The basic premise of Reigns: Kings & Queens breaks down to you deciding on whether you wish to play as a king or a queen and choosing between one of two options every year of your rule until your death. Once your ruler dies from one various cause or another, a new ruler is put into power and you begin making choices for them as if you never died. Unfortunately, that’s about as in-depth as the game will get. You have four resources to keep track of during your ruling: the faith, the people, the army, and the treasury. They all must be kept at balanced levels as long as possible so your rule can continue prosperously. If they become too high or low, your rule will end due to some calamity or other caused by the imbalance in powers.
As you begin playing the game, you are thrown into an unexplained fantasy world where you are supposedly ruling for some reason or another. Each year, an advisor or random character pops up asking for advice or requesting that you make a decision for the country. You either slide to the left or right depending on your answer, and certain repercussions occur depending on your choices. This cause-and-effect system sounds like a decent idea, but the execution is very off.
The first problem gamers will be running into is the amount of repetition they will be dealing with in the game. After playing through several rulers, the same scenario pops up over and over again with the exact same outcome following both choices. At a point, all a player needs to do is remember which option is the negative answer and simply avoid it. This ultimately removes any actual choice from the game because an obvious wrong option becomes apparent. After seeing so many of the same scenarios over and over and over again, it becomes a tedious game of sliding left or right to avoid the negative answer.
For a game based around choices, it seems your multitude of deaths do not matter in the slightest. Whether you have a reign for a couple years or a century, the game continues on following the same choices in the same linear fashion. A list of goals are made for you so that through your choices you can achieve them, but as the player starts completing these tasks, they will notice that you simply check off each goal as you continue through the monotony of choices. At most points in the game, you actually have to pick a certain answer so you can continue on, further removing any choice you have over the outcome.
Developer Nerial tries creating a different experience for both the king and queen campaigns in the game, however they create a sexist and vain world for the queen where she clearly has less power than the king. For example, at one time during the queen campaign, the king actually laughs at you for trying to take power for yourself. There is even a death scenario where if your army becomes too powerful, the kings locks you away for being too strong. They even have a magic mirror for the queen to look into that tries to ply her with vain ideals. If you deny the vanity of the mirror, you actually lose resources, while if you give in to vanity, you gain resources.
Despite the major drawbacks to the game, there are a couple redeemable aspects to it. There are a few interesting characters that show up in the story, such as the doctors, magical creatures, and fools that add some interesting flavor to the otherwise repetitive storyline. A dungeon you can explore at random does show up from time to time, but sadly, as with all the other choices in the game, once you go through the dungeon once, it is exactly the same every time at every turn. They also have items in the game that add random effects, such as loaded dice that will let you win against the fool every time you bet with him or a mushroom that gives you the ability of clarity seeing what the repercussion of your choices will be. These add a bit more complexity to choices you have already made. There is a dueling choice with some characters you run in to in the game as well, but it is very limited and unreliable. The options in the duel are between you stepping back or making a random move toward the opponent. For example, in a fight with a skeleton in the dungeon, at one point in the skirmish, your character has the option of getting on their knees and proposing to the skeleton…and no, the skeleton does not feel the same way about you as it stabs you to death.
There are many odd aspects to the game that don’t seem to make much sense. The game slowly tries explaining that the Devil is pulling the strings in the background and you need to outsmart him. It’s a very random element in the game that the Nerial tried to make important for some reason. Any time the Devil shows up, the game becomes completely pointless. All you can do is lose resources while you are dealing with him and no actual choice is given to you. It’s an extremely annoying aspect in a game supposedly based around the ability of choice, but in the end, the Devil is making all the decisions for you, making it counter-intuitive to the game’s basis.
Reigns: Kings & Queens tries creating a world based around the choices you make, but unfortunately those choices don’t really matter. Die and die again and you start right back at the point of the story you were at without missing a step. Nothing is really accomplished in the game since all you end up doing is following the answers you need to and coming to the singular conclusion in the game. The game essentially comes down to being a large hypocrite trying to offer you choice, but in the end giving you one outcome no matter what. The fun lasts for about 10 minutes before the same choices start popping up over and over again. If you have some time to kill in a waiting room or on a bus, you might want to turn it on just to see some of the ridiculous deaths that occur to your ruler, but short of that, nothing is all that enjoyable in the long run with Reigns: Kings & Queens.
Disclaimer: A review code for Reigns: Kings & Queens was provided by the game’s publisher.