Review: Grow and evolve your planet in god game Reus
The heyday of god games passed quite some time ago. While we've recently seen some lesser known but still notable titles in the genre, like From Dust, they are few and far between nowadays. Enter a small team from the Netherlads, who hopes to not only recapture the elements of god games, but sprinkle in a healthy dose of puzzle elements to keep the genre fresh and interesting as well.
Reus puts you in control of four towering giants on a fairly small planet. Each giant has its own specialization to ensure that the planet can sustain life and, eventually, civilizations. The stone giant raises mountains and places down mineral deposits, the forest giant lays down plant life and boosts fertility, the water giant creates bodies of water and generates domestic animals for harvest, and the swamp giant specializes in herb planting and laying down exotic animals that raise wealth.
Creating each of the four areas -- swamp, forest, desert and ocean -- is fairly easy, though obviously deserts can't be next to oceans, while swamps and forests need to be connected to a body of water. Once you have your land laid down, it's time to start building your civilizations.
Settlers will only start a colony if the basic necessities are met -- primarily food. However, once settled, these colonies will then start working on various projects, which require assistance from the giants. However, it's not as easy as simply laying down a patch of blueberries and calling it a day. Each of these plots has a limited amount of space, which eventually expands as your colonies gain prosperity. With limited space comes the need for careful planning to ensure that you'll get the most out of a given resource without running out of room. This is where symbiosis comes in.
Each of these specializations works with the others in a symbiotic relationship to boost effectiveness. For example, I can lay down a plot of fruit next to my village, which will only generate a small amount of food. However, if I lay down a plant such as a dandelion in the spot right next to it, it will give a significant boost to the amount of food produced. That type of symbiosis works with each and every resource. Mineral deposits get a boost by being next to animal nests, herbs get a boost by being next to minerals, and so on and so forth. It adds a rather deep puzzle element to a genre that normally doesn't much rely on it.
Moreso, there is also a warring aspect to Reus. If not kept in check, a settlement can expand its borders all the way to a neighboring one, which might result in an all-out war. War opens up the possibilities for even more gameplay variety, as well as war-based unlocks and achievements.
As your settlements progress through the various stages of prosperity, you'll be awarded with Ambassadors that can sit atop your giants. Depending on where they came from and which giant you put them on, they'll grant specific bonus skills to each giant. For example, putting a forest Ambassador on the forest giant will unlock the Fruit Aspect tree, which will upgrade any plot of land that contains fruit to a more potent status.
Progression through Reus is done by playing Era mode in either 30, 60 or 120 minutes (the latter two are locked until you progress further into the game). Initially, many of the buildings and types of plant and animal life are locked, only to be unlocked once you play a certain way through the game. This type of progression incentivizes players to go back and replay the game in a different manner than they have before. Given the massive amount of unlocks, there is a good chance players will be playing and replaying Reus for quite some time, and that's certainly not a bad thing.
The graphics are fairly simple, opting for 2D vistas and animations with some perspective layering. However, don't let its deceptively low-tech graphics fool you. Each of the four regions has its own distinct buildings. For example, laying down a mineral deposit in a swamp region will look differently from its counterpart in the desert region. It's the little touches like these that give this game that distinct charm.
If there is one thing that the game truly needs, especially once you start playing in FreePlay, it's the ability to fast forward time. It's not that the game moves at a snail's pace, especially considering you always should have your giants doing something to keep up with productivity, but there are times when a fast forward button would have certainly been nice. Waiting for a giant to crawl his way across half of the planet is painful, to say the least.
For $9.99, Reus is an absolute steal, given the amount of content and replayability. Its classic civilization development aspects combined with some truly thought-provoking resource management make Reus hard to put down once you start playing. It has some rough spots, but it's an otherwise standout title in a genre that doesn't get a lot of love these days.