Godus is a game that pretty much everyone of a certain age will have been watching. On the one hand: oh dear, it’s Peter Molyneux and his trail of broken dreams. On the other hand: it’s Peter Molyneux doing a proper god game again! And it looks like Populous! It might be a good game!
It is not a good game; not in this beta form, at least. At best, it’s a set of nice ideas waiting for a game to tie them together, plus a hell of a lot of mechanical fixes.
You are a god, and you start off with a small patch of land that you can influence, with a few followers believing in you. Every now and then, little “belief” bubbles appear above their houses; you pop these to collect the belief, and belief is the resource you use to manifest your divine will on the land in a variety of ways. Shifting the coastline out a bit, or grinding down the top of a mountain so that your followers can walk across it? Easy. Calling down a giant flaming meteor? That takes a bit more belief.
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From there, you expand outwards. You flatten patches of land for your followers to build more houses, increasing your population and thus the amount of belief you’ll get over time, as well as unlocking new technologies; basic mud huts give way to stronger, larger houses, while superior food lets them live longer. You have them repair shrines and altars, unlocking new abilities and resources, and you dig up buried chests (indicated by sparkling ground) to get what are usually resources. You help your people progress from lumbering cavemen to (according to the in-game encyclopedia thing) the space age.
All of this takes place in what’s called the Homeworld, a little archipelago exclusive to you. This is where you spend most of your time.
Other than that, there’s a fourth-wall breaking story mode called Mount of the Gods in which you face off against other “people” playing Godus (although, no, they’re actually the AI). These offer a variety of different challenges, from straight combat asking you to wipe out the other tribe, through to mining more gems or having a bigger population than them by the end of a time limit. These are actually fairly entertaining: you get your chance
There’s also a multiplayer mode, which I haven’t actually tried yet because it currently works solely through inviting people to your game via Steam. If your Steam Friends don’t have Godus, you can’t play multiplayer yet. I’d assume it’ll be the same as the Mount of the Gods mode, but no idea.
So yeah, my time has been spent between Mount of the Gods and the Homeworld, and… well, Homeworld isn’t much fun. There are some wonderful touches: popping a belief bubble plays a note, and if you pop enough of them it starts playing a tune. Dragging out the land to expand your coastline or flatten mountains feels powerful, a lot of which – again – comes down to the sound of crunching, dragging, cracking rock.
And hey, you get the chance to feel like a god. I wanted my people to start colonising a section over the other end of a mountain, and I couldn’t be arsed carving out stairs to get them up there… so I just basically ripped it in two, creating a massive canyon leading to the other side. Some areas are inhospitable due to swamps and miasma, which you can fix up by using a Beautify miracle – a spell that makes everything beautiful and green and sparkling and covered in butterflies.
The problem is that there isn’t actually a game there. Realistically, the Homeworld feels like a tablet or phone or Facebook game (and, as far as I know, Godus is due out on phones). Your contribution comes down, in the end, to three things: clicking hundreds of belief bubbles, dragging out land, and waiting. Which equates to tapping on shit, and then waiting.
For instance, clicking belief bubbles every couple of minutes is fair enough when you’ve only got a few houses, but it’s not long before you’ve got a few hundred. You can ease things out by building Settlements, which attract all the belief of nearby buildings into one huge floating super-bubble, but these are prohibitively expensive to the extent that you’ll be lucky if you can build four or five.
As for land, that’s… well, that’s just left clicking on existing land and dragging, for the most part. Repeatedly. Because you can only drag a little bit at a time. And then, once you’ve got enough room for new houses (or a path to a new area) you get to go and click on houses to make people come out. It’s not the most exciting of games, particularly as this is usually followed up by “wait for people to actually get there and do what you want them to do.” Belief growth and house building seems to continue even when the game isn’t running, which means you can drag out land, click houses, and then log off for a couple of hours until everything’s done. Just like a Facebook game.
While I’m complaining loudly, it’s also very easy to click on a house to harvest some belief… but, oops, you moved the mouse a bit too far while doing that, dragged the land, and demolished the house.
As I said: nice ideas, waiting for a game to tie them together and in need of some mechanical fixes.
It’s not all bad. The little compendium/encyclopedia thing that charts your progress contains some nifty information, like the “commandments” your followers have taken from your actions. Leave a lot of trees intact and build around them, and they’ll consider trees as sacred. Have them build their houses on beaches, and they’ll consider beaches to be the holiest of lands to build on. It’s a neat touch, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this might actually impact gameplay.
Equally, the Mount of the Gods stuff is fairly good fun. The missions available in the beta regularly come down to “flatten out land, create waypoint on enemy village, click every house to bring out every person you have” but bigger maps and more miracles should fix that problem. Creating swamps and summoning volcanoes should, with a bit of luck, make that a bit more interesting.
The miracles, too, offer some enjoyment simply because you’re playing around with godly powers, and they don’t always work in the way you’d think. One of my outlying villages was getting harassed by a wolf, so I took it on myself to kill the furry little bugger with a Finger of God spell. I went to squish him with my giant doom finger… and missed. Which started a gigantic forest fire. Oops.
But right now, in beta form, the game has a long way to go. The inevitable problem with writing previews is that you’re never quite sure how much will be fixed, but Godus – in its current state – doesn’t offer much fun and has a whole lot of issues that need addressing. Take heed, 22 Cans: you’ve got the ideas. You’ve got the basic structure. Now add a game. And for the love of Godus, make it involve less repeated clicking and less waiting.