People sometimes have fantasies about being godlike. Raising land, growing forests, causing storms, volcanic eruptions and other cataclysmic deeds may be the stuff of fantasy, but in the computer realm it usually comes to fruition without real obstacles. This fantasy became true in the old Populous series. Since then though, the original feeling was never captured. Until electrolyte and Last17 put together a pixel art god sim that spans a galaxy!
Reprisal Universe is a game of otherworldly powers and acute xenophobia. You take the role of a godly being who's lost most of its powers. With the help of your tribe, you will recover them one totem at a time, while conquering and laying waste to any culture that does not befit you. Of course this is somewhat unfortunate, as every other village/nation is controlled by a different murderous god that wants to do the same to you.
The game spans across multiple maps which will pose different challenges by combining enemies, terrain and available god powers. You start with two people who will quickly look around for a flat area to settle. Settling is the default yearning of every person in this game. That is unless you decide to change it. You see, instead of having direct control over your subjects, you can only designate one of three possible states. Each settlement generates new people at regular time intervals. Whenever a new person is created it will pop outside and start wondering. Instead of settling, you can switch to "Go to waypoint" or "Look for a fight". This will give the instruction to every person that happens to be outside and also helps you migrate and attack rival settlements.
Although that doesn't sound too exciting, the juicy part is the fact that your settlements generate mana for you. With mana you can create powerful spells from raising forests to creating a freak volcano eruption. The most common and useful of these is the terraforming power. With it you can shape the land tile by tile in order to make bridges and level the hills so that your settlements can grow. The bigger the settlement is, the more mana it produces and the stronger people that come out of it will be (for fighting purposes). Needless to say, the core strategy is to expand as fast as possible, rain havoc on your neighbors and then invade to mop up the remains.
The graphics look very nice. There is one little inconvenience though. Since the camera angle cannot be changed, there are some difficulties when trying to terraform behind hills. Given a little bit of time you will eventually get the hang of it, but it still a little awkward.
Reprisal Universe is not a deep game by any definition. The randomness that comes out of the destructive nature of the spells leaves a lot to pure chance. In essence, Reprisal Universe is a sandbox catastrophe generator that pleases the eye and frustrates the mind when things start to go downhill.
The interface is decent, although the directional scrolling controls are positioned by 45 degrees off the vertical and horizontal axis that we're all used to. I understand that the reason for it is to match up with the topographic squares but it is really not intuitive and unnecessary. Screen transitions are also a bit slow and pressing the Escape key only switches between full screen and windowed mode instead of pausing. Also the lack of a game manual leaves a lot of elements subject to trial and error. For example, spells like Forest and the existence of leaders are not self evident, which is considered a flaw in the modern age of gaming. Still you might find it charming to discover everything for yourself.
All in all, Reprisal Universe is a decent way to spend a few minutes a day. The 10 bucks (approximately) you need to spare are really covered by the fact that there are literally hundreds of scenarios to beat.
PS: There's also a free online version that although it's not as polished it can give a glimpse of how Reprisal Universe works. Go check it out.