Our Review of Reigns (iOS)

Managing the complexity of a Middle Age monarchy with the simplicity of Tinder

I’m weirdly addicted to Reigns and I can’t really explain why.  On the surface there’s nothing too appealing about the game.  If you watched someone playing the game you’d get bored very quickly.  Even my first few playthroughs were fairly uneventful; I’d make a few seemingly arbitrary choices, weird things would happen to my kingdom, and I’d inevitably end up dead either by a merchant uprising, or locked in the dungeon, or by my bastard offspring. I’d have little clue as to what exactly happened but somehow I’m compelled to try again.  Reigns is fascinating simply because makes light at some very heavy decisions.

You play as one of many, many monarchs of this fictitious kingdom tasked with making sweeping decisions that impact the lives of your people with the flick of a finger.  The game’s interactions are loosely designed on the Tinder interface (so I hear….) so you swipe right or left to decide on each matter.  These decisions can be fairly innocuous to letting your scientist test new weapons in his lab to fatal when these new weapons release the freaking black plague killing, well everything.

So… I didn’t win, then?

After each death, and you will die often, you pick up as the next king tasked with a new set of random choices.  Each choice takes up a year of your life and it’s all too common to die before you hit double digits of ruling your kingdom.  It’s not completely arbitrary though.  Certain decisions you make will unlock a host of “cards” or new decisions that will be available for subsequent playthrough.  There are goals based achievements for accomplishing certain story elements before your eventual death (e.g. reveal a spy, eat a blue mushroom, end a crusade, etc.).  There’s even a rather convoluted end game wherein you outsmart the devil but we’ve yet to have the random number generating gods rule in our favor to give us the right cards to reach that outcome.

My main complaint about the game is that it’s over too quickly.  Not death, which can and will come all too frequently, but rather the content itself.  After about two hours you will have unlocked every card or sequence you can and then it’s simply up to fate to see if you can make it to the end.  The game’s flippant tone though to life and death consequences (designed apparently to mock the UK’s attitude towards Brexit) is morbidly fascinating enough to keep me hooked.

There’s an endgame but damn it’s hard to get to.

What works

The game’s UI and mechanics clearly are great for a mobile device.  It’s also a very disposable game you can pick up when waiting in a line or even on a short flight.

What doesn’t work

There’s little depth here and unlocking the endgame frustratingly is up to RNG going your way.  Also several hours of playing and seeing the same cards I’m still not 100% sure I know the impact of each decision before I make them.

Overall: Good but skippable

The limited endgame and replayability prevents me from saying you need to seek this one out but it is quite good and if you have frequent downtimes to play something like this you won’t be disappointed.

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