Genre: adventure, dungeon crawler, kingdom management

Release Date: 2016 

Developer: Nerial

Publisher: Devolver Digital


Reigns sits you on the throne of a medieval monarch confronted with the usual pesky demands of peasantry, religion, diplomacy, trade and politics. A little bit of adventuring in dark dungeons, romance with foreign princesses and ghastly dark magic experiments will keep the kings on the edge of his iron throne. How long can you and your descendants rule?

Playability: Tinder left and right

With one billion swipes a day, Tinder is the undisputed grand auntie of online matchmaking for those who are more comfortable interacting with apps than human beings. Swipe left for no, dislike, pouah and swipe right for sure thing, OK, go ahead. Reigns’ gameplay relies on the same basic formula of frantic prejudiced left and right swiping. Build a cathedral… yes, no? Invade your neighbours… yes, no? Increase taxes on peasants… yes, no? Explore far away lands… yes, no? With hardly any explanations, the King (no option for Queen) will attempt to survive as long as possible. Who would have thought policy making was so easy?

Annoyance: Binary rule

Reigns’ gameplay essentially consists of juggling between the conflicting needs and demands of the Church, the people, the military and the treasury. Four icons conveniently measure the satisfaction level of each faction. Too low, the King dies. Too high, the King dies. Simplistic mechanics make the game readily accessible but often lead to inane decisions just for the sake of survival. Let the peasants starve, since their icon is already full to the brim (otherwise people get ideas of self determination…). Invade your friendly allies since the military gauge is too low… Eventually there is little free will for the ruler, aside from lateral swiping in a futile attempt to keep the four bars half full.  Cockeyed turn based swordfighting and blindfolded kidnappings are unnecessary distractions but then again gameplay is repetitive.

Beauty: Relaxing symbolism

Reigns’ unique artwork is full of whimsical symbolism and somewhat softens the oft lapidary humour of the parched narration. Simple lines and colours make characters come to life, but there is little time to enjoy the delightful portraits. Swipe my good man, swipe!

The Old Video Gamer’s Prattle: Lazy man’s adventuring 6/10

The next step in pocketable, easy as possible role playing simulation might well be a self-playing dungeon crawler. Reigns takes binary swipes at kingdom management and is suitable as lazy man’s adventuring. Despite its graphical charms and its cast of endearing characters, Reigns quickly becomes black and white binary repetition.