Game Name –Reus
ESRB Rating – N/A
Genre –God Game, Strategy
Educational Values – Strategic thinking, Sequencing, Synthesis, Analysis
Platforms – Windows
Where to buy –Good Old Games, Steam, GamersGate, Desura, or directly from their website.
When should you buy it? – If you are looking for a game to play with a small child on your phone or tablet, this is the one.
About the Game
On the surface, Reus looks like a kid’s game. You control several cartoony-looking Giants to terraform a world and provide the villages that build up there with resources to help them accomplish their goals for buildings. It is a straightforward concept with fun music and a unique art-style. The game seems simple enough to almost overlook. Your giants create plants, animals and minerals to provide food, wealth, and technology for the villages. They grow over time and improve their village. And, at first, it is that straightforward. Until the game really gets going. Before you know it, you have multiple villages all spread out and demanding your attention to help them improve.
The first level of buildings is also deceptively simple. A village wanted to build a school which just needs some food and technology. So your giants create plants and an exotic animal. Done. But now, they want to expand that school into a University which requires more food, more technology and now some wealth. This is where it starts to get tough, because you have a limited number of spaces on which you can create resources. You have to start using their “Symbioses” whereby each resource has bonuses to the resources surrounding it. No longer can you just create what you want where you want it. You must now plan each move carefully to upgrade your resources and have them work together. All the while a counter is running on how long you have left for this project, as well as the overall time to complete the level, as well as the creation and maintenance of other villages… As you can see, it gets intense very quickly.
Your forest giant and mountain giant are providing resources to a village.
What the Game Teaches Us
I have written before about games that require one to plan backwards. Understanding a ‘tech tree’ is essential to any strategy game, and Reus has one of the most complex trees I have ever seen. It seems overwhelming at first, but having the tree provides a gamer with choices. Real choices increase the depth of gameplay dramatically. They force the gamer to understand their options, analyze the individual components, and synthesize a single path to victory from the various choices available. Should the gamer replace the plants next to this mineral? Or upgrade his animals and place them next to more plants for grazing? The completion of each project also supplies the Giants with “Ambassadors” from the village which unlock special abilities. The gamer must choose at the completion of each project which Giant gets the Ambassador. The decision of which can have lasting repercussions throughout the game.
Over time, a gamer begins to see the patterns in the needs of the various villages and projects and can start planning early to make sure a village has the appropriate starting resources to easily complete the level 2, 3, or 4 projects, as well identify which Ambassadors to go for, and which Giant to give them to and in what order. This kind of higher order sequencing is a crucial skill for gamers of all ages to develop. While many strategy games lay out clearly a sequence of buildings to get to a final goal (for instance, Barracks -> Factory -> Armory = Tanks), Reus takes this concept even further by allowing for multiple, non-linear sequences to achieve the same result.
This increase in complexity makes the game more challenging, but also more engaging, and more educational.
Such a small world, but so many opportunities on it.
General Feelings on the Game
I enjoy playing Reus immensely. It requires focus and commitment for the time you are playing it, but the immersion is excellent. Everything is on a timer, even the individual rounds of gameplay. So I found myself sitting back at the end of an hour long round and shaking my head that it was over so quickly.
The Symbiosis mechanic, as well as the Ambassadors that I have described do not even scratch the surface of Reus. Every time I load up the game, I learn about something new about it. Though the complexity and the learning curve that provided so much depth to the gameplay also made Reus difficult to get into. I recommend bookmarking the wiki to help you get started.