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Indie Games Play God

Reus doesn't break any new ground. And that's just fine, because it sure is pretty.

Posted on May 17, 2013, at 12:58 p.m. ET

The first thing you'll notice about Reus, the new game from the Dutch indie studio Abbey Games, is that it is wonderful to look at. I'm wary of some of the hyperventilation that happens whenever an indie game has a whiff of style—it seems to me that 90% of these games can be grouped into a few homogenous aesthetic camps—but Reus is visually marvelous, even better in motion than it looks sitting still. The earth-shaping giants that you control move across a game world that seems to bend and groan under their weight. It's impressive.

Reus needs to look good, because you spend a lot of time looking at the same thing: those giants, pulling up mountains, digging up oceans, and sprouting up forests, across the 360 degrees of a barren planet. This is a "god" game, a genre that for our purposes started in 1989 with the seminal Populous and had its brightest moment with 2001's Black & White. The typical god game puts the player in charge of the development of some interconnected, generally ecological, system. In this case, the four giants you control both enable human development through the creation of different land and resource types, and disable human development through various natural disasters when the little pischers get out of control.

Mechanically, Reus doesn't offer anything particularly new if you've played those classic games. But as Limbo and Super Meat Boy and countless other indie hits have demonstrated, it is not necessary to create a new kind of game to succeed. Often, it is enough to revisit an underloved genre with care and grace. Reus certainly does that, and at nine dollars on Steam, it does so within reason.

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