Sorry it’s been a while everyone, but as you might have seen if you follow me on social medias (which you should definitely do because I am charming and witty and hey let’s face it the algorithm will just hide me away anyway so do follow cheers) I am now a COMMUTER. Which actually isn’t strictly the reason I’ve been hiding away, but it is the reason that I finally come sprinting back to you now, with pressing news.
And by pressing news I of course mean, an observation about a game that is several years old hooray.
Back to my old tricks
But Rob, we’ve all been playing Red Dead; haven’t you? I mean yes *obviously* I’ve been playing Red Dead, and obviously it’s life affirming and wonderful and consuming and eye-searingly beautiful, BUT I can’t play it on the train so.
What I can play on the train is REIGNS, and play it I have.
But Rob you own a Switch, now you can play Dark Souls on the Goddamn train. Look, quiet you, Personification of my Insecurities; you’re here exclusively as a vehicle for addressing things I somehow haven’t worked into the narrative of this post naturally. We’ll get to the Switch and my commute in due course, okay.
I wish this level of self-deprecation existed only for entertainment purposes and within the confines of this site.
REIGNS, if you haven’t tried it yet, is a sort of text adventure game that harness’ Tinder’s unmistakably addictive Swipe ‘Em Up mechanic to allow you to make terrible life decisions. And when you use it in game form, it makes you go ‘Yeah, of course, why the hell hasn’t this been done before.’ The system is lithe and intuitive (for the most part – occasionally my inaccurate, indecisive fingers manage to smush the screen in such a fashion that I make the wrong choice – we’ll say that’s entirely my fault though) and a joy to use. The age old tactic of finding that ‘ludic loop’ to keep players tapping has been well and thoroughly employed here, to great effect, and paired with some other killer mechanics too.
Of course it’s not just swipe away and reign long and prosperous with the gentile ease of Disney royalty post traumatic family death and growing experience. Nope, Reigns is a disaster-fest, constantly throwing awful things at you and demanding you make choices about them until you’re dead.
Don’t worry though, it’s nothing like ‘Meet The Parents’
Presented with a set of ‘cards’, that represent a series of events about which you can make choices on how to run your kingdom, your left and right swipes sometimes just mean Yes or No, but other times can have you sending the army after a group of villagers who think they’re cats, building new churches for that incessant priest that won’t leave you alone, exploring dark caves, fighting skeletons, sacking the jester and all sorts else. A set of three goals outlines your path to progression (Meet The Doctor, Explore The Caves, Have An Heir etc) though often you’ll cross some of these off you didn’t even know you were looking for, as you swipe about the place.
Four fillable meters sit atop your screen, each one representing either the church, the army, the people or the treasury. Each of your decisions affects the meters positively or negatively – drain one out entirely, and you guessed it, you’re dead son.
The real surprise came for me when, several (hundred) goes in, I managed to fill one of these bars all the way to the top, and immediately died anyway. See, Reigns offers that classic Kingly (or Queenly) conundrum of How Good Is Too Good. Because there’s definitely a too good, and you’ll probably run into it more often than not, especially on your first few goes. If any of you were (un)fortunate enough to play Fable III, in the latter part of the game you were tasked with making the people happy, while also building up a sizeable treasury to ensure you could withstand the coming apocalypse. That plate-spinning bonanza was somehow dull and stressful at the same time, and yet Reigns takes a similar stroll down the path of royal decision making, and manages to keep it constantly quick-fire, fresh, funny and even exciting.
I actually quite enjoyed Fable III
There’s a pretty inventive combat mechanic using a combination of the swipes and neatly timed trash talk, and there’re lots of items found through specific events that sometimes buff your abilities (such as being able to see exactly how the next decision will affect your meters) and sometimes send you sauntering straight into a royal coffin.
It’s charming, accessible, and ultimately, bloody great for a train or tube journey, even one that only takes a few minutes.
Which brings me hastily to my current stumbling block with the Switch. I should be playing it more. I mean, I’m playing it probably more than anything else (nope, still not finished Red Dead) due to the train journeys but, and I may be the only one here, I struggle sometimes just to take the damn thing out. Phones have got us in a chokehold. They’re just there – all the time. Immediately. Materialising in our hands without us ever realising how they got there. It’s a wonder no one’s reported it.
I’ve started games of Reigns accidentally. Absentmindedly. The Switch is certainly the answer to great gaming on the go – but I think I need to rewire my brain, or just crack on with that long overdue lobotomy, to really start getting the most of it.
That said, playing Dark Souls on the train IS a pretty Squidward On The Floor Yelling Future moment, AND I’ve recently picked up the brilliant Into The Breach. So I’m getting there.
Into The Breach is as good as they say. Why aren’t I writing about that as well.
As far as Reigns goes, I feel like it might be one of those games I just keep coming back to, either of my own free will, or potentially of the will of some higher power I have no control over. Similarly there is Reigns: Her Majesty, written by the wonderful Leigh Alexander, which I absolutely must get, AND Reigns: Game of Thrones.
Let me know if you’ve played and loved or hated Reigns or its sequels, or if you struggle to get the Switch out in certain situations, or if you struggle to say no to the dog in Reigns because it’s a dog.