By Tom Hooper aka Atomp
God games have been noticeably absent in recent years. As with most other smaller genres that saw themselves at the fringes of the gaming market, god games are taking advantage of the new and different environment that now exists in the gaming world. The deluge of awful AAA games and console ports and the maturing of digital distribution has led to the renaissance of the independent game, as has been seen countless times within these very reviews. This is a fantastic step as now almost any gaming avenue can be explored leading to cool and innovative projects, which leads nicely onto Reus. Developed by Abbey Games, Reus is a 2D god game where the player instructs four sub-deities into modifying the environment to help or hinder the growth and development of human societies that settle.
The gameplay follows the logic of using four sub-deities each assigned to a different biome type to control and manipulate the environment. Based upon rock, water, forest and swamp these are used to initially plant biomes onto the surface of the 2-dimensional surface of the circle that makes up your planet. Then they can use abilities to plant or place plants, animals or geological elements within the biomes spawned. These elements produce either gold, food, research or natura when placed within the boundaries of settlements. All sub-deities can plant or place any of their environment elements into any biome and the form that they take will alter accordingly. Once placed these environmental elements can be further altered or I suppose levelled up by getting the sub-deities to alter them with aspects, for example an exotic element spawn naturally produces gold when placed within a settlement radius, given an additional exotic aspect from the rock sub-deity will allow the changing of the animal up to a different form and more gold, or use a different type and it will produce more gold or food or research. In addition these elements can also interact with each other, for example a herd animal type placed within radius of a food plant type may yield higher overall food production. Built upon this core of environment manipulation is the human management aspects, settlements will spring up in adequately furnished biomes and will each embark upon projects that are fitting of the environment they find themselves. These projects will likely require the restructuring of the environment elements within the settlement’s borders in order to satisfy the construction demands and upon completion will provide an ambassador from the village who can be given to a sub-deity in order to unlock abilities and aspects according to their village of origin. This is a rather simplified and initial explanation of the basic mechanics of the game and even then it lacks any discussion of strategy, this game may be 2D but never assume a lack of depth.
The macro elements of the gameplay revolve around ‘ages’ of varying lengths, although anything above 30 minutes must be unlocked via the completion of achievements. The macro element of the game is where I personally have some gripes as the 30 minute time limit for what is essentially a round feels somewhat restrictive and whilst an unlimited time free form mode is available any achievements gained will not count towards progression. The result of this is a requirement to experiment within freeform and then test strategies in order to use them to gain achievements and unlock further points in the game which is fairly reasonable until the strategies don’t work which is a problem that I came up against fairly regularly at which point the half hour passes with no achievements and therefore no progress. This gets a little frustrating and the part of me that enjoys the metaphorical long-game find that cut off somewhat intrusive. The solution to my dilemma would probably be to not suck so bad when experimenting or to resort to the wiki method, which in this case is actually linked to within the game. That’s a really nice touch and could well be the (slightly cheaty) way out of the rut of non-progression.
The aesthetic is 2D with a bold and colourful cartoony style, which is appealing to look at and unfailingly appears crisp. This crispness is afforded to the game by well implemented scaling which is quite reminiscent of the pleasant scaling provided by SVG graphic files. As such the game will look great regardless of screen size and resolution although it absolutely shines at higher resolutions on larger monitors. The 2D graphics deceive the player and onlookers as to the level of complexity within the game, a very pretty box which apparently contains immensely more than immediately apparent. Currently this game is providing me with something of a breath of fresh air against the intricately built, high fidelity yet grimey tunnel scenes of Metro Last Light. In short; it looks great but is still much more than just a pretty picture.
The sound and music are appropriate for the title and whilst the music didn’t stand out as being particularly ear-buttery it was good quality and non-intrusive, which is probably what you want from the music. The attention to detail mirrors the graphical style, with touches like conversations and other typically village-like noises audible close up and nice heavy stompy sounds for the sub-deity movements, once again mirrored in the appearance.
The game is currently available on Windows however the developer has promised that Mac and Linux ports are their current priority. This seems like an interesting choice on the part of the developer as some fans may not appreciate the lack of a simultaneous cross-platform launch, however from a business point of view the hype and funds from initial sales will be useful in getting the ports made and sold. I’m guessing that the lack of initial cross-platform release may have been more down to the developers being unfamiliar with the platforms and their promise of ports seems genuine enough, so if you want to play this on Linux or Mac you should hopefully get the chance soon. The system requirements are not really very scary; the minimum spec on Steam is listed as Core2 Duo with 2GB memory and DX10 compatibility which is something of a low-mid machine nowadays, so probably doable for even the budget gamer.
The game is available first and foremost from its home page via the Humble Store, which as ever is probably the best option unless you have an interest in maintaining a virtual library elsewhere. With that said the game is also available from GOG, Desura, Gamersgate, GMG, Gameload and Steam, with the last three either providing Steam keys or being, well, Steam. Although currently on sale on Steam among other places, the DRM free option may be worth the extra few cents, however that’s down to you. The base price on the home page is $9.99 (approx £6.59), with the discounted Steam price at $9.54 (approx £6.29) and other discounted prices at a similar level.
In conclusion Reus is a game that surprised me out of the box with complexity that I just wasn’t expecting and a progression system that I’m still getting used to. The gameplay is fun and the building of winning strategies through experimentation or through wiki hunting is rewarding (when it works). It may not be for everyone, however if you’ve had even the least bit of fun with god games before or you feel that you might then this is certainly worth checking out.