The giants awaken from their slumber, the world they inhabit barren and lifeless. At once they set out to rectify this, bringing colour and vitality back to this desolate land. The forest giant fertilises the ground and raises a lush forest, only after the ocean giant creates a shimmering reservoir to nurture the vegetation. On the shore opposite the forest, the swamp giant generates a murky, dank patch of land, befitting his name. Far on the other side of the world, the rock giant raises a mighty mountain, drying the land on either side to form a pair of deserts. And that’s just in the first few minutes of Reus, God simulation, and puzzle game combination. Those are the first steps; the events that follow, though, lead to a much deeper, potentially seedier place.
Once you, the player, have taken control of the newly awakened giants and started to restore the world, it won’t be long before humans start to settle. Be it a desert, forest, swamp, or fishing village, they will come, and bring difficulties along with them. It starts out simple; they’ll begin a construction project for a granary, mine, or other similar structure. The catch is they can’t hope to complete it without the help of your giants. They need you to plant food, create animals for hunting, implant mines of precious minerals for wealth, and do it all with enough skill and planning to form a symbiotic relationship through all elements. This is also where the light puzzle aspect comes into play. By placing certain resources near one another, they gain bonuses that can greatly aid the villages, and supply far more than if you strew them about carelessly.
That’s the second step; helping a single village survive and thrive. What follows is even more daunting and difficult. At a certain point, a village will attempt to create a structure that requires another, nearby village to succeed. So, you’ll need to create another suitable area for inhabiting near the village you’ve been focusing on. This can raise other problems simultaneously while solving current ones. If a village is growing too quickly, they may become greedy, and attack another settlement, and even, as audacious as it might be, your giants. They quickly learn, though, not to bite the hand that feeds. Each giant has the ability to destroy, useful for pummeling the offending villagers into humility.
It’s a brilliant little game, truly. There’s a natural but pressing progression of gameplay systems that become more trying as you play and demand more of you at a manageable pace. The interaction and codependence of elements is very elegant. All of this occurs in a beautiful, colourful world. Well, after you’ve brought it back to life, of course. Everything has a childlike, playful sort of design, which serves to hide its deeper and darker elements.
Reus is a surprisingly deep and sophisticated game, more so than I would have expected from it at first glance. Through those challenging gameplay systems and a beautifully misleading art style, it shines as one of a rare breed in this day.