Let’s begin by getting stupid. BuzzFeed stupid. I’m going to roughly guess your age by the answer you give to one question. In fact, not even a question, I’m just going to say a name. Here it is: Peter Molyneux. Okay, so if you exploded with rage or seethed momentarily with righteous indignation, then you were born some time in the late 1980s to early 1990s. If you nodded and silently made the face that says ‘Respect, dude’, you were born in the early 1970s or earlier. And if you just looked confused and said ‘Who?’ or shrugged and went Meh, I can’t help you. Go here and learn something.
Whatever you think of him – and Generation Xbro seems not to like him too much, probably because of his tendency to talk about things that later get dropped as part of the natural development process, thus destroying childhoods, violating bottoms and defiling mothers – Peter Molyneux has been around a long time, and has made more top-drawer games in that time than most of us have had functional relationships. This legacy of mostly-brilliance began in earnest back in 1987, with a long run of solid-gold hits with his first dedicated game company, the now-legendary Bullfrog Productions; carried on from 2004 with Lionhead Studios (formed after EA bought Bullfrog and later folded it into EA UK); endured a spell as a top man at M$ after Lionhead was hoovered up by Microsoft Game Studios (during which time he inflicted loads of dodgy Fable on us), and carried on from 2012 until now under 22Cans, which has given us two games so far, the controversial mind-bender Curiosity – What’s Inside the Cube?, and the back-to-the-old-skool god-game, Godus.
It’s actually the latter of those two, Godus, that has driven me to bring digital pen to virtual paper today. Since its debut on Steam as an Early Access title in September 2013 (following a successful GBP 526,000 Kickstarter), the game has received 4,000 “Mixed” reviews. Most of the negative ones criticise it for being more like a mobile, timer-based game (see my recent look at SimCity BuildIt for why that’s a bad thing), with the main criticism being that players had to wait to accrue one of the game’s two currencies, gems (the other being Belief). Indeed, the freemium iOS and Android versions of the game, published and monetized in the usual way by DeNA Corp., are apparently full of actual timers and pay gates. But in the 4+ hours I played the Steam version (Beta 2.4), I didn’t encounter any of that. Instead, apart from the constant incongruous use of the word ‘tap’ instead of ‘click’, my experience has been nothing but pleasure, dotted with a couple of tiny frowns. Yes, the gem system is in place in the PC version, and yes, it can be frustrating when you don’t have enough of them, but there’s so much going on all the time that you can accumulate them without noticing. How quickly that occurs is still being tweaked, although arguably any kind of artificial delay is infuriating. But it is some comfort that in an extensive May 2013 interview with Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Molyneux stated that “DeNA have no influence whatsoever on the design of the game, on the pricing of the PC version, on the release date of the PC version, nothing at all.”
So it’s Godus I wanted to talk about here, in the hopes that I could persuade some of you who had tried it on a tablet and been disappointed, or who had heard bad things about it – either because of the horrible mobile version, or ‘Because Molyneux’, or because of the fake media grumpiness about established acts using Kickstarter to steal funds from poor indie devs, or even because of the disgusting, life-destroying news that they’re planning a Linux version despite being built on Linux-unfriendly Marmalade (sigh) – to come back and have another look at the now-“53% complete” PC version. And if you haven’t clicked off to Reddit in a rage, hit the jump and I shall preface my intolerable enjoyment of Godus with a page or two of history about how it got here. In other words, Populous!