Most gamers know the name of Peter Molyneux - the man practically invented the "God Game" genre with Populous. The latest game from Molyneux is a God game for iOS devices, called Godus. It's out now and you can download it for free on an iPad or iPhone.
After spending nearly a week with the game, we have to say that it is a mess. Godus is a charming mess that could have easily been amazing, but it's still a mess.
The decision to make the game free makes a lot of business sense - most games on the App Store are following the freemium model now. And done properly, it's actually not a bad thing from a gamer's perspective either. Unfortunately, Godus is not one of the games that gets freemium right, and instead it ends up feeling like a cash grab.
Godus starts with you, a nebulous undefined God, rescuing two villagers from drowning, a nod to Black and White. Soon enough, you learn that you can sculpt the land, and when you make flat land, you can send some of your believers to build houses, and later farms and more complex settlements.
When you have a temple ready, your believers will pray to you, and that belief is what allows you to flatten mountains and raise lakes. There's a lot more to the game over time - you'll need to build farms and collect food, and you keep unlocking technology using stickers you find in hidden treasure chests - you also need to do things like plant trees and build fountains to keep the people happy, or they might start worshipping a rival god.
It's got all the trappings of a really good, classic game. However, the time it takes to construct a building, or generate belief, or harvest food and other resources is utterly unmanageable. Without paying, you can play the game for about a minute at a time, at one-hour intervals at best. After that minute is up, there is literally nothing you can do without spending real money.
It's a shame, because Godus is otherwise quite riveting on an iPad. The graphics are sharp and well defined, and the layered art style of the landscapes is pretty unique. The gameplay is engaging, and there's a mini-game which involves taking a voyage with your followers and overcoming various challenges, which is incredibly enjoyable.
The touchscreen is the perfect way to play this kind of game, far more so than a mouse and keyboard. You feel like you're literally shaping the world with your fingertips and guiding your followers.
Given all this, it's a pity that Godus got the timers and payments so terribly wrong. This is a beautiful but highly flawed game that is best avoided. If you're interested in playing God games on your iPhone or iPad though, then here are some great options you can download right now:
This paid game is fully playable from the word go, though IAP is used to unlock extra content. For the very low price of Rs. 60 though, you already get access to hours of content without ridiculous timers that ruin the experience. You're the God of a remote island tribe, and you have a fun range of powers, both good and evil, to play around with. There are various things to do in each episode, and it's up to you to decide how to go about your objectives. Each level is short, but there's a lot of them so you won't run out of things to do. The art style is cute and cartoony, and it looks great, particularly when you decide to dip villagers in lava just for a laugh.
Tribes is pretty clearly inspired by Populous - as the game's description says, flatten the land so your peasants can build settlements, and with the power that they give to you rain down disasters on your enemies heads. At Rs. 250, the game is still pretty cheap, but expensive compared to the norms of the App Store, so we were a little wary about installing it at first because the graphics are so primitive. It's a good thing we got over those doubts though, because the actual game is simple enough to be enjoyable, and deep enough to hold your attention over time. The levels are short, but the game does a good job of slowly ramping up the difficulty, keeping you hooked in the process.
Minecraft Pocket Edition
Minecraft isn't a God game, exactly, but it hits many of the same notes in the way it lets you shape the world you're playing in, so we felt it should be included. If you're not a gamer, you might not be familiar with Minecraft - put simply, the Minecraft is like a live-action Lego game. Everything in the game is made out of blocks, and you can mine them and use them to make things while surviving in a hostile environment; or if you prefer, you can play creative mode, where you can just build elaborate structures without worrying about resources or monsters. It's great fun, but be prepared to lose hours at a time to the game as you build and rebuild things just because one detail went wrong.
This free game is pretty limited, but unlike Godus which wants you to keep buying gems to have fun, The Sandbox has its campaigns locked behind paywalls, so it's just a one-time cost. The basic free game gives you an idea of what to expect from The Sandbox, and it's actually really enjoyable. It's basically a 2D version of the typical God game; you can place various elements on the screen which interact with each other across 16 campaigns and the result is something that is silly yet fun. The freemium elements are a little intrusive with this game, but it's a lot more gentle than Godus in trying to get inside your wallet.
Godville is not a game - but it's an incredible amount of fun anyway. It is instead a parody of the tropes that define most role playing games. In Godville, you are God, and you're reading the journals of a heroic adventurer as he goes about fighting monsters and saving damsels. There's absolutely no interaction required, and you can just check in from time to time to read the hero's journal, though you can also encourage him with the voice of God, or punish him, if you're bored. If you've got a minute to kill, and just want a laugh, try Godville.