This is another game I recently dug up and played as research for Planitia.

Now, when it first came out I actively hated it, but as I’ve played it more it’s grown on me.

That’s not to say that it doesn’t have its share of problems.

For starters, I actively hate hate hate the title, especially since it supplanted the clever, original title which was “Populous: The Third Coming”.

And then there’s the fact that Populous: The Beginning isn’t a Populous game. Not by a long shot. In Populous you play a god. In P:TB you play a shaman who wishes to become a god and can only do so by destroying all the other shaman god-candidates that stand in her way. P:TB’s gameplay is much closer to a traditional real-time strategy game than to a Populous game. In fact, the game it most closely resembles is not Populous, but Sacrifice.

P:TB’s gameplay seems to be simultaneously too slow and too fast. It takes forever to build your base and expand your population. On the other hand, combat is completely frenetic and is hampered by both UI issues and targeting issues. Nothing is more annoying than needing to kill a priest right now but not being able to because he’s surrounded by his warriors and thus you can’t properly target him with your Blast spell.

And as if that weren’t bad enough there are other control issues. Half the time when I try to drag a box around a group of units it doesn’t work. Why? Well, look at this screenshot:

Populous: The Beginning

See that sky? Looks nice, doesn’t it? But if you click a little too high and start your box in the sky area of the screen rather than the ground area of the screen, your selection box won’t draw and you won’t select anything.

So what does clicking on the sky do? Why, nothing, of course. P:TB borked itself from a playability standpoint solely so that the player can look at the sky, meriting a place alongside Ultima IX and Sacrifice in a category I call “What Price SKY? DUN-DUN-DUN!

In the end, P:TB is not the terrible game I thought it was when I first played it but it’s certainly not great either. It’s certainly not worthy of the Populous name and I was unable to draw any inspiration from it.