Reigns is like Tinder, but for Kings

Live the life of a king, then die and do it all over again

Reigns
Devolver Digital
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Being a king is hard work. There are wars to contend with, the demands of the church to entertain, and a populace that's either dying from the plague or demanding a lower rate on taxes. It's almost enough to make you wish you hadn't been born into the wealth and opulence of a king at all!

But what if there was a better way? What if managing every element of your kingdom didn't require hard work, dedication, and sacrifice?

What if it just required the swipe of your finger? That's the idea behind Reigns, a clever kingdom management sim from developer Nerial and publisher Devolver Digital.

Hear Ye, Hear Ye

Reigns offers a very clever mix of stat management and storytelling, giving players bite-sized problems that they'll need to solve by selecting one of two decisions. Each of these decisions can affect the game's four main concerns: Church, Citizens, Army, and Treasury. These are each represented by a bar graph the top of the screen. If you let any of these bars run empty, you'll have revolt and anarchy on your hands. If you let them fill up to max capacity, the results are very much the same. You'll be ousted, murdered, overfed, or meet some other untimely end that brings your reign to a close. Then the next king starts their reign, and as the player, you begin the process all over again.

The base concept here is simple, accessible, and fun -- but it's built upon considerably by the game's many finer points.

The decisions you'll make require little thought, and may seem like one-off moments, but many can lead to branching storylines (should you survive long enough to see them). Decisions you make can lead to a variety of perks and penalties that can affect your kingdom for years to come. Some, like obtaining "Clarity," will let you see the impact your choices make before you make them.

Others, like when you launch a crusade, will see you finances continue to grow while your populace continues to dwindle.

You'll need to factor all of these elements in as you continue to rule your kingdom -- and some of these choices might even affect the next line of kings, too.

He Who Wears the Crown

While Reigns simple concept might have had the potential to suffer from a fairly limited scope, developer Nerial has wisely made choices that give the game plenty of replay value. Different choices can lead to unlocking new characters, each of whom adds new cards to the deck that your decisions are drawn from. As of this writing, I've unlocked 350 cards -- and that's not even the halfway point.

The characters themselves also provide a gotta catch'em all feel, with a page that tells you how many you've yet to meet, how many deaths you've yet to suffer, and how many objectives you've yet to fulfill. That's an awful lot of carrots to dangle in front of your face, and -- at least in our case -- it's done a great job of keeping me coming back for more. And since each lifetime only lasts a matter of minutes, Reigns is an easy game to jump in and out of at your leisure.

A Royal Presentation

Of course, it doesn't hurt that Reigns is easy on the eyes.

It has a great, minimalist art style that keeps things uncluttered and well-communicated. Despite their similar base features, every character you interact with has their own distinct look and personality, with little animations helping to bring each little card to life.

There's a good dose of humor in Reigns, too. Eat the wrong mushroom and everything gets a little trippy, with characters turning into bunnies and the like. Play with your dog, and find out he may or may not be possessed by the devil. Creates a prosperous nation, but be rewarded by a gluttonous death. I've yet to complete the reign of a king without smirking once or twice.

The user interface is, likewise, polished to perfection. The very Tinder-like swiping mechanic for decision making might sound like a novelty but quickly proves to be an intuitive interface for gaming. I'll be surprised if we don't see more narrative-based games follow in a similar fashion going forward.

And the soundtrack? We could go on and on about every element of Reigns pitch-perfect presentation, but I'll just say this: it's hauntingly medieval and can be listened to right now on Bandcamp.

The Rightful Heir to the Throne

Games shoot to the top of the App Store all the time, but few really seem deserving of that top shelf position. Reigns is a wonderfully original twist on the medieval management genre, fusing elements of interactive fiction, humor, and lineage-style gameplay to create something wholly its own. 

There are other games out there that let you be a king, of course, but they're largely mired in managing resources and armies -- micromanaging every element until you've lost touch with the real world and let your burrito go cold. Reigns does away with all of these fiddly bits, offering a kingdom you can manage in one hand while holding your lunch in the other.

If you've ever felt a call to royalty, Reigns will let you know how long you would have lasted -- and then let you try all over again. Consider this an absolute must have.

Reigns is now available on the App Store. Reigns is also available to gamers on Android and PC.