Deus ex mouse: Godus is a click-happy revival of classic god games

I’m worried about tedium: if Godus is to be believed, crafting civilizations out of whole cloth involves so much clicking it’s a wonder more gods haven’t thrown up their hands in despair and gone off to do something else, leaving their minions to idle away on the beach wondering what it’s all for. But then the game plays its next hand—a massive ruin sits on a plateau just out of reach, or confetti-esque particles tease the location of some bauble buried under the sand. And then it’s off to work I go, stretching sandy beaches into land bridges and carving steppes out hillsides, expanding villages to keep my congregation growing.

God games are few and far between, so it’s only fitting that Populous creator Peter Molyneux take another swing at the genre he arguably defined. It helps to think of Godus as a sort of Populous 2.0: you’re tasked with helping a pair of villagers transform into a thriving, globe-spanning civilization, conquering territory and foes in your name. After a successful Kickstarter run followed up by the whimsical, kind of-an-advertisement Curiosity Cube, Godus has launched on Steam in beta form.

You can control your villagers indirectly by creating flat terrain, or using god powers.

Godus is a relatively hands-off affair at the start: you’re limited to clearing rocks and trees, earning pink bubbles of belief—the game’s primary resource. With space cleared your villagers will automatically sketch out plans for a home to start a family in, from which they’ll pump out belief at regular intervals. All of this worship fuels your God-powers, largely limited at the start to sculpting the land, parting the seas and expanding the habitable terrain to make room for more housing.

Collect technological and spiritual advance cards as your civilization grows and develops.

As you build houses and increase your nascent civilization’s population, you’ll increasing your sphere of influence, spreading your light throughout the monochrome world and giving you more terrain to work with. You’ll also be rewarded with a collectible playing card (stored in a sort of Godly scrapbook) that’ll detail your civilizations advancement and unlock new technologies and powers, like larger houses or the ability to summon villagers to a particular spot with a mesmerizing column of light.

All this takes place on a simple, lovely little world built on a series of terrain layers. You’ll sculpt these layers of terrain like clay, pushing and pulling to expand the tiny island you start on. And you’ll click. Oh gods, you will click: to clear terrain and hostile wolves, or create new chunks of land, or summon villagers from their homes or collect individual belief bubbles hovering over individual homes. It’s enough to wear down the strongest mousing fingers. It gets better with time: advanced houses generate more belief, so you’ll get more bang for your buck as you make progress, and stronger sculpting powers allow you to carve more terrain at a time.

Combat follows the same command principles as the rest of the game, which makes for a cerebral sort of competition.

Godus is part of Steam's Early Access program, and as such it's only a beta version that offers just a glimpse of what’s to come, giving us a feel for molding the landscape and getting villagers to accomplish simple tasks. There’s also a combat component wherein you’ll attempt to wipe out another god or players' civilization by getting your followers to massacre all of theirs. It feels a bit out of place at the moment, but will undoubtedly make more sense once a multiplayer community starts to flesh itself out, and the game’s world comes into its own.

Godus will set you back $20. That’s quite a bit for what at the moment is largely a click-fest with some interesting ideas bubbling under the surface. But I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a bit of a Peter Molyneux fan, and his unorthodox visions have always put a smile on my face. If you have fond memories of Populous (and to some extent, Black and White), head on over to Godus’ Steam page to learn a bit more, and perhaps even show some support.

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