Godus Early Access Review

Godus bless us.

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GameSpot's early access reviews evaluate unfinished games that are nonetheless available for purchase by the public. While the games in question are not considered finished by their creators, you may still devote money, time, and bandwidth for the privilege of playing them before they are complete. The review below critiques a work in progress, and represents a snapshot of the game at the time of the review's publication.

Auteur game designer Peter Molyneux is probably best known for his tendency to oversell his work without the slightest hint of irony. Recently, Molyneux has been claiming that Godus is "Zen-like," and most of the time, that's a pretty fair assessment. Godus sways to a steady rhythm, reinforced by the gentle chimes and tones of the user interface, creating a superb sense of relaxation and belonging.

Shrines must be worked before they are activated. When triggered, they expand your lands and unlock the gray areas just beyond.
Shrines must be worked before they are activated. When triggered, they expand your lands and unlock the gray areas just beyond.

Godus begins in a more or less conventional manner: You clear out some rocks and trees to make way for your followers to build houses and settle down. This is the most basic level of interaction you have with the gameworld. Every flat piece of land you can clear or carve automatically generates a plot on which people can build houses. From here, you build up two of the game's vital resources: number of followers and belief. Reaching certain numbers of followers unlocks new powers and abilities called "cards," while belief is continuously generated at homes. Belief is the fuel for your god powers. Causing drastic changes of any sort uses exponentially more belief than working with the land. Some manipulation of the world is required, but the excessive cost of radical changes limits the possibilities.

Once these elements have been introduced, Godus gradually breaks away from the norm. Belief, for example, doesn't automatically go from your followers' houses to your pool; instead, you must collect it from each individual house. That probably sounds annoying, and indeed it was before a recent update. Now with a click and drag of the mouse, you can trace over homes and collect your tributes, with a soothing chime punctuating the process. It reminded me of gathering fruit or flowers from a garden, and while the idea that humans are basically plants to be cultivated by a supreme being is an odd one, it really does feel special.

Treasure chests contain stickers that you can use to activate powers that you've unlocked.
Treasure chests contain stickers that you can use to activate powers that you've unlocked.

As you gradually sculpt the world, you also uncover little stickers that activate your earned cards, as well as a smattering of strange artifacts, temples, and shrines--all seemingly left by a long-dead civilization. These disparate ruins and treasures don't reveal any real threat, either from resource scarcity or other civilizations, and exist largely to encourage exploration. Shrines, once restored, unlock more of the game's main map, as well as more stickers and land for your people to work in the process. In time, you unlock settlements and more advanced housing, which build up your stores of belief faster, thus allowing you to exert your will upon the world a bit more...forcefully. Despite its generally relaxing nature, this is still a god game, and you can use your divine fingers to snuff out your followers if you need a quick laugh.

Eventually, your search for stickers in the main portion of the map will have you coming up empty. That's where this build's biggest addition comes into play: voyages of discovery. Within the first few areas, you find a special temple from which you can launch expeditions to far-off lands. Your followers, upon your command, begin island hopping in your name. Each new island has a puzzle wherein you must guide your followers from their landing to their goal in a set amount of time. Completing these challenges requires you to use your god powers with some degree of haste and cleverness. Failure is punished with the loss of some followers, but adventures also let you resupply your pilgrims with belief, so there is effectively no long-term penalty.

I opted for a very dense housing system, constantly reworking the land to let me pack more and more people in, but that wasn't necessarily the best strategy.
I opted for a very dense housing system, constantly reworking the land to let me pack more and more people in, but that wasn't necessarily the best strategy.

This diversion helps fill in what Godus otherwise has too little of: something interesting to do. Waiting for belief to regenerate takes time, and without belief, you can't do much. Expeditions help close that gap and keep you busy instead of simply waiting for things to happen. Unfortunately, they are also out of place. Nothing else in Godus is limited by time or is in any way dangerous to anything or anyone, and so the possibility of failure in a voyage of discovery isn't a comfortable fit.

Then again, Godus isn't finished yet, and clearly has a long road ahead of it. Developer 22Cans says on the game's splash screen that it's currently at 49 percent completion, and that feels about right. There are plenty of bugs that, while by no means game-breaking, forced me to close and reopen the game about a dozen times. Despite the discomforts, Godus is still enjoyable. Gathering belief and gently guiding villagers to build and grow is rewarding in a strangely ephemeral way. When you're not on a voyage of discovery, play feels therapeutic if not meditative, though the relaxation is far too often cut short by a lack of belief or an insufficient number of stickers to activate cards. Nevertheless, there's a pleasurable ebb and flow to collecting belief from your followers and then using that to sculpt the land beneath you.

What's There?

A serene gardening god game built from a dozen or so great ideas, all loosely placed together in one package.

What's to Come?

22Cans hasn't said exactly what else we can expect, but Molyneux has repeatedly said that at the very least, the game needs a fair bit of refinement.

What Does it Cost?

As of right now, the game runs for $20.

When Will it be Finished?

There have been no indications about how much longer the game will take to finish other than Molyneux's statement and the game's splash screen suggesting the game is 49 percent done.

What's the Verdict?

Godus has a striking style and a gorgeous, if glitchy, presentation. Exercise caution before investing too much emotion in Godus: the most recent update wiped a lot of people's save data, and it's unclear what future updates might bring.

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