When I came upon Reus while scrounging the internet, I was charmed. The trailer I saw focused on the game’s protagonists: giants done in gorgeous, 2D, hand drawn art and bright colors. As time moved on and more was revealed about the beautiful game, I got eagerly excited about its mechanical concepts: a god game where the gods are present in the game world. Five months from that first discovery, and I’ve now had a chance to play the preview version of the game. Let me share some thoughts from my first few hours with the build.
The first striking element of the game is its art. The giants and the world animate just as gorgeously as they appear in screen shots. Only one project in, and already Abbey Games‘ art department is matching up to other game studios known for their visual work, like Klei Entertainment with Mark of the Ninja and Shank, or Way Forward with A Boy and His Blob. While the enjoyment I got of feeling like I was playing a wonderful cartoon sloped down from when I first booted up the game, it would rise every now and again when I would let actions resolve and watch the world and the giants vividly exist.
Mechanically, Reus is a god game. Players take the role of a planet who births and directs four giants, each one representing a single element of water, rock, forest, and swamp. Unsurprisingly, each also has abilities that reflect what element they represent. The crab-like water giant can create lakes and oceans. The rock giant creates mountains and deserts. The forest giant is limited to just placing down trees, and the swamp giant is likewise limited to placing bogs.
A game of Reus always starts out the same. The camera opens up on a gray, barren world with the four giants waking up which are controlled individually by either clicking on them or using number shortcuts. Players then have choose what type of land they want to terraform. The earth consists of invisible squares that split the land into sections, much like a board game. Players can pick a spot and either create a mountain with the rock giant from which desert spans from, or create an ocean with the water giant. While villagers can’t begin settlements on mountains or water, creating a water dip makes the surrounding land fertile. It’s only on this fertile land that the forest and swamp giants can create their own spots of growth. Terraforming is flexible, and it’s easy to create a world with limited biomes.
Each biome lends itself better to various resources used by villagers. Swamps are favorable to science, forests to food, and deserts to wealth. Aside from their terraforming abilities, each giant also has the ability to create a resource of some kind. The rock giant makes mines, the water giant makes food animals, the forest giant creates food plants, and the swamp giant creates medicinal herbs and exotic animals. The giants use their resource abilities on any land type, but each one creates different types. For instance, if the sea monster creates animals on forest land, it’ll be a chicken, but that same ability will spawn clown fish in the ocean. Each resource also has its own unique traits that work in tandem with its surrounding. Elderberrys give much more resources if next to specific other plants. Some animals give a greater output if they’re next to a mine or if a plant is within a villages borders. Each resource can also be upgraded, but we’ll get to that a bit later. The variety of resources is good, and finding out what giant creates what where is enjoyable. I do take issue with the fact that the information of what giant grows what where, and what resources an advanced plant will make isn’t available to the player. More than once, I ended up losing time because I was shifting around resources trying to figure out what giant could make what. It’s doubly disappointing because otherwise the UI is informative in exactly the way it should be- it’s just a shame that it’s only informative with what’s already on the screen.
Once a resource is laid, a nomad appears and settles a village. Nomads appear every time certain a certain prosperity number (the game’s score, essentially) is hit, with each successive nomad requiring a higher score. Villages have borders that expand as its prosperity grows, and each resource within its bound is taken into account. Whereas many city sim games have players trying to meet minimum demands to keep places sustained, Reus takes an interesting turn by instead having villages maintain themselves, but demand of the player with projects. Projects pop up every so often, and they’ll have goals they need to meet to be completed. Schoolhouses require the village to have a certain amount of science, bazaars a certain amount of wealth and so on. Each will also provide resources in their own way, with a granary giving more food for every plant in a village’s borders, for instance.
While Reus is a god game, the scale of its mechanics feel smaller than that. As I tended to each individual piece of land on the planet, I felt more like a powerful, benign farmer than a divine deity. To be fair though, after only five hours with the game, there’s definitely more opportunity for the game to dive deeper into the details and grow outward as I need to handle larger villages and more rowdy humans. But even with the few complaints I have of the preview build, I can’t emphasize how much fun I had. The five hours I spent with the game melted away quickly, as I micro-managed the little towns and plots of land, trying the find the best synergies and create optimal cities. When the game releases, I see myself losing hours to it.
Reus comes to PCs May 17th. Stay tuned to RipTen for a full review of it then.