Reus. This builder simulation’s name is directly taken from the Dutch word for “giant,” which is normal, seeing as it’s made by a Dutch studio. “Zo gaat die goed,” as they say there. It means: “All is well.” It may look like a flat world, but there is an intricate design inside, which has the potential to stay entertaining for ages, given its short burst set up of sessions. There will be work to do though; Rome wasn’t built in a day, it seems.
|It's not necessary to be a fan of building simulations to enjoy Reus, but those that are can consider this indie game as mandated curriculum on how to pack a ton of content in just a few designs. It includes all tropes like "easy to learn, but tough to master," "pick up and play" and "accessible to all." Not even the slight repetition or limited scope should keep anyone away. It's just god-darn solid.|