Godus Review: Godhood, Strangely Limited


I’ve always wondered if Peter Molyneux, the godfather of god games, was making some kind of meta commentary by returning to the genre multiple times over the course of his career. Even after Populous and Black & White, he hasn’t quite scratched the itch for exploring ultimate power through video games.

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He and 22cans are working on a different canvas with Godus, bringing a god game to mobile with the backing of publisher DeNA. If the goal was to provide another fun portal into divinity that just happens to be playable on small devices, it succeeds. But if the idea was that it could transcend its platform and make some kind of bigger statement … well, let’s just say the jury is still out on that.

Godus begins by casting you as a rookie deity of sorts, following a couple whose biblical parallel should be obvious. Once they witness your power to shape the land, they set off in search of the Promised Land, where the promptly settle. With a little help, they end up procreating enough to start a small society of builders, which you can expand from there.

Much of the early gameplay is cyclical and falls into a nice rhythm. Followers provide Belief, which fuels your powers. In turn, you use those powers to help your group of followers expand, learning more abilities along the way. Your followers also become more capable, figuring out how to socialize, build more impressive housing, start farming wheat, and so on.

As society advances, your job also takes on added dimensions. All of a sudden you need to worry about your followers having enough food to ensure they are strong enough to build more structures, and you need to keep them happy or they’ll defect to a far-off land and worship someone else. New lands are discovered, and there’s even a mini-game of sorts to help you earn extra rewards.

There’s one of the rubs with Godus, as it ends up falling back on some of the more tiresome mobile game tropes. Each new god power or technological advancement for your society comes on a card, yet each card needs a certain number of stickers to unlock. Hunting for them in chests that randomly appear is an option, as is playing the exploration mini-game. Yet the game really wants you to be impatient enough to shell out for some premium currency (which, in fairness, can sometimes be found in chests too) and buy packs of stickers.

Belief also ends up as a double-edged sword. While you can generate large amounts by having a big group of followers, the increasingly harsh landscapes and ever more challenging conditions force you to spend it right after you collect it. It’s very easy to log in, play Godus for five minutes and then have nothing to do for 20 minutes, which is a bummer.

And you’ll definitely wish you could play longer, because the game does draw you in with its playful graphical style and attention to small details (except for some occasional collision detection while you’re doing your terraforming). Followers climb palm trees to harvest coconuts, gather and talk around campfires and prostrate themselves when you seed new trees. It all adds up to a place you’d like to spend more time, except that you can’t. Gods can be observers, but they shouldn’t be limited to that role in video games.

The big question is whether Molyneux had it all planned this way or if he was talked into thinking this is the way mobile games need to work. Cetainly, there’s plenty to dig into for a free-to-play game, but one wonders if maybe this is just a bad match between genre and monetization scheme. On top of that, Godus gets to the industrial age and just … ends, at least for now.

Thus, it’s hard to play Godus without experiencing mixed feelings. You’ll appreciate what’s there yet long for more. It also fails to rise above several standard mobile gaming conventions. Maybe that’s meta commentary after all.

Pull the trigger on Godus if …

  • You’re a control freak who wants to lord over your own people using a touchscreen
  • You’re a huge Molyneux fan who wants to see what he can do on mobile
  • You want to play something engrossing but don’t have time for long play sessions

Don’t pull the trigger if …

  • You have a beef with stickers
  • You feel like civilization only started with the industrial revolution
  • You aren’t convinced you’ll be able to get your followers to modern times without spending a lot of money to get them there