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ReignMaker (PC) artwork

ReignMaker (PC) review


"It's a real shame the quality of the hybrid gameplay doesn't match the genius of the game's clever title."



When I began playing ReignMaker, I was looking forward to some match-3 puzzle fun and my standards weren't set all that high. The title promised a unique mix of city building and combat, held together by the sort of mechanics that keep people addicted to the likes of Bejeweled and Candy Crush Saga. That sounded great to me!

Unfortunately for the (I'm sure) very nice and independent people at Frogdice, the company that produced ReignMaker, I also downloaded Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign in order to grab some screenshots to accompany the glowing review one of our freelancers wrote for that other title. The difference between the two games quickly became apparent, and the disparity didn't work in the former's favor. I spent something like 20 hours with ReignMaker, but I've sunk much more time into Marvel Puzzle Quest and I have enjoyed myself a great deal more.

ReignMaker (PC) image


ReignMaker is, as promised, a blend of the tycoon and puzzle genres. It's a promising concept, but unfortunately the game doesn't do a good job handling either aspect. Both modes feel quite limited, and so does any interplay between them.

The barebones story sees you trying to revitalize a kingdom on behalf of your friend, the king. Placed in a position of power, you oversee the development of a settlement built on a series of islands. Almost immediately, the region comes under attack. You must defeat marauding monsters and use the resources you gain to construct better buildings that can produce more food and warriors. Along the way, you'll make decisions as social issues arise.

Most of your active time with the game is spent in the match-3 mode, which is how battles are handled. You'll have a structure to protect, indicated by a wall. To one side of the wall, there is a playing field that usually will consist of a large square filled with tiles. Sometimes, there are other formations that make things more complex, or "corrupted" tiles that don't count even if you manage to match three of them.

ReignMaker (PC) image



On the other side of that wall, there are the enemies that march steadily toward you, in waves (sort of like in a tower defense title). You can make matches to send out bursts of elemental power along the row or rows where the match is made. If you manage to match 4 or 5 pieces at once, instead of 3, your shots will do more damage and possibly cover more area. Additionally, your matches fill up meters that (if you have learned abilities) allow you to use special skills or gain a few additional resources. If you have brought along warriors, they can also patrol the walls and attack foes that get near. Once you survive enough waves, you win a reward.

Back in town, after a heated battle, you can spend your hard-earned loot to invest in buildings that produce regular resources as time passes. For instance, you might improve your farm so that it generates extra crops every few minutes, or you can modify the saw mill to process more lumber. That lumber then allows you to make additional upgrades, over time, provided you have enough gems gained from combat. At the town hall, you also can invest in additional troops for your walls, since those are expendable. Elsewhere, you can learn additional abilities or buy more one-use weapons.

After every battle that pushes you further into the story campaign (which doesn't really tell a story of any substance, only occasionally adds new areas to your map), you will be asked how you want to deal with a situation that the people have brought to your attention. You are presented a few options, like you're taking a test or a survey, and your decision is recorded. This seems like it must impact your city development in some way, but I couldn't figure out what it might actually be. There's no obvious connection between the answer you give and anything that appears on-screen or in any of the menus, so it wound up feeling like a waste of time. Maybe it was originally supposed to have more impact than it does, or maybe I'm just stupid.

ReignMaker (PC) image


I do actually enjoy city builders, and they're a popular genre for mobile and social media games. I've played a number of them through the years, on a variety of platforms, and I've almost always had a good time. The city in ReignMaker isn't much fun to build, though. There are slight graphical differences as the buildings evolve, but not much in the way of useful rewards. Citizens walk around in streets and mumble a lot, and you can click on them to see what they have to say, but it doesn't seem to actually have any relation to your efforts to make the city a nicer place.

Worse, your work on the city doesn't have much impact on combat. You can buy spells and such, but those are easy to burn through and then you have to spend more time earning more of them. Even when you have built your city up to capacity and it is producing as much as it can at once, the process feels like a losing game. You can leave the application running while you do other stuff, and return to the game periodically to collect resources and issue an order for the mill to start producing lumber again for the next few minutes. It's a chore, though, not something you do for fun.

Audio-visuals are also disappointing. The town is drawn nicely enough and its single looping tune is decent, but combat is bland. Monsters aren't interesting. They sort of just exist, and they're mostly small and ugly, anyway. Everything manages to get the job done, but with nothing in the way of artistic flair.

It would be easy to nitpick some more, but ReignMaker isn't a victim of its serviceable but disappointing individual elements. Rather, it suffers because none of its core components come together in any meaningful way. If the battles didn't constantly syphon resources and if the town were more interesting to develop, this could have been an interesting game in spite of the rough edges. After a trip through the development mixer, though, the various elements went their separate ways. The resulting experience is too disjointed and mediocre to earn a purchase recommendation from me, especially when there are free match-3 puzzle titles cluttering the marketplace that offer more satisfying experiences. I think I might go play one of those right now.

Rating: 5/10

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Staff review by Jason Venter (June 23, 2014)

Jason Venter founded HonestGamers in 1998, and since then has written hundreds of reviews as the site's editor-in-chief. He also is a prolific freelancer with game reviews, articles and fiction available around the Internet.

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