Reus, from Dutch Abbey Games, gives us a glimpse into the giant creatures than control our own daily lives. These massive beings, who have been sleeping for eons, use their divine powers to tame nature in a battered and chapped world. They must carefully use their unique powers to create a balanced ecosystem so that we humans in our various settlements can live our lives comfortably. When these various systems reach perfect harmony, then they can go back to their infinite slumber.
When you start a world you get to control all 4 giants. Each with its own powers and specialties – Water Crab, Earth Jarhead, Forest Bear and a weird gooey sloth thing. (that’s what I call them) You have the ability to make oceans, forests, swamps, tropical paradises, bustling towns, and even raise mountains. You can plant and spawn over 100 different plants and resources. Placing these resources in the right locations is they key. You don’t want your various towns on the planet to go to war, would you?
Reus transforms from something you play for half an hour, lackadaisically sprouting herbs and encouraging fish to appear, to a race against the clock where you’ll explore and experiment with symbiosis, manage greed levels, and watch as different cultures slaughter each other.
As individual games get longer — completing a certain number of objectives unlocks lengthier games — Reus really shows off its depth, and it allows multiple towns to progress through the different stages of civilization.
The key to helping the hapless humans isn’t simply plonking down stuff that generates the wealth, food, and science that they need, as the areas in which you can cultivate resources are very small. Making the most out of limited spaces is what’s paramount. During the early stages of development, towns don’t really require all that much. Projects need only tiny amount of resources that can be collected in a matter of minutes.
By the time the larger, more demanding projects start cropping up, a town’s sphere of influence will have increased, but only marginally, and it’s then that symbiosis and advanced giant abilities come into play. Every resource gets an extra boost through symbiosis. A topaz mine might generate more wealth when placed next to a stone quarry, while certain types of animals might generate more food when they are near some plants or berries. In the end, this dynamic doesn’t play into the end game too much.
The pace of Reus, starting players off with tutorials and then short games, ultimately growing into two-hour sessions where all of human history plays out, offsets the game’s complexity. Its simple controls and clean interface also make something that could have been an obstinate chore pleasant to get to grips with. The biggest issue I had was at the start of the game. There’s a LOT to take in. The learning curve isn’t as pick up and play as you might think. There are many different systems going on that all need managing, but learning how to read these systems and to make use of all that information is what was hard. I had so many tooltips being displayed they covered each other and made things harder to understand.
Reus is a game of logical, organic systems. It’s a delight to play at every turn, and it strikes the perfect balance between providing new content and not overloading players. Beneath its unassuming appearance exists a challenging experience that will last a good long time. Maybe not as long as it took for humanity to grow from nomadic tribes to city-dwelling go-getters, but who the hell has time for that?