Peter Molyneux and 22 Cans' intended Populous heir Godus is the most miserable gaming experience I've had in many a year. It was so crushingly short on joy and cleverness, it seemed like a tech demo made without a design, it seemed to believe Farmville was gaming's future, it was a betrayal of its own heritage, and it was an insult to all that had been promised. I struggled to find anything to convince me that it existed for any reason beyond making money. As an angry young man, I loathed games often. These days, I simply feel sadness and tiredness when I play a game I don't enjoy. But Godus I loathed, and completely so. There should be no surprise, by now, at unmet promises, but the sheer scale of the oath-breaking here was breathtaking.
Now there is Godus 2.0. There are apologies. There are promises. There is talk of it being an almost ground-up rethink. It may very well be true, and certainly an attempt at salvage on this scale is to be admired. But we have been fooled so very many times before.
There are claims like "almost no clicking" and "it feels delightful." There is this: "The game you had before is nothing like the game you're going to get now." Maybe so. But there are so many other games I need to play which weren't at any stage appalling. Godus doesn't deserve a second chance as far as I'm concerned. I shall await positive or negative buzz before I even consider returning to it.
At any rate, Peter Molyneux and co have just now broken cover after going dark since Octoberish, revealing sweeping changes for Godus. This was done via a video, in order that we can see and hear all the earnestness and sincerity. So here are some 22 Cans staff - including their infamous Teller Of Tales - apologising for the 'first' version of the game, apologising for radio silence for the last half-year, and presenting their new vision for their hitherto goddamned terrible god game.
Some appealing concepts and sweeping changes in theory for sure, but there is, to my mind, too much implied self-congratulation in there too. The click-frenzy of the earlier versions suggested a bewildering lack of awareness of what had actually been made, so it is very hard to trust (surely premature) claims that it feels so darn wonderful now. This is the British games industry's own Ford Nation. I wonder if we'll ever hear the true story of what happened, and who was really responsible for Godus' most grevious failings.
If you'd rather read than watch, this is why 2.0 isn't just a patch, apparently:
"We needed to make it because of the feedback we got from you – that it was a click-fest, that you didn't really know what you were doing or why you were doing it, that there wasn't enough variation in gameplay, not many people were playing the story, not many people were playing multiplayer. So we went back to the drawing board on the foundations of our features. The reason we did that is that we really truly want to make a great game."
All of this may well be true. Certainly, it's far better that they're now acknowledging Godus 1 was a disaster than pretending all was well. I suppose it also a good thing that the crowdfunding, post-publisher age means a woeful game need not remain a woeful game, that it can adjust to the feedback of its players rather than just be put out, left to die and its entire genre or subject matter deemed too non-commercial. It is certainly a good thing that this update is free to everyone who has been unfortunate enough to have backed or bought the game to date - it's an attempt at amends if nothing else, and means they haven't opted to take the money and run.
I am, sort of, glad this has happened. Even so, there's no way I'm touching this with even my least-favoured barge pole (I have a sizeable collection, you know) until I hear at least some third-party chatter that we're not having our collective leg pulled again. There are so very many other games, and life is so very short.
If you have a more forgiving and open-minded heart than my shrivelled, bitter one, the 2.0 update is available now, via Steam Early Access.
Also, John's been doing some further sleuthing, and discovered this when he zoomed in really close on the video: