As was decreed in ages past: “Who runs the world? Girls.” And so our lord Queen Bee passed down this knowledge onto us, and it became gospel. The original Reigns came to us in late 2016 and while it was an awesome success it suffered from one major flaw — not enough Queens. Thankfully this has been quickly remedied this year with the release of Reigns: Her Majesty.
Reigns: Her Majesty is at first a very straight forward game that you can tell was designed for quick pick up and play on mobile devices before being ported over to PC on Steam. You play a queen, you’ve married into a kingdom at a young age and you are given tasks that need your attention. These are presented as cards, each card representing a member of your court with a question. You can give one of two answers, swiping left or right to answer — like ye olde Tinder.
So you have some decisions to make, and every decision you make will effect one of four areas of focus, filling or emptying a bar. These areas are The Church, The Common Folk, The Military and The Treasury. Most decisions will effect two of these but some will effect more. The kicker is if any bar empties your regicide is guaranteed. “So just keep all the bars full” I hear you saying, “It can’t be that hard!” Well my eager friend if you fill any of the bars, you will also be killed — just in a much more inventive way.
Staying alive is going to be your first priority, you will fail at this. It’s unavoidable — however death is just the beginning. A quick eulogy for the deceased queen and a new, younger queen sits as her successor and the game of spinning plates begins anew. With high scores for living the longest, it begins to feel like this may be the only point to the game, then enters the challenges.
Simple challenges at first they include things such as “Recruit the Merchant” or “Investigate the Tower” and as you achieve each you’ll unlock a new face in your court who will bring with them an array of new cards. Overtime playing the cards correctly will unlock ways to cheat death with a coin flip, one will aid your war effort another will distract the crowd looking for you, all to stretch out that life of yours a little longer. But you will keep dying, and it’s after a handful of deaths that something else begins to happen.
Your first visit by the All Mother is a surreal moment as the game’s reality starts to break. She speaks to you of your destiny and who you really are, setting you on the course for discovery. Suddenly you have focus, you have goals, and you have many more enemies. Using your wits and a handful of items you’ll need to try to uncover the truth. Will you befriend the warrior woman from the north? Will you silence the snake man cult who are worried about women having too much power? Will you duel your rival who tried to assassinate you?
Like I said previously, at first Reigns: Her Majesty seems pretty simple, but that’s the hook. The ease of flicking left and right means that the gameplay is so basic that you’re invested before you realise. Death isn’t permanent and can actually give you a fresh take on a problem. Carrying your belongings and friends with you means you can pick up where you left off, as long as the hand you’re dealt heads in the direction you need.
The art style is simplistic but it works in the game’s favour making characters instantly recognisable. Sound design is fairly basic but gets the job done and if you’re playing this on your phone most people won’t play with the sound on anyway. The writing is smart and fun with so many choices, although there were a few times that I had the same plot points loop back around on me. This was unfortunate but at least it dared me to try something new to see what result I could get.
The Bottom Line
While Reigns: Her Majesty has released on Steam, which is great for accessibility, this is through and through a mobile game. As a mobile game this thrives. Games on your smartphone need to be quick to pick up and play but hook you back in when you’re not thinking about it. Reigns: Her Majesty succeeds with this. Burst of quick play are underlined by the darker mystery happening in your kingdom while keeping the moment to moment gameplay funny, smart and rewarding — now if only the church would stop burning me at the stake.