Developed by indie studio 22Cans, Godus takes all the good bits from studio head and industry vet Peter Molyneux’s previous successes and mashes them up into a massive social god-game. Molyneux promised that Godus will reinvent the genre but there seems to be a huge lack of proof that this game will even come close to defining the next-generation of god games.
What little mechanics the beta version of Godus has are very simple; nothing unlike many other god games have. You play role of a god that has the power to manipulate the terrain. Your powers are fuelled by belief which is generated by houses that require level ground be constructed. Godus is essentially about expanding your civilisation by increasing the population and discovering new technologies found in chests scattered around the map.
As far as beta goes, terrain manipulation is the main feature of Godus. Despite being a god, you have next to absolutely no direct control over your followers. However, their survival and your progression as a god relies heavily on how well you can mould the land for their benefit. Aside from flattening areas to construct houses, paths must also be paved in order for the the followers to expand further. You can do this by creating isthums’ between islands, paving a way through a mountain or simply making stairs out of the layers.
I understand that Molyneux wanted to combine the free-form hand from Black & White with the ground elevation from Populouous which does sound like a great idea. However, its terrain manipulation mechanic definitely still needs a lot of work. Trying to accurately shape a layer into, for example, a set of stairs often requires some trial-and-error clicks that end up costing way more belief than it should. I also found that I would spend a lot of praise on accidentally destroying houses because I tried to collect a praise bubble from a house that was too close to another ledge.
One thing I found strange about terrain manipulation is the fact that you cannot add a layer once it has been completely destroyed. Though adding layers seem somewhat useless in relation to the limited mechanics Godus beta has, its exclusion makes it feel like I am not really an all-powerful god – I am just an over-powered, glorified bulldozer that people pray to.
It seems that the further you expand from the first island, the more unforgiving and rugged the terrain becomes – this is where OCD will kick in which is arguably an inherent effect as a result of playing any game with any sort of creative element. You’ll often find yourself unnecessarily spending all of your long-awaited beliefs on trying to level out a mountain just because it doesn’t look clean enough. This would be fair enough if Godus was actually a sandbox creative game like Minecraft but it’s not. The only reward for levelling the ground is more space to build houses which give more belief and will, in turn, allow you to level out more ground.
Aside from terrain manipulation, the main aim of Godus is to aid your followers to progress forward as a civilisation. This is done by increasing the population and unearthing chests that contain new technologies and societal improvements. Eight hours in and I was still in the first chapter of the primitive age. In later builds, you will be able to watch your followers grow from clueless primitive settlers to a space-faring civilisation; considering what the game looks like in its beta phase, this is highly ambitious and one thing I can gather from its current pace is that will be very time consuming.
Godus promised to set itself apart from other god-games by the integration social features. As revealed by the result of Curiosity – What’s Inside the Cube?, the universe of Godus will be populated by more than one god, that is to say, more than one player with his or her own civilisation. The winner of Curiosity will serve as the god of gods whose dominating “religion” can be challenged by a representative of your civilisation. If the representative fails, he or she is doomed to spend the rest of his or her lifetime in the winning civilisation.
In the beta version, you have the choice to go against enemy AIs in a number of different types of skirmishes. You are given a starting civilisation, different from the one you’ve already built, with which youmust destroy the other enemy civilisation or race towards a target population, etc. Unfortunately, the enemy A.I. is still really stupid and I don’t mean in terms of badly executed tactics. I mean that I didn’t even have to destroy them – all I needed to do was wait for them to “attack” and watch them run into walls and die.
Godus does not make me want to be a god. Especially since my followers seem like a bunch of useless morons whom are completely dependent on me. They are not any sort of special chosen people and I feel like they are more of a pest than an investment. Often, they’ll completely disappear into their own houses up to which I tell them to come out and build a house. When I do, it takes only a few minutes before they start getting tired and if I don’t click on them to restore their health or energy, they die. The believers have no personality or any redeeming qualities that make me want to take care of them.
For the first few hours, the gameplay is mind-numbingly tedious and is comprised mostly of waiting for belief to generate, spending belief on levelling out the land then waiting for belief to generate again. In my playthrough, this cycle was repeated for the first six hours. That’s right, six hours of clicking. Before being able to afford the settlement which lets belief accumulate into one single ball, you had to click on each and every house. The settlements, however, will only cover a certain amount of area and become more expensive the more you have erected so you still have to click a lot, regardless.
It feels a lot like Godus was developed for the PC with the mobile platform in mind, not vice-versa. The amount of clicking involved, simplified terrain manipulation mechanics, waiting for hours to generate resources, its emphasis on social features – it has all the features that could make a successful mobile title. Waiting more than 40 minutes to generate resources in a game (with nothing else to do but wait) is acceptable when using a mobile platform because they are designed for the casual gamer. It’s convenient because you can just put your smartphone down, bake a cake, run a marathon and then come back to find that your civilisation has yielded resources. It’s different with PC – it’s not as convenient having to launch the game over and over again. If anything, Godus would probably work better as a browser app but unfortunately for its sheer magnitude, being a browser app would just limit its potential. 22Cans need to make changes to make Godus more PC-friendly if they want to release it on this platform otherwise it will just alienate PC gamers.
22Cans promises a wealth of features separate from the previously announced multiplayer universe and populated by a pantheon of other players. There will be a single-player mode but nothing has been revealed about its story or whether it will affect multiplayer mode. All we know is that there is a cat involved.
So far, Godus only feels like a drawn out tech demo with minimal notable gameplay mechanics. There are neither difficult choices to be made nor strategies to enforce. However, it does show plenty of potential but only with regards to it’s social features which, though still rudimentary, may be the one of the few aspects that will set Godus apart from other god-games.
I will not completely rule of the possibility that Godus will be a god-game worth playing. 22Cans has promised a whole universe of and it might only be a matter of time if they do. In the meantime, I suggest waiting until they show that they will.
It wouldn’t be fair if Godus received a rating as early as its beta stage. The rating will be updated as soon as the game is officially released.