Godus Wars [official site], the second unfinished Godus game from development team 22Cans, costs £11 on Steam. And until a few moments ago, once you'd battled through the first continent of its combat-focused spin-off, to play any more of the game cost another $5. Yup, this new "free to owners of Godus" early access, severely unfinished game included surprise premium in-game purchases! Unsurprisingly, on discovering this, already angry players became even angrier, and let their feelings be known. A taken-aback 22Cans have just announced they're removing this charge, while expressing astonishment that anyone should have minded it.
"I always imagined Godus being two games, one tranquil, one war like," says Peter Molyneux in the opening screen of Godus Wars. He'd kept this fragment of his imagination a closely guarded secret over the last couple of years, what with the original Kickstarter stating Godus would be "Half a living sandbox world, and half a strategy game", somewhat suggesting half + half equalling one, not two. And when we spoke to him last year about the missing combat he explained, "we have to put [in] absolutely amazing, incredible combat, and this is totally unique combat, and the reason this is totally unique combat is that we have to solve one fundamental problem and that is how do you mix an RTS game with a god game." Apparently by secretly never having intended to!
It is a fortunate coincidence that the announcement and release of a second early access Godus game, Godus Wars, provides a fresh start for 22Cans' project on Steam, giving it a new store page that doesn't boast thousands of negative reviews (at the time of writing the new page is on only 86 reviews - 73% of them negative).
I've had a play of the new game to see what's on offer. Obviously in early access, the game - much like its two and a half year old predecessor - is currently incomplete, intending to develop in response to player feedback. Perhaps one of the things that will be fixed in time will the game running two instances of itself at the same time when you go into battle, flickering between the two windows, each dancing liberally around the screen. Battle over, that new version of the game shuts down, the other hidden behind other windows appears to pick up the baton. That's quite odd.
Battles are extremely simple (for you - the enemy looks like it's always having an awful lot more fun, with access to far more interesting things) - you repeatedly scrape the mouse cursor over the land to raise or lower it, in a way that's fiddly, tiresome, and just about the opposite of what made Populous so much fun nearly 30 years ago, in order to create more land on which your minions can build. More land means more buildings, more buildings means more belief, and more belief means you can build a citadel, and thus grow armies. And that's pretty much it. As more belief appears you can grown your citadel, or build new ones, and then form a little gang of troops to go take out the enemy's base. By clicking on them, then it, then waiting.
Meanwhile another unseen enemy AI is taking over territories on the same continent, with your clashing inevitably around the corner. As you progress you receive cards to play in your next battle, that might give you a belief boost, or make things cost less, or some such. And then that's all rendered moot by a random wheel spun in every battle that seems to inevitably choose "Half belief from abodes" rendering the entire game unplayable. Oh joy.
So much is currently missing from the game that there's really nothing more to do than this. Almost no cards exist, no god powers are available, meaning every fray is near identical and always uniquely dull. It's playable, which appears to be the only criteria for releasing a game on early access, but it's not worth playing. Currently it feels like an in-development free phone app you'd forget you ever downloaded.
As for that "premium content", 22cans CEO Simon Phillips writes on the game's store page:
"In the mean time, its been brought to our attention that the extra content being a premium add on really isn’t a popular choice. Whilst we think that it does represent good value, especially considering that Godus Wars has been delivered as a free update to hundreds of thousands of users and the lower purchase price of the main game we understand previous Godus owners frustrations with this.
"Therefore, based on your feedback, the extra content will be available to all free-of-charge
"Apologies for the frustrations and we hope you enjoy playing."
Representing good value is of course in the eye of the beholder, but it remains quite extraordinary to have thought in-app purchases are at all appropriate in an unfinished early access project in its first stages that backers thought they'd already paid for in full. It might perhaps have made more sense to instead focus on releasing just a single continent at this stage, feature complete. Any how, from now on their plan to charge another $5 a continent (of what looks like by my count about eight continents) has been abandoned, and presumably another revenue stream will now have to be sought to continue development.
Molyneux emboldened his promise to no longer speak to the press by speaking to the press yesterday to assure that he no longer spoke to the press. He has so far managed to not speak to the press about this latest incident.