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Reigns: Kings & Queens review for Nintendo Switch


Platform: Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: Nerial
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-2
Online: No
ESRB: T

If you’re going to play Reigns: Kings & Queens — and you really should, for reasons I’ll get into shortly — the most important thing you need to know is that you can restart the game by going to the pause menu and pressing ZL and ZR at the same time for a couple of seconds. This may not sound like an essential piece of knowledge, but seeing as there’s a point of no return in this game after which it becomes impossible to meet a specific goal…well, without getting into spoilers, you’ll be wondering where the reset button is when you inevitably find yourself clicking around the options menu, trying to figure out how to start everything over.

That weird oversight aside, Reigns is an absolutely wonderful game. It’s essentially what happens when you cross Tinder with a text adventure. Playing as either a king or a queen (hence the name), you’re given a series of binary choices, and your decisions have impact on your rule in terms of the Church, the People, the Military, and the Treasury. If anyone one of those levels gets too low or too high, you’re likely to find yourself being crushed by an adoring mob, or making the army strong enough to overthrow you. It’s an incredibly simple mechanic, but Reigns constantly shows that it opens up all kinds of possibilities.

In large part, this is because the writing is so strong. Even though the game follows your character over course of a millenium, the world is populated by a few constant characters, each of whom has their own distinctive voice. On top of that, Reigns has enough variety that you can never quite tell where the game is going to go — you can find yourself swiping along, weighing the merits of a tax hike and dealing with border skirmishes, and then suddenly, you’ll be asked to romance a pigeon, deal with a dog that’s been possessed by the devil, or find that you’re the target of an assassination plot. On top of that, the game is a constant study in unintended consequences and utilitarianism, where you have to figure out what will benefit the most people (and, sometimes, what will benefit you the most). It’s a constant balancing act, and Reigns knows how to it fun.

In this respect, it’s helped by an addictive user interface. While I’ve never used Tinder, this game makes me understand exactly why it’s so popular. Swiping right and left is incredibly intuitive, and the game is designed in such a way that you’ll constantly find yourself going, “Okay, just a few more swipes, and then I’ll put it aside.”

Ironically, this also leads to Reigns’ one downside: if you play it for too long at any one time, you’ll notice that it starts to repeat itself, especially on the Queen side. There’s a lot of content here, but the game has its limits, and you’ll find those limits sooner rather than later if you try and power your way through to the end with no breaks.

It’s a sign of how addictive Reigns is, though, that powering through without any breaks feels like an inevitable outcome. It’s designed to suck you in, and if you want to discover a unique experience, you’ll give in and let that happen.

Devolver Digital provided us with a Reigns: Kings & Queens Nintendo Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: A-