Monday, June 27, 2016

Reus - 20/20 hours

Reus turned out to be something of a mystery. On the one hand, you had this cute little terraforming game where you can create a thriving world with abundant biodiversity. On the other hand, actually unlocking the upper tiers of the tech trees requires relentless numerical optimization to reach your prosperity benchmarks before the timer runs out. I could never quite figure out which of these two tones was the game's true heart. Was I grinding achievements to unlock more stuff to explore or was I exploring new plant, animal, and mineral combinations to make achievement grinding easier?

Overall, I enjoyed Reus, but I was never really comfortable with that tension. I hesitated to destroy superfluous cities, stalled the growth of some of my bigger towns to forestall greed (when it would simply be more efficient to let them become greedy and then punish them for their hubris), and upgraded my natural resources more out of curiosity than out of good strategy. Yet there is something undeniably compelling about having a concrete goal in a building game. My biggest disappointment is that there were still about 20 unlockable species that I had not yet discovered. I was left wishing that there was a "free mode" where I could just play with all the stuff, to see what everything did.

My favorite part of the game was the feeling of being a benevolent force, tending to the balance of nature and nurturing humanity through the various eras of civilization by providing them with the gifts of the earth. My least favorite part of the game was that there was not more of that.

I mean, I like numerical and spatial-based puzzles. A lot of the game's challenge revolves around helping the humans with special projects that both give their villages a major prosperity boost and unlock new powers for your giants. And it is definitely satisfying to discover a clever synergy that will allow you to boost production just enough to reach the project goal before time runs out. It's just that during times like that, I felt less like a god overseeing his followers and more like an overworked event planner trying to work out a seating chart for a wedding where half the guests hated the other half.

Then again "Bridezilla Tycoon" may well be a game worth playing (in fact, the more I think about it, the more I think it's a good idea).

So Reus gets a thumbs up from me. It wasn't quite the game I wanted when I bought it, but it was diverting enough that my 20 hours almost turned into 23 (until I realized it was absurd of me to start a new 120 minute game when I was only 10 minutes away from my deadline).

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