When it comes to games that give you the role of a ruling king, I’d say that 9 times out of 10 you are in the middle of a deep strategy game, requiring you to know who to barter with, go to war with, and when to adjust the price of wares sold to keep your peasants happy, you rich, and your kingdom thriving. Reigns takes all this, simplifies it dramatically, and turns it into a card-swiping game. Will you raise the price of bread? It will increase your money but will make your people angry. What about a war with the eastern territories to increase your domain? Better yet, how about a nice crusade? It’s all here and more, all in the swipe of a card.
The entire game is about Yes or No choices, with some variation. Generally, a swipe to the right will be for “Yes” or a positive response, and a swipe to the left is for “No” or negative. Through this simple, binary response system, the game fleshes out a story where a long time ago a King made a deal with the Devil to have ultimate power but at the loss of his soul. Now cursed to living in an endless cycle of deaths and resurrections, it’s your duty to appease the Devil’s demands or try and trick him.
There are hundreds of cards with more unlocking as you make different achievements through the game. Cards include everything from the army needing more troops, to your miner finding a cave of gold and you deciding to keep it for yourself or share the wealth. You may end up with a bastard son, or you could be a great war hero. This game has incredible variety. All of these choices effect 4 meters at the top of the screen. There is a Religion, People, Army, and Treasury meter. Just about everything you do will either raise or lower the bar for any of these areas, and it’s important to maintain a balance with each of these. If the Chuch gains too much power, they will overthrow the government and you lose, but it they lose all of their power, the pagans overthrow your castle and murder you. No one stat can be maxed or emptied.
There are times when you will wander into a dungeon or be challenged to a duel. Swiping right will attack while swiping left will block and charge a special attack. This is a little bit of “rock paper scissors” and a little bit of luck as you aren’t able to choose which specials you throw out, so sometimes you’ll do a dive attack when a sword throw would win the match. It’s fun, but can be frustrating when things don’t go your way and you have no control over it.
There are special situations that will effect these meters as well, romancing a lover will make the people happy and will lock the People meter so that it is unaffected by any choice made. Starting a holy crusade will continuously raise profits and increase the Church’s power over time, but with a steady decrease of the military. There are powerups to save you from famine, mushrooms that let you see the exact increase or decrease of each choice you make, and even a potion to turn all your villagers into rabbits. This game has an incredible amount of variety and even after hours of playing it, there are still a few cards I have not seen yet.
The visuals are all similar to a flat, material design with bright vibrant colors. All the characters are unique and diverse, from the Executioner with his hood hiding his face, to the crazy heretic that released a lion in your village as part of God’s wrath. It’s a simple design, but it’s beautiful and keeps the game moving at just the right pace. You aren’t supposed to be locked into the beauty of the cards, you’re supposed to recognize the character, read what they say, and swipe. The simple graphics compliment the simple gameplay.
The sound is on point, with the low chanting music that one would expect from a medieval game. Every character has their own unique voice and chatter, even if it is something that sounds like it comes out of The Sims. It is a fun way to make the characters seem a little more engaging. Again, there is no over-complication in the sounds, but there are just enough details that prevent if from getting dull.
There are hundreds and hundreds of cards available to unlock and the pacing of unlocking them is spot on, with more cards getting unlocked the deeper in the story you get. There are many branching storylines, some dependant on completing other in a single playthrough to unlock. Considering that each life of the King on average only lasts between 5 to 10 minutes, it’s full of quick and achievable goals, but luck plays into getting the cards needed to pull off certain achievements. With the Devil only showing up every 666 years, there’s plenty of time to have fun and explore without having to worry about mandatory story quests, but there’s still plenty of story quests sprinkled throughout. You are able to continue playing after you break free from the Devil’s control to pick up any last achievements that are missing. All in all, the game took me just shy of two weeks of off and on playing to get through the main story.
Reigns is a brilliant game. It’s easy gameplay and short bursts of story are perfect for the mobile gamer on the go. The story is engaging, the characters are endearing, and the strategy is easy to pick up but difficult to master. Besides the bit of random luck involved in duels, the game is as flawless as they come. At $2.99, this game knows it’s worth and is worthy of the price tag.