JUMPCUT PLAY

Reigns (Steam)

Release Year: 2016
Developer: Nerial
Publisher: Developer Digital
Platforms: PC, iOS, Android, Switch (2018)

Written by Tom Sheffield

In a world where online dating is as easy and effortless as swiping left or right on your phone, Nerial decided to create a game using a similar premise, but instead of finding your next partner, your swipes determine the fate of your kingdom…

Admittedly, Reigns only found its way into my ever growing Steam library through a Humble Bundle at some point over the last couple of years. It was always one of those games that I knew I’d probably never get round to playing and it would just sit in my library gathering dust, but after seeing a screenshot of it on Twitter at the end of last year I decided to give it a whirl. Much to my surprise, I was completely sucked into this game and its story, which I controlled by simply swiping cards left or right.

I knew the mechanics of the game before I installed it and figured it would be something that might entertain me for 5 minutes tops. Never did I imagine I would sit there for a good couple of hours trying to maintain order in an ungrateful kingdom and witness my royal self continuously perish or lose control of the throne.

The concept of the game is as simple as its mechanics. You are the new ruler of a medieval kingdom and are constantly pestered by your (sometimes) loyal subjects. You’re presented with a situation and there are just two options available for you to choose from. Each action has repercussions that effect the church, the people, the military, and the kingdom’s wealth – which are represented above the cards.

The aim of each reign is to keep all of these metrics balanced. If any of the four pillars of society gets too high or falls too low, your reign will come to an end. How it ends depends on which pillar caused your demise – so for example if the people turn against you, they’ll likely overthrow you and kill you in some barbaric fashion. But don’t fret, every time you meet your demise you then assume the role of your heir and continue to reign over the kingdom.

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Whilst on paper it does sound like this game would get boring within minutes, its charm and likeability lies within its writing. Some of the situations you find being presented to you are quite often bizarre, and the humour in the game beautifully matches it. One example of bizarreness I recently encountered was someone telling me they’d discovered an elephant in the kingdom and asked if I wanted to see it or not… My curiosity got the better of me and I said yes. Next thing I know I’m being told that this person strolls into my throne room with a Dragon in tow and consequently my castle is now on fire.

Not all of the situations are silly, some are quite serious and leave you really having to think about the decision you should make. I’ll hold my hands up and say I pondered on some of the scenarios for longer than I probably should have (I don’t know why because my reign never lasts long!) but that’s the beauty of this game. It sucks you into the narrative and makes you want the best for your kingdom… although sometimes it is fun to just constantly swipe in one direction and see how many years your reign lasts!

The art of this game also accompanies it’s simplistic mechanics and concept in that it’s very minimal, but fun. As you can see in the GIF above, the cards feature the characters to come face to face with, from Priests to Knights, Jesters to Queens, and even Dragons and Skeletons! As a big fan of minimal art this game’s design is right up my street, and was one of the factors that spurred me into giving it a try.

This game is definitely more suited for mobile play due to its Tinder-like mechanics. Swiping with your mouse definitely feels like more effort than the game requires and because it’s card-based it’s perfect for a mobile phone screen. Using a mouse definitely doesn’t hinder my enjoyment of the game – the writing makes sure of that! But if you were looking to buy this game then I would absolutely recommend buying it for your phone. Reigns is also making its Switch debut sometime soon, and I imagine that will also be a good choice of platform to play it on if you have yet to purchase it.

With a Game of Thrones version of the game releasing in October, now is the perfect time to revisit Reigns or Reigns: Her Majesty. 

Tom’s Verdict:

4

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