Reigns messes up its best feature


Reigns is a neat game out on mobile (and PC because why not I guess?) that puts you in charge of a medieval kingdom where whether you live or inevitably die at the hands of your subjects comes down to how well you can juggle the needs of the populous and its various factions by making a series of difficult and often hilarious decisions.

The mechanic for making these decisions is an inspired use of Tinder’s swipe left/right interface that makes for excellent short form storytelling. It’s genius, and just hearing about it made me kick myself for not having thought of it first.

The Problem

So here’s the thing, with such an effortlessly brilliant mechanic that syncs up with the storytelling in such a way that you can’t help but fall into an hours long hole trying to escape from a dungeon. At least, that’s how Reigns seems like it should be, but after a short session something just doesn’t feel quite right to me and I lose the will to go on.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The game is perfect for a quick run while you have 10 minutes to kill, but there’s something lacking that puts a stop to that “one more go” feeling you get from games like this.

So I figured out what feels off to me. It’s the swiping. You know? The whole reason why I got so into the idea of Reigns in the first place.
You see, on Tinder when you start to drag your thumb across the screen that users card will follow your thumb wherever it goes, up, down, left, right, it’s glued to you. It makes flicking a profile off the screen feel so satisfying, there’s a real weight to the object and it behaves exactly as you expect it to.

Contrast this with swiping in Reigns. When you go to swipe left or right the card seems to be moving on a fixed path, sure there’s a few pixels of give where it’ll move up or down a bit, but it’s more like a slider than a physical card that you have some control over.
You don’t even get the satisfaction of flicking the card off screen, as you hardly get to move the card at all before it reaches its end point, where after should you let it go it just rolls into what seems to be a prebaked animation.
You’ll barely notice it at first, but after a little while it wears you down, and you just need a break, a look at twitter or even your home screen, where your swipes feel like they have some weight to them instead of this weird disconnect between your input and what is happening on screen.

You get a lot of games popping up on Steam these days which look and feel like they were made for mobile and cynically ported over in a cash grab. Reigns perversely feels like the opposite, I feel like I should be controlling it with a gamepad rather than on a touch screen, and that is absolutely insane considering how well suited to mobile this game is.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be playing a lot more of Reigns, but man I would love to be able to get in a night long session without feeling frustrated by what should be one of its highlights.