God games have always had a place in gamers hearts with the most famous being the legendary Populous. In these games the player acts as a kind of a 'god', altering the terrain to please his/hers lackeys. Now the indie developer Abbey Games is jumping on the terraforming wagon with their latest game, Reus. I was totally unaware of Abbey Games so when I was given the opportunity to review Reus, I was excited. A game from a 'newbie' developer, every reviewers dream come true (at least mine). But that's enough on the matter, let's move onto the review.
Reus starts when ancient giants awaken from their slumber just to find that the world has become a barren, lifeless place. It's up to the player to command these giants in an effort to bring the planet back to life and fill it with life. The game doesn't have a story mode but instead the player develops the planet with the aid of giants through three different eras. The lack of any kind of a story isn't a bad thing and it doesn't stop the player from caring about his/hers own little planet and it's inhabitants. Not to mention the adorable giants.
The game has three different game modes; Beginning (which acts as a tutorial), Era and Freeplay. With the Era game mode you can select any of the three eras in which you want to play and set a time limit for the game. Freeplay allows you to develop your planet to your heart's content. Both the Era and Freeplay game modes are unlocked after completing the Beginning game mode. The game is played from a very unique perspective; you're looking at your planet's cross-section and you can freely zoom in and out and roll the planet. You can move your giants across the planets surface and use their various abilities to develop the planet to your liking.
There are four different giants; Rock, Ocean, Forest and Swamp. Each giant has a different set of abilities; the Rock giant for example can raise mountains on the planets surface and plant valuable minerals on the ground. The giants gain more abilities as you complete achievements or with the aid of an Ambassador (this is discussed later). The trick is to use the giants abilities in conjunction with each other; creating a forest with the Forest giant for example requires an ocean created with the Ocean giant to moist the ground. Each ability also has a cooldown timer until it can be used again. Once you've created a few patches of fertile land the first settlers start migrating to your newly created planet.
The settlers are completely automated and require three resources to thrive; Food, Wealth and Technology. The settlers harvest these resources from the ground and it's up to you to make sure there are enough resources for a village to grow. You do this by using the giants' abilities to plant the required resources on the ground. Sounds simple right? The game throws in a couple of surprises for the player; resource Symbiosis and building Specializations. Planting some strawberries next to blueberries for example completes those resources' Symbiosis and upgrades their Food output. It's the same with buildings in the village, planting the correct resource next to the correct building completes that building's Specialization and upgrades its resource output respectively. Completing the Symbiosis' and Specializations is a key tactic in keeping the villagers happy.
When the villagers are thriving and happy enough, they might embark on a Project. These Projects vary from reaching a certain amount of Prosperity to constructing a certain building for example. Completing these Projects should be your first priority since completing one grants you an Ambassador which you can pick up with any of your giants. Once you pick up an Ambassador with a giant you can select an ability to unlock for that specific giant. Very hand especially when you're struggling to complete a time limited objective. Failing to complete objectives or keeping the villagers happy raises the villagers Greed. If left unchecked, the villagers get too greedy and start rioting. Luckily you can use your giants to destroy a village and start over.
The pacing of the game is excellent; the giants slowly stomp along the surface and the tiny villagers go on about their businesses. The game can be paused to give commands to your giants but that's hardly necessary. The villagers animations are very simple but it's still a joy watching them gathering resources and building structures. This is a game in which you can forget your real-life troubles and just relax while developing the perfect planet.
The sounds in the game are very simplified apart from the sounds the giant make; walking around with the Rock giant especially makes a satisfying sound and you can almost feel the mass moving around. The music (was there any?) on the other is drowned under the other sounds and I didn't even notice it until I plugged my headset in and when I heard it, it wasn't anything special. Graphically the game looks good, especially the giants are drawn with love, and it's a joy watching all the little critters and villagers going about.
Overall the game is an excellent game for casual players. The Symbiosis' and Specializations make the game feel like a puzzler; you're constantly thinking about the best way to fulfill the villagers needs. It should also be playable on any rig imaginable and the price tag is low; only 9.99€/$9.99/£6.99 according to the official website. So if you feel like messing around with Mother Nature, why not give Reus a go?