Sometimes all you need is a clever UI to make a game feel fresh and new. Nerial’s new game Reigns takes influence from the most surprising of places - Tinder. Yes, the dating app’s swipe left for no/swipe right for yes interface has been somehow utilized in this game to tell a story of a cursed King who’s fighting the devil. It’s surprisingly brilliant.
Reigns actually combines all sorts of genres as well as it’s a card game, a deckbuilder, and a roguelike all mashed up into one. As King you have to decide what is best for your Kingdom and carefully juggle the four pillars of your community - the church, the people, the military, and the wealth. They are represented by four little icons at the top of the screen (and the game's logo) that fill or drain depending on which way you swipe cards away.
Each year in your reign you’ll be presented with a new card to deal with, generally an advisor asking what to do about some issue. It's not easy being on the iron throne. You swipe the card left or right and will immediately see which categories will be affected by your decision. You aren't sure if it’s going to be positive or negative but you can usually infer what’s going to happen - if the people are mad about being underpaid, your standing with them will go down if you deny their pay raise.
This leads to a balancing act where you’re trying to keep all the categories in the middle. You don’t want your army to get weak, but if you spend too much money trying to support it your economy will crash. The church won’t approve of your affair but the people sure will. If any category gets completely filled or drained, you will die, usually in a hilarious manner. If the military gets too weak you’ll be invaded by a neighboring country and slaughtered. If you get too wealthy you’ll choke to death on the surplus of food at a banquet.
But death is not the end! This is where the roguelike aspect comes in, as you’ll simply play as the next King in the line and try to get that one a little further. Your curse means that each King remembers the past, and each one is trying to do their best to eliminate it. You will reign for thousands of years - long live the king indeed - but there is a real plot here that involves facing the devil. I’m sure you can guess at least one particular year that you’ll face him.
Reigns is also a bit of a deckbuilder! Certain decisions you make will introduce new characters to your story, which adds all of their cards to the deck. They can now be encountered on this playthrough and subsequent ones, and some of their cards can unlock even more new cards, and so on. There are a ton of characters to meet and new experiences to be had. You can choose to make some truly terrible decisions such as starting up a crusade (which causes your money to constantly increase, as your people constantly dwindle) or sending an explorer to the new world and do all sorts of awful things to the native people there.
While Reigns is available on Steam and supports Twitch play it must feel much more natural on your phone. The “glanceable UI” means that once you get the hang of things you can speed through the game, quickly swiping left or right to make decisions that impacts the lives of thousands of people. Just like real rulers and/or daters!
It all culminates in a game that’s genuinely funny and addictive, so well designed that an entire reign is playable in a few minutes yet it allows you to keep going for hours if you want. Tons of unlockables and the promise of updates to come just sweeten the deal Long may you reign!
Reigns costs a mere $2.99 and is available now for iOS, Android, and Steam.