There are so many angles to the latest project from Peter Molyneux and his development team, 22 Cans. Firstly, Godus represents the revival of a genre that has long been dormant; the God game all but vanished (give or take a few small titles) following 2008s Spore, but Molyneux is looking to re-open the gates on the whole genre, dubbing the title, 'the regenesis of the God game'. What's more, the game sees the winner of the studio's infamous Curiosity mobile game take power over every player within the game, a role that he will be paid for by receiving a cut of Godus' profits. Add on to this the successful kickstarter campaign not to mention the recent release on Steam Early Access, and it's easy to see why there's so much buzz around this independent game.
With all of this going on, it's easy to lose sight of what Godus is actually bringing to the table. The huge world has got to be the first thing to note. While most large games boast of expansive landscapes and vibrant cities, Godus' game world is allegedly the size of Neptune, which is as good a boast as any. The concept here is that gamers are all playing within one expansive homeworld, but one that is so huge players won't be tripping over each others toes. It's optimistic, for sure, and yet to be proven as the current beta places players within their own world, but it could be a brilliant move. Molyneux has yet to reveal what will happen when players do eventually encounter one another, but the current battle mechanic is already decent, giving me a lot of hope.
Of course, a gigantic game world would be pointless if it wasn't fun to populate and develop your people within it. Like most God games, you're given the task of raising a civilisation from a pack of dim-witted barbarians to a modern utopia. The age model, which notes the advancement of time from primitive to space age with around a dozen steps in between, is lifted directly from Civilization, a mechanical copy that Molyneux is not afraid to confess. The needs of your people will develop alongside their increasing population as well as the age they are currently living in. To begin with you just need to consider breeding; that is to say, ensuring your underlings have homes to breed in private, but as your game develops the needs of the people become increasingly complex. This concept introduces the base mechanic in Godus, a system that would be more at home in a Tycoon style game, but one that works surprisingly well here.
In order to create houses (that they need to breed, remember), your people need flat land large enough to automatically place a plot for living. Sculpting the land can be done with a simple drag of the mouse, but multiple layers to each island mean that you may need to drag the land around a fair bit in order to create an ideal patch for habitation. In the current beta, the clicking mechanic is perhaps a little too fiddly, and is perhaps better suited to the planned mobile release, but it's an interesting idea that works to develop that link between the God-like player and his or her little civilisation.
Moulding the land, however, can't be used infinitely, as it's one of various God powers, all of which require belief points. These are essentially the currency of Godus and are acquired through the various homes that your people build. On top of the belief points, you'll also need to gather God cards, a brilliant system that links most achievements and developments within the game to individual cards. The ability to create settlements, for example, is a card that can be unlocked by collecting a bunch of varied resource cards. It's a collectors dream, frankly, but not nearly as complicated as it may at first appear. The cards are acquired through a combination of finding randomly placed treasure chests or temples as well as through the game's multiplayer competitive matches. Just playing the game unlocks everything you'll need to advance, so there's no need to worry about searching every nook and cranny.
The buzz words, there, however, are multiplayer competitive matches. God games have never really ventured into the player versus player battling environment, despite their clear links with huge online competitive strategy games. Of all my time with the Early Access version of Godus, it was the battle mode that impressed me most. It's shaping up to be a brilliantly original and strategic game mode that should excellently mix up the standard play within the main world. You see, multiplayer matches take place within a whole different area to the Neptune-sized homeworld, which means specific maps, more tailored for combat, can be implemented. The genius of these matches is that they still rely on the base mechanics that you use outside of the PvP environment. Moulding the environment becomes the key to victory in games where the aim varies from 'eliminate the opponents population' to 'mine the largest number of gems'. The other God powers are also much more important in this mode, like the ability to flick or poke the little people with a Godly finger. Or, on the somewhat more destructive side, you can also call in meteor showers and other disasters
This all comes together to form a game that, honestly, impressed the hell out of me. Even in its current beta stage it's worth your time and money, plus there's that ever encouraging promise of being part of the game's development. 22 Cans look to be actually listening to community feedback, a bonus that comes with the small development team. Godus is undeniably tedious at times; while I follow the game I'm hoping to see an improvement of the terrain mechanic input, not to mention the laborious way faith power is gathered, but these seem like small details that could be ironed out. Personally, I've never been a big fan of Peter Molyneux games, I've often found them to lack the technical prowess to back the theoretical concepts. This time round, I'm intrigued. My time with Godus was greatly enjoyable and I'd encourage anyone to keep their eye on this potential gem from 22 Cans. It's available right now on Steam Early Access for a decent price, but is only 40% towards completion, the full game is expected some time next year.