Reigns: Her Majesty Review
Lace up your girdle and pop over to the jewellers for a crown fitting — the sequel to the swipe-tastic mobile hit Reigns is here, but with an important difference. Reigns: Her Majesty retains the winning formula of the original game but improves almost everything about it, not least the storyline, which switches your control to the queen.
As a new bride, far from your homeland and married to an oafish king, you have to expertly balance the needs of the country to ensure your own survival. By playing the treasury, church, military and general populace off each other, with a fair wind you may survive a decade or two in power — and possibly longer. To do so you’re presented with a series of cards, each of which has a situation you need to make a decision on. A Tinder-style swipe to the left or right will increase or decrease the popularity stats of the aforementioned four factions depending on your choice, as well as unfolding a storyline which spans the reign of multiple monarchs.
The trick is balancing out your choices so none of the factions either empties entirely — and takes you down with it — or becomes full, and amasses so much power they can dethrone you. The nuance is in finding an equilibrium in which each decision has only a minor effect on each statistic. As you play, you’ll quickly learn the likely effects of your choices, and by building up one or more stats you’ll be able to take a larger hit when you issue an unpopular decree against that faction. While it is obvious that decisions such as approving new towers or fending off opposing armies will affect your military meter, other dilemmas like the church asking you to ban alcohol will upset both your soldiers and the apparently alcoholic population. Not every option’s result is obvious, and each of your reigns will generally last minutes before one mishap or another befalls you.
While the first game centred around the influence of the Devil on the lives of each monarch you played, here the All-Mother provides the backstory for your soul passing from one queen to the next. As before, a series of objectives is unlocked as you play, along with additional cards which are added to your deck as you learn more about the courtiers and religious folk you need to carefully manage.
Initially you may find yourself cycling through a few similar cards, but Nerial doesn’t let Her Majesty's gameplay become stale. New characters and situations are revealed at a rapid pace, and the overarching narrative which previously relied on you making key decisions on certain years is here tied to the zodiac instead. Events and interactions are therefore subject to the whims of astrological fate, leaving the door open to a wealth of discovery as you stumble upon certain things that only happen — for instance — during the Age of Sagittarius.
The scope of the game and its interlinking choices are opened far wider, and thanks to some witty writing you’ll have a lot of fun trying to keep your head. There are many subtle nods to female oppression and societal restriction; it’s clear that this kingdom is not tailored for a lady on the throne. That your rule is the result of marrying into a foreign kingdom is a pertinent factor in the storyline. Your husband is a dolt, happy to let you “play” at being queen, while both you and the important nobles know that you’re the real power at court. As such, fighting the patriarchy is both hilarious and often poignant.
A new addition to Her Majesty is the inventory bag which replaces the perpetuating skills from the first game, and are a key contributor to plot progression. Collecting and using these items on the right people (and under the right star sign) are how you’ll unearth the reason for your constant reincarnation, and the power behind it. Hints on how and when to use them are subtle enough to be missed even on multiple playthroughs, but perseverance and the quickfire nature of any given reign makes discovery a joy, and perfectly suited to mobile play.
At times it feels a little too familiar, not least where certain situations are rehashed from the first game. A maze replaces the original’s dungeon but with less character, while the vast majority of the game’s framework is the same as before — there’s an animal to follow, a church to placate and so on. A new memento mori gives you a succinct conclusion to your previous stint as the ill-fated monarch, and a prologue to the often dire situation your new ruler has been landed with, but it’s a token addition. Her Majesty is more of the same Reigns that you most likely enjoyed, then, but thankfully neither game will put you off playing the other due to excellent game design and bite-sized portable play. This sequel is our preference due to its superior writing, but we’d hope for something of a revolution if a third game is on the cards.