Peter Molyneuxs Godus pretends to be something its not

first_imgGodus lies at the center of a video game hell Venn diagram. It’s a free-to-play mobile game, it was released as early access on Steam, and it was funded through Kickstarter. Adding to that unholy troika, the game was developed by Peter Molyneux, a designer whose long history of descending into madness was disguised as sophisticated creativity because he has a lovely British accent.The glamor spell he cast on us all finally wore off as we played through the past decade of his work — full of him making extravagant promises that he routinely never delivered — but he’s still held in a high-enough regard to where we’ll keep playing through it all just in case. Plus, those games (mainly Fable and its sequels, The Movies) weren’t outright terrible, they just didn’t deliver.He garnered all of that favor from, essentially, creating the beloved god game genre and reinforcing it with a hall-of-fame game every now and then. As the root word of the title suggests, Peter Molyneux’s Godus falls into the very category of genre that he invented. So, once again, the world is going to give a new Molyneux game a shot — just in case.Godus is Molyneux’s take on what he feels a god game should be for the iOS generation. What that boils down to, unfortunately, is a browser builder — like the ever-present OGame or the more recent Ikariam. In the mobile space, the evolution of this genre is represented by games like The Simpsons: Tapped Out. In browser builders, you start with an empty plot of land, gather resources, begin the construction of structures, then wait for their timers to count down so you can build more. This is how you play Godus. It’s not a god game — it’s a browser builder.Unlike browser builders, you don’t get to place large swathes of structures in Godus. Instead, your followers — one of the game’s various resources — automatically place and build them for you provided your plot of land and resource bank meet the structure’s requirements, like having enough space to contain the structure or enough wheat to feed your workers.For what feels like an eternity in Godus, you can only really interact with the game by “sculpting” the land, meaning adding, subtracting, or removing layers of terrain. The layered landscape and bright colors are gorgeous — no question about that — but the way you interact with it all feels like it was designed specifically to annoy. You tediously clear layers of land by poking and dragging your finger, moving it around like a viscous liquid, but it frequently does the opposite of what you want. This isn’t much of an issue on the PC version, as a mouse is much more precise than a non-malnourished-sized finger stabbing an iPhone or iPad.You can smoosh buildings together to make settlements, such as this early farming settlement.Once you have managed to coax the land into obeying, your little worshippers build structures on it, such as huts, farms, bigger huts, or even bigger huts. There is a lot of hut-building. While you wait, you can destroy rocks and trees littered throughout the landscape by poking it with your god-finger, priming clear plots of land for some more huts and farms. Eventually, you can use god powers, like dropping monuments to make your followers build and walk faster, or making it rain so the excruciatingly slow wait-time for wheat to grow is slightly less, but still very excruciating. For a while, wheat acts as a time gate to prevent you from progressing too fast, as you have to wait for it to grow before you can expand your civilization of huts.An early voyage challenge. Your followers must walk from the ship on the left to the temple on the right without being smooshed by the two enemies.While you’re waiting for your crops to grow and buildings to build, you can go on voyages, which is essentially Godus’ mini-game. You sail to (click on) little islands in order, then send your worshippers across a landscape that you have to mold to allow them to reach a temple, avoiding enemies and a time limit. You gain stickers for completing each challenge, which are resources to unlock cards, which in turn are items that unlock powers and bonuses (huts build faster, rocks return more resources when you god-smoosh them, and so on). There is also an enemy civilization to keep your attention, the Astari, who mock and convert your worshippers, but once you get a certain god power or two, you can deal with them in one swoop.The three versions of the game, smartphone, tablet, and PC, also pose a dilemma. You have to log in to play, so if you don’t have a signal, you can’t pop in and set a few timers to start ticking while you’re on the go. If you’re playing on a smartphone, the landscape basically has no idea what your fingers are doing. If you’re playing on your iPad Air, you’re probably not carrying that to the grocery store to sculpt some land while you wait in the checkout line. If you’re playing on the PC and treating the game like a zen garden — a glass of whiskey in hand, listening to the soothing sounds of the game’s admittedly superb soundscape — you’re dealing with an early access title that costs $19.99, whereas the mobile versions are free and advertised as feature complete.You can log into Facebook or the Mobage platform so you can load your save across devices, but many will feel the former is too invasive (and requires the official app, which some of us don’t allow on our devices), and I haven’t been able to get the latter to work.As a game, so far, Godus is very basic, tedious, and the most interesting part is a hidden, giant head of a statuette — buried beneath the layered landscape — that is currently only an Easter egg. Multiplayer is in the mobile version’s future, and it has been (barely) working on PC. The game might be worthwhile if you treat it like a zen garden, and simply sit back and listen to the soundscape while you push landscape around. If not that, though: we played it so now you know that you don’t have to.last_img read more