The original Reigns ($0.99) was easily among my favorite games released last year, as the whole experience felt like a masterpiece of game design. Via binary options, triggered by swiping right or left as if you were browsing through Tinder profiles, players were invited to rule their kingdoms and attempt to balance the competing powers in the land: The church, the people, the military, and the treasury. With few exceptions, every decision made increased favor with at least one power, while decreasing your standing with others. The trick is, you need to use your intuition to figure out what decision you’re going to make to keep everything in check. For example, you might come across a doctor who offers to heal your subjects, and allowing them to do that will increase your favor with the people, while decreasing your standing with the church who frown upon the medical sciences. The rest of the game goes like this until you inevitably meet your demise in many amusing ways, at which point the whole process repeats again, as you’re cursed, and return again and again as a new king… Until you figure out how to break the curse, anyway.
The coolest thing about Reigns is that the gameplay is simple enough that you can recommend the game to absolutely everyone. For people who aren’t gamers, they’ll likely fiddle around for a while and have a good time making royal decisions. The hardcore will explore the surprising amount of depth in the game to reach the “real" ending. Honestly, the biggest problem with Reigns is that it ended leaving us very hungry for more. When the sequel, Reigns: Her Majesty ($0.99) was announced, we were overjoyed, and would’ve been totally satisfied if all Her Majesty turned out to be was more Reigns.
Instead, what we got was an evolution of the original. As the title hints, this time around you’re playing as the queen (who still needs to deal with a oafish king, at times) which adds numerous new dynamics to the game such as love interests. There’s also a item system which adds an interesting wrinkle to the mix, as you’ll slowly acquire items which then can be used on certain cards which can offer a third option instead of just swiping left or right. Careful though, as you can’t just be throwing items at everyone or your reign will come to an end as your kingdom assumes you’ve gone mad.
Another new subsystem added to the game is a zodiac calendar of sorts. Each time you die, and your reign as queen reboots itself, the zodiac symbol advances. Unlike the original Reigns where getting the “good" ending required very specific actions on very specific years, this time it’s just tied to the zodiac. It makes things feel a bit more forgiving, and also has the side benefit of making a few of the games mysteries that you’ll uncover a bit more tricky to solve- As they often require meeting certain people, and using specific items on them, all while under a specific zodiac sign.
As you encounter new people and experience different specific events, you’ll get more cards added to the deck that Reigns: Her Majesty pulls from. It works as a clever tutorial gate of sorts, as until you figure out some early basic mysteries of items and the zodiac system you’ll be looping through the same small-ish subset of cards. But, like the original, things quickly open up and soon enough you’ll be juggling an unbelievable series of seemingly meaningless events which snowball into kingdom-wide crises, cats that you can decide to pet or not, and everything in between.
As I’ve been playing the pre-release version of the game over the last few weeks, I’ve really wrestled with how much to dive into the game’s secrets in this review, and I think the most appropriate thing to do is just keep this as vague as possible. Discovery is the key to what makes Reigns games so much fun, and Her Majesty is an entire box of secrets that delights from beginning to end. Reigns was a game that was universally effortless to recommend, and Reigns: Her Majesty flawlessly follows the same path. As I’ve mentioned on Twitter, I’ve even gone as far as to offer money-back guarantees to friends of mine to get them to play. Both games together is probably among the best six bucks you can spend on the App Store.
Reigns: Her Majesty is an incredible followup that not only improves upon the original, but does it in subtle ways that still makes the first Reigns worth playing if you’ve never experienced it before. Despite playing very similar to each other, both are unique enough to stand on their own, so if Reigns: Her Majesty ends up being your first Reigns experience, you really owe it to yourself to also go back and play the original. If you were all about Reigns, you simply must download Reigns: Her Majesty. It will take mere moments before you fall in love with the formula again.
…And if you need help getting all the endings in the game, head over to our Reigns: Her Majesty walkthrough guide!