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Reigns: Her Majesty review

Play as the queen in this darkly funny follow-up.

Our Verdict

At last: royalty I feel emotionally invested in! Reigns: Her Majesty is a smart and surprising extension of the original swipe-'em narrative game.

NEED TO KNOW

What is it? Rule a kingdom by swiping left or right, while trying not to die.
Expect to pay $3/£2.09
Reviewed on Intel I5 3570K@3.40GHz, 8GB RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 970
Developer Nerial
Publisher Devolver Digital
Multiplayer No
Link Official site

The original Reigns was the perfect game to play for ten or 20 minutes, here or there. You ruled a kingdom by swiping left or right on various scenarios, balancing the needs of the people, the military, the church and the treasury. If any one of them became too happy or unhappy, you could be murdered by your people, or eat yourself to death because you got too rich—life goals, frankly. In the follow-up Her Majesty, you play as a queen rather than a king, facing all-new conundrums but trying to keep the same groups of people in check. 

The basic ups, downs and multiple deaths return. Backing the church on a decision might be bad for the people, for example, while reducing city patrols will only annoy the military, even if it shores up your coffers. You'll constantly make decisions you don't agree with just to stay alive. An item system is the biggest addition to Her Majesty—at the right moment, presenting a duelling pistol or a mysterious clock will push the story forwards in unpredictable ways, while spraying your royal perfume will tell a character you like them, maybe even sparking an affair. 

After a couple of your queens die, a neat commonality emerges that drives the rest of the story. I won't spoil what it is, because it's cool, and Her Majesty is so cheap ($3/£2.09) that you might as well discover it for yourself.

Her Majesty retains Reigns' winning dark sense of humour. One of the deaths that awaits your queen in Her Majesty is her jewel-encrusted carriage breaking under its own riches, throwing her into the sewer where she drowns. This happens when you get too wealthy. When your people stage an uprising, the ending reads, "you try not to lose your head, but it happens anyway". When one of your advisors prods her eyes and sees sunspots, believing this foretells an eclipse, you can reply with "in your brain, maybe". The more objectives you complete, the more sets of cards you unlock, adding new characters and situations to enjoy. 

If you've played the first game, you'll notice the differences of playing as a queen versus a king in details like being asked to smile, or told what colour of dress to wear, or, on the more extreme end, being burned for witchcraft by the conspiring church. Encountering sexism adds a bit of texture to the feeling of being a ruler—it means Her Majesty doesn't just feel like more of the same. That said, I like that this only occasionally becomes the crux of the game's decisions and outcomes.

What next? 

There's still a certain aimlessness to Her Majesty when you're looking to progress the story or unlock more cards. This is exacerbated slightly by the addition of useable items—you're penalised if you use them at the wrong moment. If you're gunning to see any of the endings to the game, you'll muddle through based on in-game hints, but there'll still be some trial and error in getting there. 

Her Majesty has a zodiac system where there's significance to your queen's star sign, but I felt like I never quite understood the point of it, even after reaching one of the game's endings in three or four hours. Some of the ways each group is affected by your decisions feels a bit random, too. I'm not always sure why the military might react positively or negatively to an outcome, for example, whereas it's usually obvious with the church, which hates witchcraft and the supernatural but will always react positively when you respect its interests. 

I'm okay with all of these factors, though. I played Reigns just to enjoy the writing, presentation and simple interactions, treating every king's death as its own story. In Her Majesty I pushed myself to reach the end game for the purposes of offering review judgement, but as with Reigns the enjoyment is in the journey. That's not to say the main arc isn't interesting—it's unexpectedly weird and satisfying—but I recommend you take your time to enjoy being queen. Calling your chief explorer incompetent or pissing off the cardinal on purpose doesn't really get old.  

The Verdict

Reigns: Her Majesty review

At last: royalty I feel emotionally invested in! Reigns: Her Majesty is a smart and surprising extension of the original swipe-'em narrative game.