Godus Review (PC)
Once upon a time there was a guy who was a frequent punching bag for the games press. He would proudly claim that his games were made of the finest bits – so fine in fact that only the most discerning eye could really see them. He made games about adventures and dogs, and made wild statements about interactions with virtual young boys. He became so notorious in fact that he spawned his own Twitter parody account. However, it’s easy to forget that before all of his recent attention and controversy, Peter Molyneux helmed Bullfrog, through which he created some pretty amazing games back in the late 80s / early 90s era. Populous? That was him. Theme Park? Check. Theme Hospital? Yup. Even looking slightly more recently, 2001’s Black and White – Lionhead’s first shipped title – was a critical success and pushed the envelope in terms of the way an AI character could be interacted with – especially in a mainstream title.
Forget Fable. Forget Milo. Forget The Movies. Forget the horrific, cynical travesty that was Curiosity. Godus is Molyneux doing what he does best – a God game, and with the current build claiming to be about 40% of the full game, it’s shaping up to be something pretty special. Riding high on the incomprehensible buzz generated by Curiosity, and after a successful Kickstarter campaign, 22Cans are getting back to their genetic roots with a game that sees you start out with two guys and from there build a whole civilisation.
The player takes the role of that civilisation’s god and initially you interact with the world by either clearing trees and rocks or reshaping the land, with the goal of creating space for your people to build houses. Once they have some shelter, they can make more little people and begin to grow as a culture, all whilst beginning to believe in you as their omniscient deity of choice. Which is good, since that belief is the resource that you need in order to make things happen. Over time more powers get unlocked – the Finger of God being my current favourite, causing very targeted squishing of things.
Obviously, as a god, your role is to fill in your sticker book apparently, and the way that you do that is by completing a number of challenges and collecting certain combinations or resources at the correct point in the civilisation’s growth. Initially these will focus on building larger more durable houses – progressing from tents, through mud huts and onto stone buildings. Each unlock puts the sticker on the right page of the book. Each stage of your civilisation requires four “Advance” stickers, but there are also others to collect by fulfilling various challenges, growing your population to certain milestones and repairing shrines buried around the landscape.
As a premise, Godus is great, but as an executed thing, it’s still very rough around the edges – which to some extent is acknowledged by 22Cans. They’re very upfront about saying it’s about 40% complete and managing expectations right from the first splash screen, but at the same time, that’s what they’re selling to you today. The UI is pretty minimal, which leave you wondering “WTF now?” just a bit too often, and the process by which you reshape the land is just a little bit too hit and miss in its interpretation of intention – leading to awkward moments of accidentally destroying a large home you just completed, though that’s arguably a model of the god experience (and would explain much about the real world). There’s a battle system in place with a neat little chat interface – until you quickly realise that the “people” you are playing against are part of the game, pretending to be humans badly.
There’s a lot of things in the game world that don’t have enough – or any – explanation as to what they do. For example, at some point you will encounter a patch of yellow land you can’t alter, and it may be a while before your villagers learn how to use a pickaxe and start mining this for gems (another ingame currency). Until then there’s a weird patch of ground you can’t mess with or build on.
And that’s the Godus experience in a nutshell really – it’s not very well explained what the player is supposed to be doing and it’s pretty badly paced. 6 hours in, I’m still in the “Primitive” age, my houses now take a half hour to construct and trying to find resources to upgrade my civilisation is tough. The UI and tuning the progression curve are things that would come later, part of a polishing phase, but despite that, there’s something oddly compelling about this ugly misshapen mass – it’s pretty clear that 22Cans are sculptors working on a lump of stone that has a masterpiece itching to get out.
At £15, Godus is a steeper asking price than a lot of quirky indie games and if you’re looking for a game to play today, it doesn’t live up to the price point. That said, the promise of Godus and the quality that’s already starting in places to shine through make the price – thinking long-term – exceptionally fair, and I’m eagerly anticipating the finished product. If, like me, you’re wary of Early Access and are more interested in playing games when they’re finished than being involved in these “living projects”, then I’d still recommend that you keep Godus on your radar!
As is 3.5 confused villagers out of 5, with potential for a lot more laterGodus Review (PC),