Our next instalment of Pixel Perfect is the RTS/God Sim, Populous: The Beginning. Developed by Bullfrog and released for PC on November 30, 1998, Populous redefined the genre with its perfect blend of strategy and god simulation. In Populous, you are a Shaman of a tribe that conquers worlds in an unnamed solar system in your quest to become a god. There are 3 other tribes in the game, each with a powerful shaman of their own and following the same godly goal as you.
Gameplay is the key selling point and while the graphics and interface may seem dated, the gameplay is still solid. You will have just as much fun building up your cities and armies as you will going on the offence and attacking the enemy. It is both enjoyable but very competitive. You will often find yourself flanked at both sides, especially in the later levels, and your armies will be lost and replaced numerous times, so don’t get too attached. In most skirmishes, you will simply have to rush in and the army with the greatest numbers will emerge the victor. However, sometimes a little more strategy is required. There are always multiple choices open to a player to take down your foes. Swarm over troops with the Warriors like ants, cast invisibility on your preachers and convert the enemy from the inside, supress with the ranged Fire Warriors, the list goes on. It’s this level of choice that makes the gameplay in Populous hold up and keep you coming back for more.
The Shaman is your key unit, with the ability to cause ultimate destruction. Call down lightning and tornadoes and even raise volcanos from the ground to destroy enemy troops and buildings. As you progress through the story, you gain more and more abilities through worshiping the heavily guarded Vaults of Knowledge. There are also Stone Heads to worship that temporarily grant you some abilities, again all offering multiple ways to destroy your enemies. One Shaman in the right place can keep an entire army at bay.
The game features 25 worlds for you to conquer. Most missions are typical kill or be killed, but some special game modes sometimes come into play. Worshiping Dragons before the other tribe, and eventually calling them down to rain death on your foes, or escaping an enemy Shaman that slowly sinks your city into the sea are timed missions are both challenging and intense. The traditional approach of first building up your army before you attack is no longer an option. Here the different layers of gameplay really come into play as you race against the clock.
The interface is slightly dated and unit selection can sometimes be a hassle. Gameplay can also sometimes be very repetitive on some levels, as the AI tends to rush in with small armies and try and convert your own troops with Preachers. That being said, there’s not much else you would have an issue with.
Populous: The Beginning is the third game in the series but without a doubt the most renowned. The game was also released on PlayStation and is available on the PSN store. As old as it is, it redefined the genre and still influences the industry today, From Dust coming to mind. The game without a doubt deserves some sort of reboot, at least a HD remake. In the meantime, download from GOG.com for just $6!
Review Score :
Format : PC, PSOne
Developer : Bullfrog Productions
Publisher : EA
This retrospective review was made possible by GOG.com who provided us with a code for Populous: The Beginning.