In the past, I have made no bones about enjoying casual games if they are well done. As I have previously stated, I classify them as “cat games;” games that can be played with one hand on the mouse and the other petting a cat. What we have here is a supreme example of the genre and something everyone should check out.
Reignmaker, released to Steam on April 16th by Frogdice, first came to my attention at PAX East. I had an opportunity to play a few rounds and spoke to the booth attendant to try to gather more information so I could do a preview. He got as far as saying that I could buy a download code right at that moment and the Steam key would come to me the next week. I grabbed my wallet instantly and paid, no small compliment coming from someone with a backlog as large as mine.
The meat of the game is a match-three combined with tower defense. Each match fires bolts out towards the encroaching hoard of orcs, skeletons, “gazers,” and more. You do need to keep an eye on where they are marching in from and be certain to plan ahead. It doesn’t pay to fire off your magic at the tough to reach bottom of the board if you can take care of a problem further up. It also forces you to think strategically. Should you create a vertical line to spread the damage or would you be better off using the more concentrated blast of a horizontal match. Matches with more than three “runes” provides additional benefits, from adding money to your stockpile to healing your tower.
The money will go to good use, too. Between battles, you have the opportunity to grow and direct a city. You will build buildings to research spells, equipment, and troops to bring into battle. Also in play are policy decisions. After each battle you are presented with a moral and/or governmental situation. The choice you make determines the how your city will grow. This brings us to a complaint, though. While I am being assured that my choices have consequences, for the life of me, I cannot determine what they are. It would be nice to have a statistical qualifier added to the bottom of the flavor text. If it had simply said something like “+1 to damage from matches” or “reduced time for lumber production,” I would be thrilled.
This also brings me to my other complaint about this one. In order to improve structures, build troops, or requisition items in the city, you need resources. Lots and lots of resources. The only way I have found to gather them is to order them up in the corresponding building and then go play a battle. Or ten. You can purchase workers to reduce the turnaround time using your already stretched resources, but the problem with that is self-explanatory. Were there a way to gain more resources in battle, the problem would be solved.
I have complained a bit about this one, but please know that it comes from a place of love. I truly adore this game. It is the right kind of addictive where I just want to go a little more because I am that close to my next upgrade. Flinging spells at my enemies, buying time with a net, tossing an explosive capsule, then polishing them off with a well planned five match can be just as gratifying as a headshot on a snotty little eleven year old. (In game, parents. I have no desire to murder your kids. Unless they tick me off.) Depending on my mood, I would argue more so.
Should a sequel or even a patch come along to address my complaints, this would be an easy perfect score, something I have yet to give. The fact that I really, really want to give it a five anyways is a testament to how great this one is. However, there is room to grow. If you ever had an interest in games, this is an easy purchase. You don’t need to wait for a sale. However much you spend, you will get your money’s worth.
Update: There appears to be some egg on my face. While I put in two hours on my non-Steam copy and an additional four in Steam, I failed to notice a couple things that address my concerns.
I complained about the fact that there did not seem to be any feedback as to what affects my policy decisions were have. Pang from Frogdice has noted below that such information is present, just unfortunately set aside in a menu that I did not think to check. Also, while I was aware of the quest system, they tended to pop up to the side while I was busy with the actual battles. I never noticed if/when I completed them and never felt that I was gaining noticeable resources beyond what was being gained via the faculties themselves. This is on me.
After playing with these previously unnoticed features for a bit, I am readjusting my score to what I wanted to give this in the first place: 5/5.