Reus is the Dutch word for giant. It is also a 2D God simulation game developed by Abbey Games in which you are an omnipotent being who controls four elemental giants.
Your role in Reus is actually that of the planet itself, and as the planet you command powerful giants to Terra-form the surface of…yourself. Early gameplay lets you control nature to form oceans and fertilize wastelands with plants or create mineral deposits and animal nests. However, the one thing on the planet you cannot control is mankind. As man settles the planet, he pleads the giants for more and more resources. If you do not provide and upgrade resources (or spoil them with too much) the people will wage war against one other or even against your mighty giants.
Reus is a lot like other “God” games (think Black and White or Heaven and Hell) in that it gives you control of an avatar to unleash your godlike powers and manage your resource income. Although Reus doesn’t try to break this formula, Abbey Games expands upon it by letting you command not one, but four avatars of nature.
Each giant offers a different kit of abilities and resources it can create. For example, a good way to start the game is using the water giant to smash the ground downward and form a stretching ocean. Now that the surrounding land has been irrigated with ground water, it’s the forest and swamp giants’ job to make a swamp!
Once soil enriches the earth, the giants can scatter resources around which will attract humans to settle. Once this happens, settlements will grow in population, wealth, and technology. If mankind doesn’t like the way you and your giants are running things, they’ll rebel against you. But hey, if man becomes a nuisance you can always decide to ask the rock giant to crush their uprising with a massive earthquake.
As humanity thrives, you can choose to allow your giants to assist or punish them to go for achievements which unlock further advancing technologies. Resources are also upgradable, so experimentation rewards you with more advanced buildings or resources. Games are timed, so you can’t do everything in Reus without certain unlocks you’ll acquire during each session of gameplay.
For example, your first game mode is 30 minutes long (easy mode). Within this half hour you’ll use your level one abilities to figure out game basics until you can use everything you’ve unlocked in a 60-minute game (normal mode). Or, you can just freeplay, which disables achievements and unlocks but allows you to experiment freely with no time limit.
Overall, Reus is a simple game reminiscent of the Newgrounds browser games of olde, but it’s the minimalistic approach to the game’s mechanics that makes it fun to play. Just observing the evolution of townspeople is interesting thanks to a unique hand-drawn art style. Villages will grow into towns and eventually cities that will glorify you with beautiful golden statues or black onyx sacrifice altars.
The game’s biggest flaw is that you can’t exactly fail a Reus playthrough. Your general goal is to colonize the planet and take care of mankind, but it ultimately doesn’t matter whether or not mankind is destroyed (by itself or your giants). All you have to do is create more resources and new settlements will appear where the old ones were.
It’s fun to discover new synergies between resources (armadillos like being next to minerals, some plants next to water, etc.) but, when there’s no consequence for your mistakes, there is only experimentation. And that’s where Reus falls a bit short. You really can do no wrong.
That fact that Reus is all trial and no error makes for a pleasurable experience, even considering its lack of serious challenges. Challenging or not, Reus fulfills the city builder in you by allowing you to control the landscape while you provide for your people (or not!).
Reus has its own charm as an interesting take on the evolution of humankind. If you like puzzles, building things, and are looking for another take on “God” games like Black and White, you’ll find something to enjoy.