Flattened Earth Society: Reprisal

Richard Dawkins wants you to boycott this game
I’m going to talk about an indie game called Reprisal, but first some theology. In the recent past, From Dust came out and it wasn’t Populous. It wasn’t even Populous with iffy controls, it steadfastly refused to be Populous at all despite being based around Godlike powers and terrain manipulation. Before that, Black and White came out and flirted with the idea of being Populous but then decided it would just be a bit like Populous with a lot more lobbing of poo and caressing of cows. Cardinal sins. Earlier still, Magic Carpet came into being and was actually incredibly similar to Populous, despite the fact the player controlled a wizard riding some flying fabric rather than an actual god of any sort. Heretical. Odd that despite its massive influence, much of Populous’ core remains its own. Now, electrolyte* have delivered unto us a mini-Populous for the browser. It’s in a pre-beta state but it’s playable for two short levels and, by God, it’s all rather lovely and nostalgic.

I do love God games and I have a tendency to think they’re much more common than they actually are. I reach toward my shelf (open Steam) and browse for something to scratch my megalomaniacal itch. Then I get sad and apply the unpleasing and ineffective Spore-balm while weeping furiously. As for Reprisal, I particularly like that it doesn’t rush to the big destructo-powers. First, there’s the period of nurturing your followers at the beginning of a map, something that Populous did on an increasingly grand scale. The levels here are tiny but the effect still works. I find an inherent satisfaction in flattening the land and watching new buildings appear. It’s a simple way to communicate expansion of power and it also, in this instance, allows lots of lovely pixel art to be shown off. And the art really is a treat. Detailed pixel buildings make me happy and really kickstart my imaginative functions.

There should be more to play before the end of the year and I shall be keeping an eye on development. It’s well worth checking out the development blog as well for an insight into the design process.


  1. Pew pew LAZORS! says:

  2. Bhazor says:

    In related news.
    link to gog.com

  3. bglamb says:

    The lack of instructions is a shame. Was kinda hard to work out what I was doing. Also, I never played populous.

    • sauyadav says:

      I still don’t know what I was doing, Instructions Please!

    • Premium User Badge

      Adam Smith says:

      W,A,S,D to move the map around. Click the element icons and then choose a power to use it (you start with only earth powers). You want to flatten the land around your settlement so that more buildings will appear. Do this by left clicking with the raise/lower power. Press space to swap between raising and lowering. That should get you started!

    • bglamb says:

      I worked that much out.

      But the the blues and yellows started fighting and dying.

      I couldn’t tell if I was supposed to be blue, or yellow, or both. And if I was supposed to fight, or not.

    • Pani says:

      I had trouble at the beginning too.

      You’re the blues. The giant blue icon near your house is you “waypoint” and the red floaty icon is a new power that you can collect if one of your guys walks over it. You can do that be setting the waypoint near it and telling your dudes to gather there.

      Another thing I noticed is that you seem to get more people fasterer if you have smaller buildings. Don’t go for castles straight away, get those later, once you’re gearing up to fight. I purposely made little one/two/three square areas for cottages to be built. They churn the men out. And the more men you have, the faster your mana increases.

  4. HexagonalBolts says:

    YES. The world needs more populous.

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      Oh, I just realised there is nothing in the first level to stop you immediatly sinking your enemies island…

    • Premium User Badge

      Adam Smith says:

      Yes, it’s definitely necessary to constrain yourself if you don’t want to just ‘win’. At this point, it’s a proof of concept as much as anything. Presumably, as development goes on, more work will be done on the sphere of influence.

    • jonfitt says:

      I remember the original Populous being just as easy though: Flatten your land, F with theirs, when you have more followers than the other guy and enough mana, ARMAGEDDON! Which seemed to be a mass dogpile in the the centre of the map with the largest number of dudes winning.

    • lasikbear says:

      @HexBolts, yeah, beat the second one instantly by casting the lightning storm spell on the enemy village. Total time was 21 seconds, most of which was me reading through the powers.

  5. wccrawford says:

    I was just thinking the other day that a Populous remake was needed. I hope this will do the job.

    • Pardoz says:

      The catch being that this is 2011, therefore any Populous remake would have to be a regenerating-health/cover-based TPS.

      It’s in the rules, apparently.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      It’s funny ’cause it’s true.

      Also, there’s a romance subplot.

    • Pardoz says:

      In POPULOUS! you’ll take on the role of a bald gay space marine hunting giant mutant scorpions through an alien-created tunnel complex during the Korean War (the Day One DLC will include a multiplayer component tied to GFWL and a new set of maps, identical in every respect to the original maps, but replacing the giant mutant scorpions with Viet Cong irregulars ca. 1969).

      When asked, the devs (all of whom were born after 1989) will state that, other than replacing the obsolete control scheme, developing on a console engine (coding on the PC port will be outsourced to Honest Mohammed’s Kwik Kode of Mogadishu), and reducing the overwhelming complexity of some of the choices in the game, they have gone out of their way to be true to the spirit of the original game.

    • jonfitt says:

      It would be the 4th Populous game, so it could either be called POPULOUS (overwriting history pretending the originals don’t count (AvP I look at you)), or possibly:
      P4PULOUS, where the 4 is backwards and written in blooood.

    • zbeeblebrox says:

      The rules state that the title MUST be written:
      [title] colon [noun] of [verb]

  6. razgon says:

    “browse for something to scratch my megalomaniacal itch.” – Wouldn’t Megalomania do this quite well? Now I need to play that again…THANKS!

    • Prime says:

      We gamers are so suggestible…

    • dazman76 says:

      Powermonger would also be a good choice – another gem from Bullfrog. From what I remember though, it was pretty bloody tough. But then I’ve always been a bit naff at these games, to be honest.

    • jonfitt says:

      [robot voice] mega-lo-mania [/robot voice]

  7. Prime says:

    A jaunty tune indeed, but why limit the viewable area to the 16-bit defaults? We have widescreen monitors just gasping to see the world at once…

    • IDtenT says:

      Yeah, not sure flash is the correct platform…

      I’m also not so sure how your population reproduces – it’s been too long.

    • Nallen says:

      Indeed, I did the whole land grab number but afaik ‘sprog’ was right click, and this is flash sooo…no idea.

    • Napalm Sushi says:

      “I’m also not so sure how your population reproduces – it’s been too long.”

      Oh dude…

    • Lazaruso says:

      They reproduce through agamogenesis, of course!

  8. Premium User Badge

    Hodge says:

    So far it looks like they’re aiming to clone Populous II with a (slightly) upgraded interface, which to be honest a bit pointless, especially in light of the original(s?) just being re-released on GOG. And what’s with the twee NES style music? The original was served far better in that department.

    Still, it’s early days and hopefully the project will take some more interesting turns as it goes on.

    Now, a proper remake with a proper modern physics engine where you can send your opponents’ followers flying in all directions as you shower them with flaming death from above… that seriously needs to be done.

    • Ginger Yellow says:

      Now, a proper remake with a proper modern physics engine where you can send your opponents’ followers flying in all directions as you shower them with flaming death from above… that seriously needs to be done.

      Isn’t that Populous 3?

    • jonfitt says:

      Yes, and also Sacrifice if memory serves.

  9. cptgone says:

    well written article, as we’ve come to expect from RPS – but this had me laughing out loud:
    “first some theology”

  10. CMaster says:

    So I made a big flattened area, then clicked “set followers to attack” to win both levels. Seeing as mana took forever to grow, was by far the quickest way to win both. Yay?

    • MrThingy says:

      I had a lot of fun with this, but you’re right, it takes wayyyyyy too long for mana to build.

      I ended up segregating an encampment of the enemy just so I could save enough to try out the fire spell… which is wrong on so many levels. =\

  11. Dr I am a Doctor says:

    It can be beat in about 2 minutes.

    I was wrong. If the timer doesn’t lie, it took me 25 seconds for both.

  12. Temple says:

    Great, now I want to play Magic Carpet.

    • Temple says:

      Or a better shinier version.

      Loved Populous to, probably two too much to really say how much. Except that my gf got consistently higher scores than me…, ALL SHE DID WAS CLICK MADLY!!!!11!!1

      Games which let girls win are wrong (see: all racing games)

    • WhenInRome says:

      Wait, you think a sexist worldview should be used to judge games?

      …Wow. Just wow.

  13. PleasingFungus says:

    Beat the first level in about 5 seconds, the second in about 13 minutes. Pretty fun, very pretty. Still not sure if the enormous marble structures are good or bad. (They don’t look like very reasonable places to live.)

    Lightning Storm is good times.

  14. Megadyptes says:

    What exactly is a pre-beta state apart from being an alpha?

  15. dontnormally says:

    So I flatten land, more settlements pop up, but no blue guys seem to be spawning?
    Anyone care to address my noob concern?

    • dontnormally says:

      Small buildings fill faster, so they have an advantage over large buildings.
      Large buildings are better once full.

  16. Shazbut says:

    It’s fun but it seems to be like Populous 2 in every way except less so, so why not just play Populous 2.

  17. Pointy says:

    I played the game before reading the comments thus :

    I built up my yellow circle population to a grand size then unleashed them on the blue team…

    Which led to my quick death .. hmmm.

    I loved Populous, it was a game I had for my incredibly shiney new 300 quid Atari STFM (complete with single-sided 720kb floppy… jealous, huh?). That and Simcity, Lemmings and Oids.

    Happy days!