By Daniel Lein
Normally I can’t be bothered to distract my attention from the awe inspiring and exciting adventure that is my rare visit to the division of motor vehicles. However, on occasion, my eyes are averted from the riveting process the U.S. government takes in instructing and validating my fellow Americans for motor vehicle operation by some fascinating video game available on my mobile device. It isn’t really until I get home though that the true test begins. Can this little mobile game stand up to the myriad forms of entertainment available to me?
The game I’m taking so long to mention is the one at the title of this video, Reigns, developed by Devolver Digital and released on iOS/Steam. As the king of a vague supposedly European kingdom you make decisions about once a year that have an affect on each of the groups that make up your kingdom; church, military, oligarchy, peasantry, and market. A good player will be able to discern which decisions will have the best benefit on their kingdom, but a better player will figure out how to be king for as long as possible. If any of the factions prosperity bars get too high or too low, it’s game over, for that king anyway. Directly after there will be another king in your lineage to take his place. This forces those who wish to survive and see some of the more secretive parts of the game to make some nasty decisions to keep the peasants or whoever in check.
Though there are slight variations in the gameplay, like nonsensical swordfighting and dungeon crawling, most of the fun comes from these tough puzzle-like decisions. The decisions that you get to make, by the way, are varied. And by varied I mean some are slightly comedic conversations about how we ought to kill the court jester while others give me an option on how to deal with the nation’s outbreak of cholera. It’s also pretty important to point out that all decisions require yes or no responses, giving each situation a very binary feel. So when you get a result you either didn’t want or didn’t expect you now know what the exact answer would have been. This hindsight not only serves to teach the you how to be better in the future, but also emotionally motivates you. This is nowhere more true than when one or more of your factions is on the breaking point and you know that your yes or no decision means life or death for you.
All of this exciting decision making and faction management is of course made all the more rewarding by decent writing. Reigns takes a dark comedy approach that might never make you bust a gut, but will certainly keep you engaged with funny quips or comments. In addition to the writing, the visuals and audio help. That’s about it though, I mean both are fine, the minimalist art has a sort of “Billy’s first stained glass window” feel, and the audio sounds like that animal crossing/sims bargle speak however just believable enough to sound like some strange European country I’ve never heard of. Again, neither are particularly impressive, but they aren’t offensive.
What is particularly impressive however is the act of exploration. I mentioned earlier how every so often the game throws in silly variations on gameplay, and though none of these seem particularly effective or fair on their own the act as an amazing reward to a player who manages to survive long enough. There’s a sword fighting minigame, a dungeon crawling minigame, opportunities for romance, a conspiracy to thwart, as well as a devil to debate with. The best part is that some of these diversions do more than just distract, some give you buffs or abilities that change the way you make your day-to-day decisions as king. This exploration of varied game types is what makes the game so fun. It’s what drove me to keep playing and survive as long as possible. It was like getting a nice little present every couple of playthroughs, that, though not particularly fun in its own right, excited me enough to try it all over again.
Reigns earns a “Tropical Flavored Sprite”/10
It’s a surprising game that spices things up and is enjoyable every time I play, that being said, it didn’t exactly set the world on fire.
If you want a “real score” I’d say 7/10