[Review] Reus

For the last 6 months I've been on the lookout for any new development-sims that cater to my tastes, something fun, not too stressful & action-y, yet challenging & rewarding. And preferably in cute 2D. Imagine my surprise when Reus got released on Steam a couple of days ago. "This is it!", I thought. And I was right.

So what exactly is Reus? The official description of the devs probably says it best:

"Reus is a god game by Abbey Games in which you take control of nature through the hands of mighty giants. You possess all imaginable powers over nature! There is only one thing on the planet that you do not control: mankind, with all their virtues and and all their vices. You can shape their world, but not their will. It’s your responsibility to maintain a balance in which man is not overpowered by nature, and nature does not fall to man’s greed."

If I absolutely have to compare it to other games, a crossbreed of god games like Populous, Black & White, From Dust plus dev-sims like Settlers & Anno would be the best I could come up with.

It surely has similarities, yet isn't really like any of them.

You start off with 4 giants, or "Reus" as is the dutch word for it, and a whole planet you can freely form as you want. These 4 giants are all you can control in this game, humans act on their own, but of course your giants have their ways to influence them a little... 

I fondly call those 4 giants Stony, Crabby, Woody & Swampy.
(Okay, I actually called them Steini, Krabbi, Waldi and Sumpfi up til now, as Stein, Krabbe, Wald and Sumpf are the German words for stone, crab, forest and swamp... ;D)

Each of them has unique abilities, Stony can create mountain & desert biomes and mineral resources (providing your tiny little humans with wealth & tech), while Crabby is in charge of creating oceans biomes that give your planet the necessary water for forest & swamp biomes, he can also create animals that provide food. As you might have guessed already, Woody creates forests biomes as well as food plants, while Swampy creates swamp biomes as well as tech plants and animals that give wealth to your people.

As soon as you create one of the three habitable biomes (desert, forest & swamp) and place some plants, animals or minerals on it, a village will settle down near the resources and the real challenge starts.

There's two different modes for this game, Era and Free Play - in Era mode you have a time limit of 30, 60 (unlocked at lvl2) or 120 (lvl3) minutes, within this time you are free to do whatever you want but by fulfilling certain requirements (e.g. "Finish an Era with a Desert Village which has 100 Village Prosperity." or "Have humans complete a Druid Project."), you gain levels and unlock more sources and projects.

Food, Tech and Wealth are a village's main resource stats and they are needed to complete projects. Projects start spawning soon after a village has settled down in a biome. Sometimes they want to build a school or a druid would like to open his questionable business next to a village. To make this happen, your village needs enough resources in use, the druid for example needs the village to have 30 tech, before he can set up camp there, while the school would need 15 food and 15 tech to be completed.

Villages have two resource values. 
The amount that is currently in use and the total amount of everything within the village's borders:

The amount that's in use constantly grows as the game continues until both values are the same. The higher the difference between "resources in use" and "total value of resources within borders" (which I'll just call "max amount" from now on, for convenience) is, the quicker it grows. So if you have no wealth in use but quickly put a lot of wealth resources within your city borders so the max amount goes up to 100 wealth, the village will have about 50 wealth in use within a few seconds, while it will take well over 10 seconds to get just one more point in use if the difference is lower than 10 (e.g. 90/100).

As the game continues, projects get harder and harder to fulfill, so you need to take advantage of two different gameplay elements: Symbiosis & Transmuting!

Each plant, animal and mineral has certain symbiosis requirements, some animals give more food if they are placed next to other animals or certain plants etc. Keeping track of what gives the best values next to what is a very important element of the game. As is transmuting! By adding certain aspects (via giant skills) to your resources they can gain the ability to upgrade into a new, better providing plant/animal/mineral - but this can sometimes backfire with symbiosis incompatibility, so you'll often need to replace old resources with other ones (you can just build new stuff on top of existing stuff, but the old resource will be gone then).

At first you might want to keep the Reus Wiki open while playing the game, since there is so much stuff to keep track off... each biome has it's own specific plants and animals, some special minerals and it takes quite some time to let it all sink in.

For each successfully completed project a village will give you an "Ambassador", for letting them travel with you they'll provide you with new skills and/or skill upgrades. But you'll need to evenly distribute the ambassadors among your giants, as a giant can't pick another one up if any of the other giants has less ambassadors riding on him - this provides a good balance to the game, as you can't just massively overpower one giant and make him ruler of the planet. ;)

Each of the habitable biomes gives you a different ambassador that teaches an individual skill to each giant, so you won't be able to unlock all of a giant's skills with just a forest village, you'll eventually need a village in each biome if you want to teach 'em all. 

Projects are divided into different levels, the druid is a level one project for example and can later on upgrade into a lvl 2 mad scientist... 8) The more ambassadors your giants pick up, the less can you please humanity with low level projects, so they won't give you ambassadors when you complete a lvl 1 project any longer. 

And there's still a lot more to the gameplay.... A village's prosperity is determined by the total value of resources in use, the more prosperity you gain, the more nomads will spawn and look for a place to settle down and start a new village. But if a village grows too quickly it will get greedy and is more likely to attack other villages or even your giants! To stop villages from getting too greedy you can surround them with dangerous animals or fulfill symbiosis conditions that provide awe points to your village. 

Or you just let Stony smash the village to bits before they can turn on you. 8)

Reus is pretty complex and it might take a while to get really comfortable with it, as you've got to memorise a lot of stuff, but it's rarely frustrating (apart from the occasional "a village decided to suddenly attack one of my giants and killed him 1 minute before the era would have ended"-awesomeness, but the autosave feature is usually pretty competent and had let me jump back to a few minutes earlier to fix things before they get out of hand each time so far). 

It's a refreshing take on the RTS genre, it's incredibly beautiful to look at and very addicting. 

And unlike FTL (aka Frustration - The Game) and Don't Starve (Which is actually more of a RTSSS game - a Real Time Strategy Starvation Survival game...), both two indie RTS games I've grown extremly fond of in the past few months, I won't have to fear to get a game over screen every second with Reus. :)

You can freely save whenever you want, if you plant a displeasing source somewhere, you can replace it with something else right away - there's no limit to how often you can use your giant's skills, they merely have a cooldown of some seconds before you can use them again (for some skills it's shorter, for some it's longer, as usual). There was rarely a point where messed up so bad that I couldn't somehow fix it again without restarting the game, yet that does in no way mean this game is too easy. It keeps you plenty of busy and if you don't keep track of all your villages they might start doing stuff you won't appreciate. ;)

It's incredibly fun to see what you can transmute your sources to, figuring out all the symbioses, making up a strategy for each of your different villages, unlocking new things and trying them out in the next game. 

Highly recommended to any dev-sim fan out there and definitely worth every cent! The game can be bought for $9,99 via Steam, GOG and various other platforms as well as the official website (which also includes a Steam key).

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