Man it's been like a month since I wanted to write a blog about Populous (well actually it was supposed to be a video so less with the writing) but after I recorded some of the game I got seriously lazy when it came time to mash it together into a video with some dry voice over work. I'd like to say it's because I hate Sony Vegas 8.0 with a passion and it's the only video editing software I have (besides Windows Movie maker) and while there's some truth to that it's not the real reason, it's cause I'm fuck lazy :|
Unfortunately due to Vegas' ability to make any situation into a travesty of epic proportions when I was almost done I managed to lose all my effort and my save and in a fit of rage I deleted all the fraps and voice overs I did :| (I know what you're thinking but I don't have aggression problems, probably, vegas just does that to me.)
So if you're still reading after my whining then it's time for the meat and potatoes \o/ Populous: the Beginning. I'd love to assume that everyone knows what the populous series is but that's just not how it works nowadays :( Populous the Beginning is the 3rd game in the populous serious and my favorite.
It started with your basics for an RTS. You built houses which increased your pop cap and it also created new tribesman for you. They gathered wood which you used to build new houses and other buildings as well as upgraded houses to increase capacity (pop cap). Nothing special but it did this solidly.
Then it started to get great.
I'm sure you noticed from the picture above but the game is in 3d (minus the people) and as a fair few RTS tried to do at that time they went for a real 3d camera instead of just top down view with a little bit of an angle. Fortunately they managed to pull it off. Another cool thing they did camera wise was the ability to zoom out and see the map in a planet view and then move around and zoom in along with the normal moving around.
So far solid, good camera and solid framework. It had good controls and a decent UI too but you'd have to experience that for yourself. Moving along with the foundation of the game you had 5 other unit types besides your basic tribesman. You trained your tribesmen into one of 4 other unit types in buildings designated for their training. If not a brave they became either warriors, priests, firewarriors, or ninjas (ok they're spies).
They all did different things and did them well:
The Warriors were tribesman turned into manly men. This was evidenced by the headband they now wore along with the sword and shield they carried. They're job was to run around yelling (just incase they didn't catch anyone by surprise as no one would want that) and the beating people silly.
Priests had the boring job, they stood there and read books all day to any soul that would listen, and god help those poor souls they eventually got so bored they switched sides just so they no longer had to listen to all of their malarkey.
The Firewarriors were just those special braves that liked fire too much when they discovered it and we're determined to show everybody how awesome it was: by lighting them on fire. And just so everyone knew when flaming fireballs were going to be flying around they wear a skull of a dead animal and flaming pom poms. Go team fire.
Ninjas (spies) are like firewarriors except they demonstrate their love of fire with more restraint. Instead of donning funny hats and risking severe burns with hands engulfed in flames they put on jackets and run around disguising themselves as enemy tribesman. Along with being handy at exposing enemy spies they are great at espionage. Just like the big bad wolf, but instead of huffing and puffing they do the sensible thing and go straight to burning houses down.
The 6th and final unit type is the Shaman. No brave can train to become a Shaman, instead this badass chick makes a flashy entrance at the beginning of every level. And the Shaman is where the game gets really interesting. The Shaman casts spells of which there are many and there are varied. Everything from fireballs and lightning to landbridges, locusts and summoning dragons and volcanos and drowning your opponents base.
The spells and their use is where Populous really shines, no level can completed without them and they are fun as hell to use. To see them in all their glory watch this video.
This is where the similarity with From Dust comes from. While they are not the same as Populous plays primarily as an RTS they not only share a similar look and feel but they also have a lot of World Shaping to help your tribe become victorious. From Dust falls short as being the "Spiritual Successor" to Populous.
I wish I had managed to make a video of Populous as it is best described in video form, the pure awesomeness of Populous the Beginning is too difficult for one such as me to convey properly :(. The game has so much appeal. The graphics are great (even now they have their charm) and the sound effects are even better. With comical sounding punches and kicks and units shouting in victory to their responses to your commands which may or may not be a real language or just gibberish. It has everything, great animations (from running to your units jumping up in the air shouting and celebrating with conga lines).
And the multiplayer is just over the top craziness, and can still be played thanks to fans. I know it myself that I have done a poor job of explaining Populous the Beginning and I don't know how I can do better. But if you have not been swayed into trying it yet then hopefully my favorite spell will. The ARMAGEDDON spell: for when a level is dragging on just cast a spell and finish it with a DEATH MATCH.
also a quick edit: I finished Enslaved a few hours ago (yah yah I know it's way late, my backlog is huge :| *don't* sue me). It was awesome, I wish Pigsy's Perfect 10 had a retail release (although it would be a waste for them). I might just get it anyway, which should tell you how enamored I am as I almost never get digital stuff.