This week, for a second consecutive year, women marched across America. For many, women’s empowerment is now being called into the spotlight. Opposing words and ideas are being flung around from all sides, and that’s exactly why I rested my tired legs and buried my face in my phone.
Reigns: Her Majesty is a game that masquerades as something much smaller and simpler than what it actually is. The gameplay, which reminds us of the fleeting decisions we might make in the dating app Tinder, is a lot more complex than we are initially led to believe. Depending on if you’re a right swiper or a left swiper, your diplomacy ratings in four categories will raise or lower. The key to success in Reigns: Her Majesty is balance, and the consequences can be deadly.
What I believed to be a little game about binary options turned out to be a lightning-fast casual strategy game. You play as an eternal queen of your country, and with every death you die (which can happen every couple minutes if you aren’t careful), you find yourself rebirthed as the new queen time and time again. With each swipe decision you make, you encounter new allies, enemies, and some characters that are neither.
As I swiped, I slowly started seeing little pokes and prods at my queens that felt awfully familiar. “All this empowerment! Where does it end?!” cried one character as his daughters went off to study at a prestigious school. After answering a simple question on politics another character chided that my queen “never had a mind for strategy, but she looks nice and that’s what counts!” A duchess from a neighboring kingdom laughed in my face when she discovered I planned to make actual decisions. Over and over my power as a queen was constantly called into question, denied, or laughed at openly, no matter the choices I made. When I ended a queen’s reign by making her lead a strong army, I was locked away in a tower by my king; for my own safety, of course. When I refused to wear a less revealing gown, clergymen and nuns burned me at the stake.
Of course, that isn’t to say I didn’t have victories. I built monuments, funded a blossoming arts patronage, and uncovered the secrets to talking with animals. I was once or twice trampled to death by an adoring populace. Whoops. I repaired countless artifacts of the kingdom, too. One of the most critical was a talking mechanical owl. From time to time, when he wasn’t watching over the duel room, he would pop up to give me facts about how my playstyle was rounding out.
Overarching the day-to-day activities of balancing the kingdom is a plot in which you are asked to ascend into godhood by completing a set of tasks in the world. Collecting magical items, dueling inhabitants of your realm, and summoning an eclipse are just a few of the critical tasks you achieve as you make your way towards godhood.
Overall, this game was woman-centric in a way that comforted me instead of scolding me. It felt like the developers and I were having a chuckle together about the little things that happen when you’re a woman. It is a refreshing experience in an otherwise chaotic time and I would highly recommend it to anyone, be you a lady, a man, or a snake person (see below).