If there was ever a genre that I had to ask myself why it never caught on, it's god games. I loved the original Black and White, it was a pretty amazing game at the time. But if there was ever a game that was close to my heart, it is Populous 3: The Beginning. I played it throughout my childhood, being a game that was simple enough for me to understand at the time that I really enjoyed yet was not the first real game I beat fairly (DK2 is the first PC game that I remember completely beating) but damnit, there's a reason. That game was not fucking around!
It may look harmless. You may even be thinking that the game resembled the first two populous games in that the majority of the game was terraforming. But there is a catch. You see, unlike the last two games you are actually not a god; you are the Shaman. The one female of the tribe and you alone wield the might of your ancestors. In fact, I could probably argue P3 may be the first RTS with a hero unit.
The Shaman is a spellcaster, and your tribe is composed of Braves, which can gather wood and build structures. You could send the Braves into huts to make Mana for spells or train them to be specialists such as warriors or preachers. That mana is used to prepare charges of various unlocked spells from a simple fireball to unleashing demons from the darkest pits of hell upon the world. Friendly fires on too. You let loose a tornado in a fight and you will see both sides taking flying lessons. There in lies the games difficulty, is that up to four Shamans in a level means four people walk that planet with divine magic.
You could be setting up your village and suddenly be watching it sink into the water. A volcano could erupt under your shamans skirt. Three tornadoes and swarms of locusts could appear magically within your town and once they are there you need to wait them out. Of course, turnabout is fair play. Nothings stopping you besides death itself from waltzing up to their town gate and letting loose the same havoc right on them.
The combat system in populous represents a massive brawl. Characters push and shove eachother in attempts to knock them into the water, Preachers try to convert enemies, and Populous 3 let you have an impressive number of townspeople. And among these huge brawls are the spells both sides of the conflict are letting loose.
Another thing: For a game from the 90's it was pretty. The special effects were flashy, the grass on the terrain died as characters stomped over it, and when you watched two Shamans and their tribes clashing you were instantly sucked into the world as you watched the chaos ensue. Trying to micromanage the fight was impossible, the best you could do was move your shaman around and fling spells as your tribe did what they do best, fighting and tearing apart structures.
People wanted an XCOM remake for so long, yet when they get a good one they cry and complain. Atleast your favorite franchise is getting one dude, Populous is one of those series Bullfrog left in oblivion when they disbanded. There are plenty of great games from the 90's that never got the recognition they deserved. XCOM got a second chance in being picked up by a company that has proven they care about the franchise. Instead of that not-XCOM game made by that company that does the generic shooting games.