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The Earth is dead. What was once a lush, vibrant planet filled with life is now a barren rock careening aimlessly through space. Civilizations, peoples, forests and oceans are but faint memories of the crumbling bedrock. But it doesn’t always have to be this way. With one last effort the planet spawns forth four colossi, massive avatars of stone, tree, ocean and swamp, harbingers of the world’s rebirth… or its ultimate destruction.
In Reus, you are those avatars. As an elemental giant, it is your job to shepherd the world back to life. Each of the four creatures has its own unique characteristics and its own striking look. The various abilities of the avatars couple and combine in ways that can at times be unpredictable, but it all adds to the joy of discovery, and it’s that feeling that ultimately makes Reus such a gem.
You will essentially terraform the planet from a 2D perspective, using the various abilities of the four avatars to crate different types of landscapes. Forest, for example, can add trees to any part of the planet. Ocean will need to add water to the surrounding areas, though, or the trees will grow thirsty and die. Earth, on the other hand, can summon up rock from beneath the surface. This is great for creating a desert environment that generates Dunes.
No matter the type of environment, it will have its own resources. These will draw the dregs of humanity, tattered and desperate as they are, to your newly-terraformed site. As usual, it is with the introduction of humanity that things start to get a little complicated.
People will create a village around areas that have the most resources. These resources come in three flavors – plants, minerals and animals. Those three elements are broken down into even more minute types, with animals, for example, breaking up into domestic and exotic. The wealth of types and interlocking avatar effects makes for a deep and at times even daunting sim experience.
The various resources can be upgraded just like a tech tree in a regular sim game. Each of them has stats for food, tech and wealth, and these can each be upgraded to deliver more potent resources to your people. The avatars can also change around the resources. Hitting one type of fruit with the Fruit ability will change it into a different type of fruit, for example.
As a town grows larger, it will begin to demand specific resources. Schools need tech to power, and food stores naturally need different types of food. Each town has a project, the likes of which can also be upgraded, and these projects will give the town an ambassador once completed. Ambassadors can actually ride on the massive avatars, unlocking new abilities for them both.
Different types of facilities flourish better when paired with specific other facilities. Herbivores, for example, might get a bonus when placed next to a patch of plants for grazing. This is called a Synthesis bonus. You will want to arrange your various towns and settlements with Synthesis in mind so as to best exploit the resources of the land, and so as to keep your towns running as efficiently as possible.
Coupling all of these mechanics together can naturally get really complicated. Despite Reus’s soothing music and beautiful visuals, the game can become quite nerve wracking when trying to pair everything up properly. It’s a bit overwhelming at first, and that can detract from some of the serene fun of exploring the 2D world with your gorgeously realized avatars.
Still, when all the pieces of the puzzle click, Reus is a rewarding and beautiful little puzzle/simulation hybrid. The 2D perspective and simple art style go a long way towards making the suite of interlocking systems palatable, and they make for some truly gorgeous imagery to boot. Reus may not push your system, but it’s one of the most striking games in recent memory.
Reus’ simple art style belies a depth and flexibility characteristic of the very best in the simulation genre. The 2D perspective grants players immediate access to the game’s wealth of systems and resources in a clever and visually striking way, and even though coming to grips with those systems can be frustrating and imprecise at first, it’s worth sticking with this demanding title to reap the rewards of a well-balanced civilization.