Populous The Beginning

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Hello and welcome! My name is Katosepe and I’ll be your host for today’s Video Game of the Day.

Bullfrog Productions was a legendary studio back in the 90’s, on-par with developers of today such as Blizzard. At the top was studio head, Peter Molyneux. It can be tough to remember since his reputation today is quite a bit different, but he used to be a very well regarded developer. Games that he worked on turned into hits. So when Peter Molyneux left the company in 1997, eyes were on Bullfrog to see what would come next. Today’s game is one of their first after Molyneux’s departure. Today’s game is Populous: The Beginning, developed by Bullfrog Productions and released on PC in 1998.

Populous: The Beginning is actually the third game in the Populous franchise, a series of god games putting players in the role of a god watching over and guiding, but not directly controlling, a village of people. Populous: The Beginning is a prequel to those games with a shaman fighting across different worlds to ascend to godhood.

Unlike the previous two games, Populous: The Beginning actually provides players with direct control over the villagers. Instead of being a deity, players control their village’s shaman who can cast spells and direct villagers. Soldiers are created with mana, the sole limiting factor to the shaman’s magic, and wood is the only resource for players to manage. The single-player campaign has a number of different maps and objectives which typically boil down to destroying the enemy villagers and killing their shaman. Players lose a map if their shaman’s reincarnation circle is destroyed and their shaman dies.

Populous: The Beginning also features multiplayer either online or over LAN. Online multiplayer can support up to four players while LAN only supports two. 

Populous: The Beginning is a departure from the games that came before it and while this was popular with some critics, most were disappointed at how the game seemed to lose what made Populous special. The writer at Edge stated in their review that it tries to be a god game and a real-time strategy game and excels at neither. Still, despite the lackluster reception to the direct control, most critics still gave the game decent reviews and said the multiplayer was a fun time. Populous: The Beginning received a port on the Playstation as well as a PAL release on this console, the original PC version stayed exclusive to North America. While a fourth Populous game was planned, it was quickly cancelled and Populous: The Beginning became the final game in the series made by Bullfrog Productions.

Thank you so much for listening and thank you to BennyJammin for requesting today’s episode. If you want to hear about other classic games and retro gear, I recommend checking out today’s sponsor, Old School Gamer Magazine. They have a bi-monthly digital and physical magazine filled with retro gaming news, reviews, and more. The best part is their digital magazine is absolutely free! You can subscribe right now, free forever, over at oldschoolgamer.com/day. That’s oldschoolgamer.com/day. Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow for another Video Game of the Day!

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Devin "Katosepe" Sloane is a long time gamer and host of the show Video Game of the Day. He firmly believes Darklands is the pinnacle of gaming achievement and this is a hill he will die upon. Where his nickname came from is a secret to everybody.