The God Simulator is something of a surprisingly rare find on mobile phones and tablets. It’s not that they don’t work, or they’re a bad fit, but generally they’re considered premium releases which not everyone is willing to invest in.
Which makes Godus from 22Cans so interesting. As we’ve come to expect from Peter Molyneux, the original vision of Godus isn’t everything we hoped it would be. There are some empty promises and forgotten features. But where Godus failed to set the world alight on PC, it finally feels like it might have found a real home on iOS.
Godus surfaced with an amazing amount of hype. Not only did 22Cans allow the winner of their Curiosity project to play a major role in the game, they also set it up so he could earn royalties from the sales. Not to mention that this is Molyneux’s first God-Sim since Black & White, so expectation was uncannily high. Unfortunately, despite being funded through Kickstarter, the game seemed to frustrate people more than it entertained them, and the game’s reputation quickly took a nosedive.
To add to the controversy, you still have to pay $19.99 for the pleasure of playing Godus on your home PC (a game still in Steam Early Access, by the way), but mobile owners can now download it for absolutely no charge. Both versions contain micro-transactions, even though the game is still, effectively, in Beta.
Still, despite being unfinished, there’s a real base of potential in Godus. As 22Cans boldly proclaims, it begins with two followers. Peter would like us to think of them as our own Adam and Eve.
The idea is to initially help these followers find a plot of land where they’d like to settle. You’ll need to help them by sculpting the land, peeling back Earth layers as if they are onions, creating pathways, and breaking down obstacles like rocks and overgrown trees. But once the foundations are set, your own colony can start to thrive. You’ll create small, primitive huts and shared living spaces, inspiring builders and farmers to start shaping this land to something closer to your original vision.
Eventually, you can erect beautiful fountains, plant trees and even build shrines dedicated to yourself. You can even be a vindictive, destructive God and destroy everything you’ve taken the time to build, striking fear into the hearts of anyone who dares to challenge your authority.
And the game still grows beyond that point. As your followers watch your unearthly abilities help them to shape the land and they start to see you as an inspiration and a leader figure, you’ll be able to collect their belief. Belief is, essentially, your power source. Without it you can’t do a thing. So the more belief you collect, the stronger and more durable you’ll become.
You can also collect gems while playing, which help you to invest in additional items and exclusive monuments and landmarks.
As you perform in-game requirements, you earn cards and stickers. Each card progresses the game and either improves your current abilities or expands your potential. For instance, a card might make your workers work faster, or it might give you a brand new God power.
Initially, cards are just acquired and added to your collection, but eventually you’ll need to load them with stickers which can be collected all over the world in order to progress the game. This is where the Free to Play nature of the game starts to play its part.
It’s entirely possible to play Godus and not spend a penny, but it becomes noticeably more difficult the further into the game you get. Money can be spent on gems, belief packs, stickers and eventually wheat and other core elements. These all make your progress through the game much quicker and a lot easier.
However, if you choose not to spend anything, you could be waiting hours and even days before things are built. As a result, there are regular disruptions in gameplay, meaning you might only get to play for about 10-15 minute periods at a time, then wait another half hour for something to happen. That’s not ideal.
Godus unquestionably benefits from the bigger screen on the iPad. In fact, playing the game on your phone can present some real challenges, particularly if you’re trying to draw back the land to reveal a chest or create a series of stepping stones for your followers to reach higher ground.
And speaking of your followers, the AI regularly ties itself up in knots. Sometimes a pathway is completely unobstructed, yet followers will still get lost. Sometimes, they’ll get stuck on the environment and find themselves completely unable to move.
Still, the game is an absolute beauty to behold, and you’ll marvel at the fluidity of moving the camera around and exploring the game’s vibrant, luscious environment. With succulent background symphonies also beautifully marrying up with the gorgeous design, you’ll quickly lose yourself in this remarkable world.
Given time, this could rank among Molyneux’s best. It may even be his finest hour, but the continual interferences and interruptions quickly become grating and tiresome. The game does the hard work of hooking you in, but is insistent on pushing you away straight after unless you cough up cash, which feels both insulting and desperate.
The longer the game stays in Early Access, the more damage will be done to its reputation. Regardless of what it says (or doesn’t say) on the game’s description, this is very much still a ‘work in progress.’ We look forward to seeing how things have progressed in six months time.