Let's face it. Power fantasies are an integral part of the appeal of video games. Whether it's gunning for terrorists or commanding the allies against the Reich, it's all about power.
So it's only a short step to making a game in which you're are an actual god. Enter Godus, which fulfills the contract on paper. But the developers forgot to make any of the enormous powers they grant you of any particular use or interest.Swimming to safety
You start with an extended in-game tutorial that lays the foundation of your worship. You rescue a drowning couple by building land for them to stand on.
Much of the initial game consists of levelling land so that your swelling population can build on it. This mechanic will be familiar to god-game veterans thanks to games like Populous. But Godus suffers from one of the most ham-fisted implementations of the mechanic yet.
Your finger just isn't a fine enough tool to sculpt the game's gorgeous tropical land masses with any precision. The ground comes in layers, but to start with you can't bulldoze all the strata at once.
Instead you have to faff about clearing one at a time, and you'll always end up picking and dragging bits you didn't want to.
In itself this would be a forgivable annoyance. But as the land swells into impressive plateaus and mountains, you have to pay from a limited pool of belief to sculpt the top layers. When you end up burning this by accident, it starts to grate.
It grates more because while belief is something you harvest slowly from your followers, you can buy more of it with real cash.Swimming in one direction
The grating becomes ever more insistent as you discover that for the first few hours of play, landscaping is pretty much all you get to do.
To be fair to the game, it throws a lot of story around this process and it's often pretty engaging. You need to guide your followers to discover temples and harbours in their promised land. You'll encounter other tribes, research new technology, and sail to explore new islands.
But all this is fundamentally still a grand game of god-gardening.
That sense of glorified farming gets worse when you discover that the next set of mechanics deals with agriculture. You can instruct your followers to grow grain, mine ore, or just breed to gain more resources for expansion.
But to make farms you still have to flatten land, your finger smoothing over the map like some holy steamroller.Swimming slowly
There is at least a hint of something a little richer in the game once you reach the point of resource gathering. But it takes a lot of time to get there.
The pace crawls along like the lazy currents in the tropical bays around your promised land.
There are little rewards to try and spur you on. Often these come in the form of technology cards that you win for repairing shrines and temples.
Before you can make use of these, you must discover matching stickers from chests which are often buried in the landscape.
Even these small advances are drip fed to you slower than you need them. And few make any real difference to the game play, or add much in the way of depth.
It's still all about shaping the land. The pace is occasionally broken by a voyaging mini-game but even that boils down to landscaping. Albeit with the added annoyance of watching your minions stumble through atrocious pathfinding routines while a timer ticks down.Swimming nowhere
It's not all bad. The game looks and sounds deliciously inviting. And, like much of Molyneux's work, it possesses a certain quirky charm.
With its simplistic gameplay and timer-based resources it can be kind of fun to second-screen it while you're half-watching something on TV.
But in the end Godus is a flawed and meandering experience which goes to a lot of effort to achieve very little. As a game it's vaguely interesting, but not especially entertaining. And there is, perhaps, no worse criticism you can make of a game than that.