Some of my earliest gaming memories come from city building simulators. I can remember sitting behind my desk at home, glued to the monitor as I struggled to build my fledgling city up in the original SimCity so that I could beat my friend who was doing the same. Our school even had a computer for the kids to share, giving us a precious 30 minute block every so often which nearly all of us would spend playing SimCity 2000. The idea of strategy was utterly lost on me at that point as all I really wanted to do was build the biggest buildings leading me to abuse the porntipsguzzardo cheat endlessly. I still have something of a soft spot for these kinds of games and Reus, a title which I had had my eye on during the Steam Summer Sale, evoked enough nostalgia that I couldn’t help but give it a go.
You have been asleep for a long time planet and your surface has become barren, devoid of all notions of life. With the strength that you have left you summon forth your 4 giants of creation who are then set to task covering your land with plants, animals and riches. Soon humans began to return, nomads who had been wandering the dusty plains endlessly began to settle on the fertile land your giants created and began working on great projects to exploit the resources you laid before them. However the humans’ lust for more power often turns them against each other, and sometimes even you, necessitating swift action to teach them humility once again. Soon you grow weary and it is time to slumber once again but will the work you’ve done allow life to flourish without your hand?
Reus is a beautifully styled game with its bright color palette, cute animations and wonderful music. The style is reminiscent of flash games of yore although with a truckload more polish than any of those titles ever had. The style of game is also similar to an iOS title I remember my wife playing a long time ago called GodFinger, although thankfully devoid of the awful social features and limitations that came along with it. Reus is also only been released on PC so far, Linux and Mac ports are in the works, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw it on iOS eventually as it seems pretty well suited to that interface.
On the surface Reus is a deceptively simple game. Much like city builders of the past you start of with a land that doesn’t have anything in it but you’re given the tools to shape it as you will. Your ocean giant can create vast oceans which saturate the nearby land with water allowing your forest and swamp giants to create their respective types of land on top of it. Whilst the capabilities of your mountain giant would then seem obvious raising mountains actually results in desert on either side of it. Each of the different types of land results in a different set of resources that you can place on them and also influences what kind of town will settle there once you put some resources down for them.
There’s 3 different primary resources that you’ll strive to create in the game: food, technology and wealth. Each of the different types of settlements have different priorities for what kind of resource they’d like (forest = food, swamp = technology and desert = wealth) which gives you a guide to the kinds of resources you should be placing. Those resources are placed by your giants and each giant has their own selection to make use of. The ocean giant can place domesticated animals, the mountain giant precious and advanced minerals, the swap giant exotic animals and herbs and the forest giant can plant fruit trees. Each of these generates a specific type of primary resource and will differ dramatically depending on where they’re placed.
In the beginning it’s pretty simple, you pretty much just use the giant that’s directly associated with that land type in order to create the resources required for the town that’s settled there. You’ll need to do this as the town creates developments which are essentially projects that, when completed, grant the area a bonus to those resources as well as granting you one ambassador of that type of town. These ambassadors then unlock further abilities and upgrades of your giants, allowing you to do a lot more with the same amount of land. Once you’ve got a few ambassadors though they’ll stop being granted for the easy projects and so you’ll have to work the harder ones to get better upgrades.
Then there comes the synergies as when certain resources are placed next to other certain resources they will get a bonus to resource generation which becomes key later on when you’re trying to reach the high amounts of food required to achieve the next development. This is where the complexity of Reus really starts to come through as the tech trees that drive all of this are horrendously complicated, to the point where after the amount of time I’ve spent with it I still don’t know anything past the second tier. The wiki can help you with this of course but that will mean a lot of pausing to figure out what the ultimate resource combo is in order to create the resources you require. Indeed this is what I ended up doing towards the end as otherwise I found myself replacing resources far too often, wasting precious time.
At first I simply tried to meet the various resource goals of my towns so that they’d complete their projects. However I found later, more advanced projects seemed to require more space than I had access to which frustrated me. However this was an artifact of the way I was playing as you can’t just have 1 town of each type and get very far in the game because you just won’t be able to generate the required number of ambassadors to unlock the upgrades you need. Indeed the best tactic I found so far was to have 2 of each and whilst this does make the micro management of these economies a little insane it is the fastest way to get the upgrades you need which then allows you to get more upgrades with the more advanced projects. If there was one piece of advice I would give to anyone looking to play this it would be to go straight for the Tier 2 resources on all your giants first as once you have that the rest of the game becomes quite a bit easier.
Reus is for the most part glitch free although I did have one incident where my forest giant got stuck doing something on a mountain and just refused to move. I could move all my other giants however so there was something weird going on. Saving and reloading fixed the bug however which I was quite thankful for given I was 51 minutes into a 60 minute game. Apart from that the only other gripe I have is that when your giants are close to each other sometimes it can be a little hard to select them by clicking on them as Reus has a tendency to keep the one you have selected rather than switching over. This can be worked around by using the portraits instead but I guess the habit of clicking directly on things is just ingrained in me from all my RTS gaming.
I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t get Reus at first as the mechanics, whilst simple enough to begin with, rapidly evolved into something much more complicated than I had first expected. However after experimenting around with different builds I finally figured out the resource tiers and some of the more rudimentary synergies and suddenly everything clicked, allowing me to complete project after project without the struggles I had before. Whilst it hasn’t drawn me in enough to want to slog through the 123 achievements it has it’s still a great game to pass some time and one that rewards players who dive deep into its mechanics to find the ultimate resource combinations.
Reus is available on PC right now for $9.99. Total game time was approximately 6 hours with 39% of the achievements unlocked.