Saturday, May 25, 2013

Review: Reus

Today in Gaming: I have been playing a new 2D god simulation title called Reus. This game features you in the role as a god holding dominion over four giants who serve your every whim. This game was developed by a brand-new independent house called Abbey Games and is available on Steam, GOG, and a few other Web sites.


You are God to a teeny tiny planet. Your job is to bring forth life on this barren rock via the command of four giants -- mountain, forest, ocean, and swamp. Each can spring forth it's namesake biome and then add various resources and magical "aspects" to alter the landscape and increase the productivity of the game's land tiles.

The more productive the land is, the greater the chance that it will sprout humans. You then must improve the human's lives by upgrading all of the things around them -- even as their towns consume more and more land. At any time, however, each of the giants has a plague that can do away with the humans if they get too greedy or disrespectful.

Game Modes

There is a sandbox mode where you can play for as long as you like. There's also the "beginning" -- i.e. tutorial. Finally, there's "era" mode which is where you unlock all of the achievements and advanced resources.

When you start an "era" game, you actually have to tell it how long you would like to play for: 30 minutes, one hour, or two hours. Of course, you can save the game if you need to leave.

As a result, however, the purpose of this game -- in a nutshell -- is how many achievements can I unlock before the timer runs out.

Each achievement you unlock provides you with bigger, better options for upgrading your planet.


The graphics menu for the game features two aspect ratio boxes -- one to pick your resolution and one to pick the actual aspect -- which is superfluous.

You also have a menu option for your unlocks. These are sub-categorized into developments, sources, and projects. This menu helps you keep track of what you have and have not accomplished.

Your HUD consists of the icons for the giants -- which are useful for accessing the giant's information even when he is off screen (or hidden behind the other giants) as well as data readouts directly under each of the land tiles. As you upgrade the tiles, the data readouts change to indicate how much technology, money, and food are being generated by each tile as well as by each civilization.

However, tiles under a very tall mountain can become obscured by other HUD elements and as a rule are difficult to read (at least at 1280x720).


This game is all about achievements -- what you have and have not unlocked. Periodically, your humans will launch massive projects that require you to improve their area to a certain level. If you succeed, it will unlock one additional magical power.

The resources you plop down are connected to each other through a system of symbiosis. So, if you put a special animal next to a complimentary plant, both will thrive and add bonuses to your humans.

In terms of terraforming, you can make mountains, oceans, forests, swamps, etc. But, it's not a precision sort of thing. You can't put an island in the middle of the ocean. So, it's very basic. The planet isn't very large, so terraforming is only important when the round first starts.

Because I play DOTA 2, when I select a power and then decide not to use it, I instinctively hit the escape key. Every time I do, it brings up the game menu. It's a huge pain.

My third game ended about 15 minutes in after one of my giants... died. I had no idea that giants could die -- as none of them have a life bar -- or that humans were capabile of killing supernatural creatures powerful enough to terraform the planet they are living on.

That is ridiculous. Humans should be focused on surviving, not hacking my tree golem to death with their tiny, tiny axes.


The game has a very animated feel to it. There are no real story aspects to it other than the setup they provide you with during the tutorial. That's because this is a simulation and I applaud them for not caving to the pressure of explaining where the giants came from or where the planet came from like other games from the genre. Good for Abbey.

Visually, the game is very nice. It's 2D and the giants are well designed. The resources are tiny, so they don't really have a lot of graphics behind them, but that's also a good thing.

Zero complaints on the look of the game.


  • Each biome offers unique resources and upgrades -- even when using the same aspects. I was always very excited to see what each new critter and weed would become.
  • Ambassadors are a really cool game mechanic. You did a good job and earned an achievement, go snatch up this symbolic human to unlock a new magical power. That was well done.
  • Symbiosis is the idea that in nature, everything effects everything else. If to blueberry plants live next to each other, they will suffer; change one of them to a strawberry plant, and they both thrive. I enjoyed that being introduced as a game mechanic.
  • I love that the humans go to war with each other. At it's heart, this game is a nature simulator and in nature, survival of the fittest reigns supreme. I wish I wasn't so busy all the time so I could watch the results, but it's nice to know that it's there.


  • While there is a sandbox mode, the primary "era" levels are all timed. To begin, you can only play for a half-an-hour. That is too short a time for beginners. We need time to get our bearings and unlock some of the amazing things you have in store for us. I had to restart far too often. Ironically, the game would be better if your first "eras" were 60 minutes and then you could try 30 minutes if you wanted a challenge. Abbey did it in reverse.
  • This is a game designed for achievement hunters -- eliminating the causal nature that a title like this should have. I consider that a fault. There's no time to enjoy the atmosphere or study the symbiosis -- only accomplish these fifty things as fast as you can.
  • The building projects are absurdly humongous. They built a school that was eight stories tall and consumed 1/640th of a whole planet (a whole tile). That was absurd and it places serious constraints on how fast you can unlock things.
  • The giants crawl along like they're crippled old men. Surely, supernatural beings can do better.
  • The number of combos of aspect and resource to make better stuff is way too small. Way too limited. Also, some blindingly obvious things are missing. For instance: herbs plus ocean should equal seaweed. In fact, you can do practically nothing with the oceans, which is a huge missed opportunity.
  • To this very second, I have no idea what my "level" is. I can see that I'm a "one star" by looking in the bottom right-hand corner of the "unlocks" menu, but it has no meaning.
  • It turns out, your giants can be killed -- and the game gives you zero warning whatsoever even when their demise is imminent.

Final Thoughts

If you play this game for longer than two hours, it starts to weigh on you. It is very repetitive.

I can never focus on the beauty of this game because I'm always trying to beat the clock. I can never focus on the symbiosis of the resources because I'm spending all my time unlocking the same things I unlocked a half-hour ago. I can never experiment with the plants and the humans because I have to spend a half an hour clicking on everything over and over again.

Let me play with the aspects to see what I can create. Let me choose which aspects I want to unlock with an ambassador -- don't just give me the crappy one that only applies to minerals. Organize everything into one menu where I can choose the one I need without having to flip through the HUDs of all four giants.

Ironically, the game that I really want to play is Reus 2, because the core idea has great potential. But as it stands, sadly, Reus is not a game that I find interesting beyond it's concept. It's a failure of interface design and too many restrictions. For me, this one is a pass.

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