The god-game, or god-sim, has been around since the late 1980s when Peter Molyneux gave players their first taste of the powers of the divine in Populous
. Since then, many games have followed suit and given players the opportunity to shape the lives, for better or worse, of countless civilisations. God-sims have always tended to be more at home on PCs where using a mouse and keyboard gives players more control over their surroundings, but once in a while console gamers get to stretch their godly legs too. REUS
from Abbey Games was released on PCs in 2013 but has now found its way onto consoles, so how does it feel to be omnipotent?
The basic concept of REUS
is to use the four different elemental giants that are at your command -- Forest, Ocean, Rock and Swamp -- to create habitable areas or biomes, and to place natural resources within them that provide food, wealth, technology or a combination of these. Once these areas become worthy of being settled, which only requires one or two resources and a space that is big enough, nomads will appear and establish villages. It then becomes our task to help them to become as prosperous as possible by placing more resources as required. Villages can only use the resources that are within their borders and newly established villages start with very little space for this, but by placing certain resources near other resources, they can gain a bonus through symbiosis. Later on, by upgrading basic resources through a process called transmutation, villages will begin to flourish and their borders will expand.
Once they do this, the people (over whom we have absolutely no control) will begin to build projects -- specialised buildings that provide additional bonuses but require a specific level of resources to be completed. These projects are simple to complete early in the game, but as the game progresses then the number of resources that are required grows to tremendous levels and needs some skilled management in order to complete them. A completed project will also provide an ambassador, a human that rides on the shoulders (or head) of a giant, granting new or upgraded abilities. The location of the village from which the ambassador originates dictates which abilities will be unlocked for the chosen giant, so choosing on which villages to focus based on the abilities that you wish to prioritise will often dictate the way that you develop the settlements.
A village between a rock and a hard place.
It is easy to see that REUS
takes some inspiration from games like Black and White
, using your four giants to make the world a nice place for the humans to settle and develop. Unlike most god-sims that have a top down approach that is similar to RTS titles, REUS
is presented as a beautifully handpainted 2D cross section of a planet where all of the action takes place on its surface. REUS
isn't quite the god-sim that you might expect, though; the more that you progress, the more that you realise that REUS
is more akin to a number puzzle, one that challenges you to find the optimum location for each and every resource that you place and makes you consider what the most beneficial symbiosis is for any given location.REUS
has a huge number of different resources that can be utilised, with each one having a very specific set of circumstances in which they reach their full potential. Unfortunately, it can be quite tricky to keep track of which resources benefit from others. Each plant, animal and mineral will give you details on their symbiosis when it is selected, but without any tech trees or upgrade charts available to be viewed in-game, planning ahead requires committing a vast array of information to memory, especially when trying to remember the small details. It's simple enough to remember that unlike the chickens that you currently have, which benefit from being near a blueberry bush, upgrading them to rabbits means that they only provide extra food when other rabbits are nearby instead. However, with over 40 different animals, over 40 plants and over 20 different minerals, it can become slightly overwhelming.
It's a small world after all
In order to stop you from developing the settlements too quickly, REUS
uses a greed system. Greed increases in a village if its resources are growing too quickly, or if they fail to complete a project. Once their greed reaches a certain level, the villagers will want to go to war with a weaker village, potentially destroying it if you don't intervene. If their level of greed continues to grow and reaches a high level, the villagers will then turn their attention towards the nearest giant. If they manage to defeat the giant, the game is over and any progress is lost.
There are other factors that can be used to slow or stop the level of greed from increasing. Certain Animals increase the level of Danger, while some natural resources or their symbiosis provide Awe. In early games, greed isn't a massive factor as you might not be able to increase a village's prosperity quickly enough to overindulge the inhabitants. As you get more proficient at providing the necessary resources, the level of greed begins to creep up, making you take note and forcing you to take action. This provides a very subtle difficulty curve, one that actively adapts to how you play and gets more difficult only as you learn the game's systems and become more proficient.
Even giants need to bathe
When you begin you can only play a 30-minute game, but as you progress you unlock 60-minute and 120-minute modes that allow you to develop the settlements further. Every game starts the same way with a barren and lifeless planet. As you breathe life into the world, you follow many of the same actions again and again, all hoping to find the perfect formula to allow the people of the world to develop quickly but not have them turn against you. It's repetitive but highly replayable; every time that the people finish a previously unfinished project, or your total prosperity reaches a new high then you feel like you have actually achieved something. It takes a lot of planning and the ability to adapt to a variety of situations that only works once you have enough experience to understand the many systems at work. In essence REUS
is all about perseverance and the willingness to attempt to keep improving.REUS
has a total of 64 achievements up for grabs that will likely require a lot of time to unlock. The majority of the achievements are linked with helping the humans finish the many projects that are available to them. There are a total of 39 projects available and each one is linked to its own achievement. There is also a selection of challenge achievements that require players to reach a specific amount of prosperity in a 1-hour game. There are three levels of achievement for each biome, each needing an increasing amount of prosperity; these will challenge players to put all of their acquired skills to the test as even attempting the Bronze level achievements is no simple task.
presents the world as if the almighty was an accountant. It is as much a game about crunching numbers as it is about creating a paradise for humanity, but its beautiful setting helps to mask how logic-driven it really is. It's both confusing and addictive in equal measure and manages to find a great balance between continuously providing a challenge and not overwhelming players. Once you get to grips with the minutia, everything begins to make sense. It's not always easy to get everything running smoothly, but when you do it is immensely satisfying.
- Beautiful art style
- Difficulty actively adapts to your competence
- Massive amount of scope
- Highly replayable
- Can become repetitive
- Lack of tech tree makes planning ahead difficult
The reviewer spent about 22.5 hours playing the game, creating mountains, lakes, swamps, and helping the little people become the best little people that they can. He earned 17 of the game's 64 achievements along the way. A digital Xbox One code for the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.