Godus Early Access review (updated March 13th) | PCGamesN

Godus Early Access review (updated March 13th)

An early version of Godus was made available to buy on Steam last week. We’ve been playing it over the weekend to understand if it’s worth your time and money. Why do we review games before they’re finished? Here’s our reasoning.

Godus, in its early access state, is alarmingly slim. That’s par for the course with early access games on Steam. The problem is, the ambition for Godus simply cannot match the reality of what’s delivered right now. It’s a fascinating game but I have serious questions about the viability of the mechanics going forward, and whether the promises that the developers have made for Godus going forward can ever be made real.

There are so few mechanics in Godus, I think I can probably list exactly how it plays in this first paragraph. You are a god who can raise and elevate land. Your power depends on belief, and belief depends on the number of settlers you home. Homes require flat land. Sometimes, there is treasure buried under the surface that requires you to dig a hole. 

Godus doesn’t feel like a god game. I think that’s the core problem. I like the terrain moulding tool - a few mouse clicks are all you need build mountains or carve chasms. It’s a lovely thing: it has that same distracting “I’ll just work on this little bit here”, sense of Minecraft, where half an hour later you look up and realise you’ve been completely absorbed in levelling a mountain. The problem is what happens next: your tribesmen and followers all migrate to the new area and begin building their towns and villages. You don’t lay down roads, and figuring out the optimal packing for each settlement is entirely optional. There’s no real decision making beyond flattening a plain. 

What’s interesting though, is that it takes place on a vast map. You can scroll and scroll and scroll and not reach the edges. Again, the Minecraft reference: if you have the patience, there is a lot of geography in Godus to flatten. 

Once the settlers are in, they’ll breed and believe. New settlers can then be frogmarched out into the wilderness to build further. Meanwhile, the house (it’s hard to believe there’s anyone in there, given how lifeless cities are) starts growing a bubble of pink belief juice that can be harvested by clicking on it. 

Early on, Godus is unbelievably, dramatically, stupidly click heavy. It works like a Farmville clone: click on the house, get the stuff, spend it. Build, click more, build, click. Within an hour, you’re clicking harder and faster than you ever remember. They say the original Diablo broke mice. Godus will destroy them. The only upside to this clicking is that as you click on each house, it plays a small instrumental scale.*

As you grow your tribe, you’re able to push the boundaries of your civilisation, which leads to more plots for houses, which means more expansion. It’s a mostly virtuous circle. 

Theoretically, you’re trying to drive your race forward. That relies on finding small prizes of resources that are hidden in the world. Surprise: that requires clicking. Treasure chests are buried under layers of crust; retrieving them is about rampantly right clicking until the lid can be opened. More clicking. Click faster. Click better. Click stronger.  

There are all kinds of problems with Godus’s advancement. First of all, finding this treasure is mindless tedium. Second, it’s an entirely automatic process in which the resources you find are automatically assigned to the next advancement tree. Thirdly, most of the advancements mean toss all. In one obvious example learning “families” meant that my followers would breed faster. But there’s no sense that anything has changed on the map - no little kiddies running about the place, or followers holding hands or sticking together. Advancement, thankfully, does one job: you’ll eventually earn the ability to link your houses into settlements - where the belief juice can be harvested in one click. 

There are other ways to advance: you can take part in scripted skirmishes against AI players that are accessed through a statue in the main overworld. These are simple battles that only take a few minutes to complete. You win by clicking to flatten plains. Very, very fast. They should be more fun, more focused. But they’re just not - the AI players you’re fighting against are nearly braindead, and again, there’s no strategy. Click. Click harder. Click hard with a vengeance. 

Now, let’s be clear again. This version of Godus is way early. It’s clearly marked Early Access. The game’s barely in alpha. 

But it’s currently the number one selling game on Steam. And it’s not really much fun. In fact, I’ll go further. It’s boring. There is barely a game here: no decisions to be made, no plans to concoct, no personalities to interact with, and the multiplayer barely functions. It’s little more than a tech demo, and frankly, the tech isn’t that impressive. 

The Godus team are clearly reactive to feedback: for example the game still contains remnants and the interface of a microtransaction store that was quickly removed after the (rightful) uproar. 

But that just says that you don’t need to buy this game right now. The Godus team have promised the world - and you can see and read about what they’re trying to do from their Kickstarter. If you want to back that concept, you should. 

Everyone else - I strongly advise you to wait and see if they can come anywhere close to delivery.

Verdict: Wait

*In the buildup to Godus’s announcement, 22Cans launched Curiosity, a cube in which players would mindlessly click on the cube layers hoping to eventually see what was inside. It was cast by 22Cans as an experiment, a way of understanding how players behave and how systems would behave under pressure. Godus’s early game made me wonder if the actual experiment was “what does it take to make people click on any old shit?”

Update: 13th March 2013

After a long period in incubation, 22Cans have released an update to Godus that they claim will radically improve the game.  

It doesn’t.

The update adds new ways of controlling and directing your tribes people, and reduces the number of clicks required to flatten land. The chests that are hidden underground now reveal stickers, a kind of currency that is spent on unlocking new god powers and building upgrades.

But they don’t change the fundamentals of Godus’ design: the game is still ferociously boring. It is still purely about flattening land onto which your settlers build. There is zero strategy involved in building your settlements, and zero choice in how you progress through the game. 

Godus is still a game you should avoid.

Subnautica
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Htorne avatarDog Pants avatarTim Edwards avatarSax avatarRhinoKing avatarelena avatar+3
Htorne Avatar
501
4 Years ago

This is why I read PCGamesN as my primary game news site. You are doing it right, especially with reviewing Alphas and Betas. 

5
Dog Pants Avatar
1389
4 Years ago

It sounds very much like Populous, which is understandable, but we did Populous back in 1989. This review got me thinking about why I enjoyed it back then, and why I repeated it with Populous II, and then how I could extend the theme further for a 2013-grade game.

Levelling ground had all of the Minecraft satisfaction back in the first game, but it was pretty short lived. It was enjoyable for as long as it took to build up a decent sized settlement, and acted as a precursor to the grand wars that then developed. The rest of the game was about hitting your enemy's followers with enough disasters to give your guys the upper hand by the time someone could call armageddon.

Populous II built on the theme without adding much. There were different gods with different traits, more disasters to inflict, different types of knights. The villages looked more like villages. It played pretty much the same, and didn't feel as groundbreaking, or compelling, for it.

So it sounds like Godus is a step back, for the time being at least. The terrain manipulation hasn't changed, and the wars sound like an afterthought. I'd have liked to see an incentive to utilise the terrain rather than flatten it. Hills to mine, flat land to farm, rivers to irrigate, trenches to add defence. It would add an organic air to the towns, and utilise that beautiful scenery. Concentrating the settlements on terrain features rather than having a sprawling conurbation like the other games would lead to staged conquest rather than two vast settlements smashing their population into each other (the previous games did this, Godus may not). Combine the terrain advantages and the divide and conquer mechanics, add a dash of the Settlers supply and demand so you can disrupt the population and give them a reason to move about, and you have a game I'd be excited for. At the moment I can't see any reason to play this.

2
Tim Edwards Avatar
522
4 Years ago

I think you're exactly right. What I realised in playing Godus is that I didn't once make a decision - it was just simply raising and lowering land until I'd made enough space for my little people to get on with their work. The second problem, which I wish I'd mentioned, is that the villages you make are actually quite tedious as well. It's a game that encourages vast sprawls. 

I do think there's some potential in there, but there's a very long way for the team to go. 

2
Sax Avatar
156
4 Years ago

I agree with Htorne. The Alpha reviews are a great idea, expecially the clear verdict.

They say it's 40 % completed, but from what I've read even that seems optimistic. The terraforming works apparently, but it's not a terraforming game. At least the basics should work and be fun (or promise to be).

2
elena Avatar
2
4 Years ago

The "scale" is arpeggios and Bach's (beautiful) Prelude No. 1 for Well-Tempered Clavier (1722). Good example is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXMVkQ70I88

I'm hoping Godus doesn't ruin this lovely tune for me, with all the damn clicking.

 

2
Sax Avatar
156
4 Years ago

I've never been a big fan of Molyneux, but it is kinda sad how he seems to fall apart now with 22cans. Going indie should have been a chance to redeem himself, but it just turns out to be the final nail.

2
5hr00my Avatar
2
4 Years ago

On the one hand I feel sorry for Molineux - he clearly has this incredible 'god game' stuck in his mind, but despite all the updates, new versions, new iterations, and so on - populous is still the best version he has made so far. Back in the day, populous was awesome, almost a game changer and genre breaker/creator. He wanted to perfect it and failed.

Then along came Minecraft, which showed him some of the areas where he failed. Now he's trying to combine the two to make his dream come true - even leaving a successful company to lose the constraints of big market producers... but seems he's failing yet again.

That's a pretty sad story. This game which is stuck in his mind is clearly something which would revolutionize the industry, but try as he might, he can't make it work. He's like an author, with an idea for a story that would make people change the way they think about life, and each other - yet stuck with writers block.... for what? 20, 30 years? Ouch!

On the other hand, I don't feel sorry for him at all, because about 60% of us have ideas for incredible games, only we don't have the resources and industry contacts to pull it off that he has. So on the one hand we have this talented, creative guy - wasting all of his resources to make something he clearly isn't capable of. On the other, we have all of these resources wasted on a guy who can't put them into practice - while a million others let their dreams die because they don't have those resources at hand.

2
RhinoKing Avatar
1
4 Years ago

Very good clear review.

From the developer diaries and gameplay videos it seems at the moment there just isn't enough to do - no real challenge, no decions and nothing that threatens your civilization. Peter Molyneux has got a lot of attention as usual, but there doesn't seem enough to shout about yet. And not worth 15 quid or however much yet.

Throw in some natural disasters, add some ways to really lose, give us some tention. They don't want make it an RTS but there has to be more for the player to do...otherwise there just aren't enough mechanics.

 

1
holtj Avatar
1
4 Years ago

what u got to remember is that atm you are stuck in the first age there still 12 ages to come and the world pvp system has not even implemented yet and i think later the game will alot more stuff for player to do and you will find your haveing much more fun

1
ancientscream Avatar
1
4 Years ago

If only the game was as playable as populous II in uprated 3D form? I would be happy to pay money just for that. The problems are > everything is metered out too much, god powers require too long to attain and get and involve population expansion and belief and temples and discovery etc, belief isn't auto collected as it was in populous, the new collection method for belief is easier, but is still no credible logic behind the player having to collect it from rooftops, and therefore comes off as a chore, stickers in albums makes no sense nor does the albums and number of screens to interfaces, have it all on one screen ? theres too many collectables in this game, the single players needs enemy tribes to conquest, land sculpting should not be limited to discover cards to enhance it, i want cliff sculpting from the outset, I want the landscape resources stone and trees collected / used by the populace not just being stuff I have to get rid / clear off, I want "belief" to be the only limiter on GOD powers not belief and population milestones etc combined and cards and tribe and chests and ancient library discoveries for enhancing timeline civ knowledge, all resources to be in the environment but auto gathered by the people. The discovered boundarys to expand naturally as houses get near them like in multiplayer, not have to build land expansion markers is wet and unrealistic. The boat movement card collectible game seems like a separate game not integrated into the landscape ? and puts some damn humour into the game start enjoying its development and have a laugh, the game will be better for it, make the people more endearing fat thin tall short etc. The interface is supersized as built for handheld devices and on desktops it seems childlike. I hope that can make it work, but I think the impartial egos at play, probably mainly peter are going to compromise it too death. Lets hope not as it would truly be nice to have have another high note in the god genre ?

1