Populous

1989. The GameBoy is released in North America, and I don't care. I don't care because I own the finest piece of gaming hardware ever made -- the Atari ST computer. Hyperbole? Sure. But in the summer of 1989 I was playing a game unlike anything I'd ever seen. That game was Peter Molyneux's most original game ever: Populous.

1989 was a good year for gamers. It brought us Prince of Persia. It brought us the GameBoy. But more than anything else, it brought us two games that gave us the opportunity to become gods. The first game was SimCity, the second was Populous. Something was clearly in the air that year.

My first reaction to populous was that it felt like I was living in the future. For the first time, I was making the game world as I played it. Raising and lowering terrain -- the basic functions of the game until Molyneux added layers of complexity -- and deforming the wire mesh that made my miniature world seemed like the stuff of science fiction. Yes folks, back then wire frames were cool, and it was phenomenally entertaining to just make lakes, flatten mountains, and flood your neighbor's fields, all the while trying to make a nice hospitable planet for your people to live on. Ultimately, your bigger, stronger population takes over the world, and you become the one-true-god or die trying.

Populous was a breakout success for Molyneux, and the game spawned numerous sequels, most recently culminating in Populous DS, which remains faithful to the simple but still highly strategic world-domination game play of the original.

The god-sim genre, if there really is such a thing, remained Molyneux's playground for quite some time, culminating in Black & White, which concerned itself with the terrain of the soul far more than that of the land itself. But the ideas behind populous live on in everything from the Sims franchise to Civilization.

Comments

Such awesome Populous memories.

Earthquake! Volcano! MUAHAHAHAHA!

1989. The GameBoy is released in North America
and the game spawned numerous sequels, most recently culminating in Popolous DS

Oh, I think I see what you did there Full circle, is it?

You had a completely different experience since you were all adult-like aged. I was 12 in 1992 and picking up the game for the SNES because they didn't have the game I wanted (Magic Sword, I believe), so I settled on Populous because it looked cool for some reason.

Man, did it ever bore me to tears as a 12 year old, but man did I ever enjoy flooding the world.

Pity I missed this (and many other great games), as I was quite young then, and all we owned as an NES.

Has anyone gone back and played this recently (if that's even possible)? I remember a lot of great games that I loved and still think very highly of until I go back and realize that simple things like level design or control schemes and menu layering were atrocious and make them unplayable today. There are still plenty of games, however, that stand the test of time. So which is Populous?

As a person who really enjoyed it on the Sega Genesis (before they changed the hardware and then the cartridge wouldn't run anymore) would I find the DS version enjoyable? Anyone know?

The DS version is a pretty pure implementation, without a lot of bells and whistles.

Populous DS is $5 online. No-brainer.

I have faint memories of playing a VS version with my friend after school. I think it was on a console. Was that the SNES?

Loved Bullfrog games. Populous, Syndicate...all classics.

I had all but forgotten about this game. I played it so much when I was young. I should track down the DS version.

This and Powermonger ate up months of my life on the ST. Great write up, Rabbit.

I absolutely loved this game, and up until now I had no idea that it was Peter Molyneux's work.

It's interesting to me that Populous is now considered a breakout success, as I always thought of it as something of a sleeper, hidden somewhere in the shadow of Sim City. All of my friends seemed to have the latter, but nobody else I knew had played Populous.

But then, my finger was not exactly on the pulse of the gaming community at the time.

Regarding the ports... I'm fairly certain I played this on my Mac, and I believe it also existed for the SNES.

Populous was the more memorable and fully developed, but I had good fun with Powermonger for a while too. Anyone ever try the WWI expansion for it?

Funny you post this, I've actually just finished a bit of a spurt of playing this via Genesis emulator on my PSP. Got up to world hundred and something before the AI just got too quick for me.

Great little trip down memory lane!

Populous is definitely in my list of top 10 games ever. I also played it on the pc (whatever it was at the time... 486?). This was the first game I played where my mom said, "hey, what's all that clicking?" Nothing mom, I'm just CHANGING THE LANDSCAPE OF THE ENTIRE WORLD!! Oh, and I think I'll put a volcano here.

I also had no idea Peter Molyneux was involved. Awesomeness++ on that guy for me.

I wasn't even born when Populous came out =)
But I have played it, and it still holds up today (in my opinion).

gore wrote:

I absolutely loved this game, and up until now I had no idea that it was Peter Molyneux's work.

It's interesting to me that Populous is now considered a breakout success, as I always thought of it as something of a sleeper, hidden somewhere in the shadow of Sim City. All of my friends seemed to have the latter, but nobody else I knew had played Populous.

Me too - About knowing it was Molyneux's work, and for thinking this was a sleeper hit. There was a SNES port, and I remember being totally wrapped up in it.

I played the SNES one a lot...I still have it and busted it out probably 2 years ago. I STILL had fun with it. Some of those levels got tough. The Video Game land always made me mad though...not sure why. The food one..or candy or whatever it was...was teh best

Nevin73 wrote:

Loved Bullfrog games. Populous, Syndicate...all classics.

Oh, god Syndicate was an awesome game.

BlackSheep wrote:
Nevin73 wrote:

Loved Bullfrog games. Populous, Syndicate...all classics.

Oh, god Syndicate was an awesome game.

Lets not forget Bullfrog made Dungeon Keeper as well! Personally that's the game I'll always cherish them for.

Dungeon Keeper was also a Molyneux game, I believe Bullfrog's last ...

Populous was a good game. I remember it fondly... Syndicate however was definitely Bullfrog's greatest game ever.

So many fond memories... they really need to remake that.

ST? Pfft, I say! Real men played Populous on the Amiga!

Great write-up, though -- it definitely has me hankering to take it for another spin.

pneuman wrote:

ST? Pfft, I say! Real men played Populous on the Amiga!

Great write-up, though -- it definitely has me hankering to take it for another spin.

What's an Amiga? (j/k)

Bullfrog put out some really good stuff. I was quite fond of Populous, not so fond of Syndicate.

pneuman wrote:

ST? Pfft, I say! Real men played Populous on the Amiga!

QFT. My Amiga 500 with it's 512k RAM expansion and external 50meg hard drive is around here somewhere.

Bullfrog was the shiznit developer of the time.

Oh man, classic GOTW did it to me again. I saw the title and thought "wow, they're remaking Populous!"

Sadness.

Nimcosi wrote:

Bullfrog was the shiznit developer of the time.

QFMFT

PAR

I absolutely loved the series but Populous II was my favorite with it's Greek Mythology tinged setting. Volcanos for everyone!

Time to fire up Amiga Forever and play a little Populous II.

BlackSabre wrote:

Syndicate however was definitely Bullfrog's greatest game ever.

So many fond memories... they really need to remake that.

There's Syndicate remake in the works. Also, the greatest Bullfrog game is clearly Magic Carpet.

Everyone interested should read The Making of Populous, there was a lot of interesting people involved and also mentions how the term "god game" was born (with Populous).