Swiping left and right has become quite a natural gesture for the current generation of young adults taking advantage of dating apps such as Tinder. More than a gesture, swiping became a form of expression. Swipe right to give your approval, swipe left to reject. What if you were proposed to rule a kingdom that way?
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Release date: 11th of August, 2016
Genre: Management, Casual
Reigns takes a very casual approach to kingdom management. An enemy is at the gates! Send the army? Yes/No. Let’s sit back for a moment and think about it. These seemingly binary choices play on a few parameters that you always need to keep an eye on: church, people, army and money. Reach 0% or 100% on any of them, and the King (you) gets overthrown and dies. Now back to our decision. The people’s measure is at about 90%, and the army measure is at around 20%. I can’t afford to lose soldiers, while I can afford to lose a few million people. So no, I won’t send the army. The game shows me my new levels, 70% for the people and 30% for the army. The borders of the Kingdom are not a variable in the game, and those lost people can be regained just as easily. Mechanically, that was a good decision. Morally? Who cares.
The lack of moral implications is another reason why Reigns is very casual. You are not supposed to feel good or bad, you just react by swiping to pass the time and make the King survive as long as possible. Once a King dies, you respawn as the next King in line with all levels reset back to 50%. A few measures from the previous King persist, such as the construction of a cathedral or the start of a crusade. These contribute to give a little bit more variation to the systems at play, and on top of that there are different recurring characters that can make their way to your court and unlock an array of cards/events that will give a different flavour to the game. Surprisingly, there are even dungeons and duels that still make use of the basic concept of the game (swipe left to defend, swipe right to attack – swipe left to take the left door, swipe right to turn around).
The problem is that even though the game does not require much focus while still being engaging enough to keep my attention and becoming addictive, it eventually loses its charm and becomes repetitive. As if you were trapped in a web made of delicious sugar. You keep licking and feel happy and drowsy, but you are still trapped without realising it. Probably more fit for mobile than PC, even though I am glad to be able to play it from the comfort of my big screen. Furthermore, touch controls seem to be the best way to experience the tactile feel of the cards, because with the mouse or gamepad it does not feel quite right.
As a conclusion, Reigns is a game with a unique and interesting system, smartly boiling down the life of a King to a simple concept that still manages to hide a little bit of depth. However, it feels more at home on a touchscreen for quick sessions, because longer sessions eventually lose novelty and fall into a routine. For such a low price, it’s a good little game to keep you busy for a few minutes to a few hours. Reigns reminds me of Long Live The Queen while being much more simple and enjoyable.
Here is a video showing the gameplay and my comments: