Impressions: Reus

By Alec Meer on May 8th, 2013 at 9:00 pm.

God game! God game! GOD GAME! It’s been too long. We’ve been so hungry. Now Abbey Games’ Reus is almost here, being all godly, being all gorgeous and being all oddball too. I’ve been playing preview code for Abbey Games’ forthcoming world-fiddler (which comes out in just over a week), and thought I’d share a few initial thoughts ahead of a full review once the game’s out.

Reus really is exceptionally pretty. So crisp, too – I’m running a 2560×1440 monitor, and it and the game look like they were made for each other. If only all 2D games scaled like this, I’d be happy to never see a polygon again in my life. The world is presented side-on, in cross section, like a boiled egg sliced in half. A boiled egg with a hot, steaming core and a quartet of continent-sized gods roaming its exterior.

These gods, with representing ocean, forest, swamp and mountain, are the stars of the show, both in terms of how unceasingly they draw the eye and because they’re absolutely bound in with the terraforming and life-seeding.

They’re not an odd bolt-on like Black & White’s Creatures: they are the strategy here. Stomping glacially but indefatigably around the planet’s circumference, they summon seas and trees, flora and fauna, minerals and mountains with a sort of world-weary, unhurried surety. You can switch to any god at any time, which leaves the other three sat around like grumpy Everests. Time is nothing to them. They’re gods.

You, well, I don’t know what you are. Some sort of meta-god, maybe. You can spin the planet around, you can zoom in and out to admire its enormity or watch chickens stumbling around and little folk gathering food, and most of all you can tell those sleepy gods what needs doing. The central mechanic is having them seed the planet, which is divided into equally-sized segments, with animal, vegetable or mineral resources. The smallest amount will quickly result in the creation of a settlement, and with it human inhabitants.

Actually, rewind a little – before you can usually plant anything, you need to do a spot of basic terraforming, transforming around 10% of the planet’s surface into ocean, forest, swamp or desert, each of which will grow different species of plant and animal, which in turn have different effects on what else can be generated. The terraforming aspect is pretty brief and uninvolved in what I’ve seen so far, though there seems a subtle layer of strategy in terms of unlocking more advanced powers for your gods.

So, forwardwind back to where we were. You’ve got a village, you’ve got humans, you’ve got some basic food, wealth and tech being generated by the plants, minerals and animals placed nearby. Now the real game begins. And, well, it’s kind of mathsy. Each food, tech or wealth source is capable of ‘symbiosis’ with another resource, activated if it’s suitably proximate. Symbiosis means a bonus to resource generation. Goddit.

On top of that, your gods can cast spells on most resources, which will increase their output. OK. Some spells and some symbioses allow resources to transform into other types of resource (e.g. elderberries into strawberries into tomatoes, chicken into rabbits, frogs into stoats), which can generate more or different stuff. Um. Once that transformation has happened, the resource becomes capable of a different symbiosis. Er. And the gods can cast their spells on them again. Ah. And so it continues.

In theory, you’re gradually escalating the amount of food, wealth and tech you’re bringing into your village; in practice you’re playing a sort of planet-wide inventory Tetris, shuffling tomatoes to here or chickens to there in order to try and sustain and maximise the bonuses. To be honest, I found that the effects of this stuff were predominantly numerical rather than seeming to meaningfully or even particularly visibility affect the world. These amazing-looking, humongous deities, but what they’re mostly doing is implementing stat multipliers. It does seem something of a waste. Perhaps it’ll seem more meaningful and exciting once I have a fuller-grasp of the ultimate pay-offs of each resource, though. And once I start throwing rock-bombs at chickens for no good reason.

That’s the other thing. I wasn’t entirely sure why I was doing all this. Sure, watching the slow evolution of the landscape was its own reward to some degree, though again the visual changes aren’t particularly grand once you’re past the initial terraforming and village-founding. Beyond that, the game pops up micro-challenges to help villages build special structures such as schools and granaries, each of which requires a certain amount of certain resources. So that’s all your stat multiplication is essentially in aid of. Once a village completes a structure, it spawns an ambassador, who’ll cutely go and sit on one god’s shoulder and grants them a new ability. A stat-multiplication ability, naturally. Different types of land – forest, swamp, desert – will eventually generate different types of ambassadors, which in turn mean new abilities.

There’s a certain gotta catch ‘em all ethos here, though you also need to combine them all without running out of space. It all looks so lovely, but I felt like most of the time I was just fiddling with tiny things rather than being a big old god-guy doing big, exciting things. I need to spend much more time with it though, and see how impressive things look once I’ve got far bigger animals, far fleshier fruit and greedier, more belligerent people living on my bifurcated world.

Of the latter I’ve had minimal experience to date, but after a time a village may decide it wants more of something, and it’s going to try and snatch it from somewhere else. With a certain relief, I turned to the little-used buttons on the far right of my giants’ toolbars. Smash! Smother! Drown! DESTROY. And so it was that these insects who had consumed so much of my time with their petty, pointless demands for more were eradicated. That felt like a reward.

More on Reus soon: I must spend more time with it before coming to any judgement. It really does look magnificent, and the sheer, awesome presence of the gods is such a treat, but I worry that its bread and butter mechanics might feel more a chore than celebratory omnipotence. We’ll see what later escalations bring, though. For now, I’m oddly happy to just sit there in freeplay mode, spinning the vast globe around as my giants grumpily haul their impossible bulk around the perfectly circular planetary crust. It’d be my ideal screensaver, I think.

Reus should be out on the 16th, and hopefully we’ll have a Wot I Think then too.

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40 Comments »

  1. Leaufai says:

    Interesting tidbit: Reus is Dutch for Giant.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      Oh, I was about to comment that in Latin it means ‘accused’ or ‘defendant’ and what the hell does it have to do with the game’s subject.

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        Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

        It’s a gripping courtroom drama about a mountain of a man falsely accused. Can he clear his name? Or will the crooked prosecutor, who is also a vampire, succeed in getting the man-mountain the death penalty? Unbeknownst to everyone, the giant’s long-lost brother is on the jury and the judge refuses to recuse himself for a clear case of anti-gigantic bias.

        Can a giant get justice in a tiny human’s world?

        • sabasNL says:

          My Lord, you should develop a game following this marvelous idea at once!

    • pakoito says:

      Reus is a town in Spain.

    • Susan_Funk says:

      my buddy’s step-mother makes $67/hr on the computer. She has been out of a job for six months but last month her paycheck was $12571 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on this site… http://www.Jax3.cℴm

  2. Bartack says:

    There be giants.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    “Ocean, forest, swamp and mountain”? Bah! No imagination! If I were a god it would be marshmallow, diamond, beard, and lemon.

    • Christo4 says:

      I am beard, but i’m so awesome i can imagine why everyone wants to be me. BUT YOU CAN’T!

    • The Random One says:

      I would watch that Captain Planet spinoff.

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      colossalstrikepackage says:

      Cherry on top is optional?

  4. OpT1mUs says:

    I like how on their site it says that game costs €9.99 / $9.99 , because dollar and euro are same value.
    No sale. Also it looks like a phone game. There.

    • DiGi says:

      Yeah, so it is simple: No zero-day purchase, I will wait for discount. Like I did with Bastion.

    • sabasNL says:

      I suggest all Europeans unite, pick up the nearest weapon, and storm towards the companies that charge us a higher price than the Americans on the other side of the ocean!
      No seriously, it’s really unfair. Like life isn’t expensive enough.

      • Mr Coot says:

        I do this Oceanic style, because many companies think it is ok to charge aussies US$80 for a top shelf game which is US$60 on Steam. An expac may be US$40 instead of $30 or $25 instead of $20. It is not ok, and is extremely offensive to our sense of fairness. There is absolutely no excuse to differentially charge for digital downloads, publishers do it because they can.

        The only way to stop it, is to not buy the games. Get TOR browser, configure the Torrc file to have a US exitnode and check what you would pay for the game if Steam thinks you are in the US. Then, open your normal browser – if the 2 prices are different, tell them to get knotted.

        • MaXimillion says:

          Why use Tor when you could just check http://store.steampowered.com/?cc=us ?

        • Geofferic says:

          Distribution, digitally or otherwise, in one country can and does cost a differing amount from another country. Taxes, advertising costs, tariffs, etc.

          • MondSemmel says:

            This is alll about wanting to have your cake and eat it, too. On the one hand, globalization means you can sell to everyone, everywhere, yet we aren’t allowed to buy from everyone, everywhere. Ridiculous.

    • Saarlaender39 says:

      REUS is announced on GOG.com…usually they sell new games at a slight discount for the first week.
      Apart from that, when you buy on GOG, you pay the correctly converted price in €.

  5. Lemming says:

    The swamp god doesn’t have a tentacle/squid face. I…I can’t reconcile that.

  6. WoundedBum says:

    “They’re not an odd bolt-on like Black & White’s Creatures:”

    If these aren’t fighting words, then I do not know what is. My creatures was glorious and integral to my plans of defecating on every enemy villager.

    But seriously, Black and White 1/2 are some of the best games ever made IMO, despite their quirks.

    • Fiatil says:

      Two neutered the creature a little bit too much for me to love it. The city building was great, but having the creature reduced to visible Yes/No sliders that you could manipulate at a whim killed all of the magic that made them so great in the first one.

    • Faxanadu says:

      Always wondered why I haven’t seen more of Black & Whiteness. The first one especially was and still is SUPERB, I couldn’t believe how complicated the pets were after reading an advanced tutorial. And the spell casting system! Casting spells with your mouse cursor is SO MUCH FUN! Why is it only Black & White and Arx Fatalis that use this mechanic?

      • Pippy says:

        Doesn’t Magicka also do that?That’s why I never managed to finish the demo anyway.

        • brulleks says:

          And The Void.

          Although that isn’t a good enough reason to play it.

      • solidsquid says:

        To bring in the now traditional Occulus comment, Occulus Rift combined with Leap Motion to have actual hand gestures to cast spells. You really can waggle your fingers and have magic happen

  7. lordcooper says:

    I’m looking forward to this one.

    BTW, it states in the first dev diary video that you are playing as the planet itself.

  8. scatterlogical says:

    Looks like a giant world of fun to me. I’ll reussle up some cash for this one.

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      lowprices says:

      Oh God, these pun threads are far too Populous on RPS. Look, I’ll set it out here in Black and White, just because you can conjure an awful pun up From Dust, doesn’t mean you should.

  9. iaguz says:

    The Mountain Giant looks like Tiny from Dota 2.

    Incoming Valve Lawsuit.

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      RedViv says:

      That tree creature looks far too much like the stick monkeys wee me used to build. I will race and sue first!

  10. Gnoupi says:

    From the beta (NDA ended a few days ago), I had a bit the same impression:

    It’s very pretty, it feels nice to change the ground with the giants, and see environment changing according to it…
    But then it goes to a numerical stat thingy. You have to think about what grounds “synergize” better with others (improves their outcome), and it becomes a bit confusing about how to satisfy the needs here and there, depending on the layout you put in place to your seeds, mines, and other things.

    It feels more like a puzzle game then than a god game, to me. In a god game, I want to set the larger things, and see the animals, vegetation, humans adapt, go around it. I don’t really want to micromanage this berry bush or the next one.

    But again, it very pretty, and I can see the appeal for someone who wants to carefully plan the way they arrange parcels of ground to maximize the output.

  11. Geofferic says:

    I found this article distractingly poorly written.

    As for the game, the planet is far too small. You are never going to be able to settle a sufficient number of specialized towns and let them trade. If you built a reasonably sized ocean, you’d lose too much territory for towns. Over 70% of the Earth’s surface is water. If you made the game’s planet anything like that, you’d have space for, what, 3 or 4 towns?

    Because of the dearth of space, you are going to be forced to min/max your towns to high hell, and the game will not be a ‘god game’, but rather a strategy puzzle solver. Try to fit as many things into a town as possible!

    Woo boy!

    Make the damn planet … planet-sized.

  12. realitysconcierge says:

    I am attracted to god games, but I’m not attracted to spinning plate number games :/

  13. Hahaha says:

    Someone needs to make a real god game, I think something along the lines of a blank screen would fit nicely.