It's quite amazing to me that a game well over four years old is still being imitated today. But then perhaps I'm being naive. This sort of thing has been going on since the first caveman said 'How did you do that thing with the two sticks again?' Chess is thousands of years old and still being copied (and the inventor doesn't get any royalties either you know. It's an outrage.) Look what the piano did to the Harpsichord, look what the Americans did to rugby, look what the bbc did with You've Been Framed. Within the world of computer entertainment how many games can you think of that have been influenced by Lemmings.
However, although the tradition of borrowing ideas from other games and incorporating them into your own product is a long and noble one, for a game to resemble Populous not just in style but in look, layout, controls and theme is still quite stunning. I know how this plucky French company feels though. I use jokes from obscure American comedians and pass them off as my own all the time (Don't think we haven't noticed. Ed.) so I'm certainly not going to damn them for their plundering. In fact I'm not going to damn them at all. I'm actually going to praise them.
But, but, but... why?
Because Microids has somehow managed to take a game that I was never particularly fond of to begin with (yup, I never got into Poppy like the rest of western civilisation did) and turn it into a game that I have barely stopped playing since the day I put my hand into the lucky reviews bag and pulled it out, covered in confetti and wishing it was still Alone in the Dark With The Robo Babes. I don't care if it looks like Populous. I don't care if it plays like Populous. I don't care if it feels like Populous. All I know is that I've been engrossed with a God sim for the first time in my computing career and that, when you get to the nitty gritty, is what counts.
It isn't perfect of course. Mainly it falls down on the controls, in that 'smoothness' and 'polished' aren't two words that spring immediately to mind when you use them. The biggest bugbear is the scrolling. Having to move the mouse to the edge of the screen in order to see the game area whizz straight past the point you wanted isn't exactly my idea of control heaven. I'd much rather push a button. Add to that sluggish response times and slow disk accessing and you've got a recipe that could do with half a teaspoonful of Mr Sheen somewhere in the ingredients list.
The graphics, too, could really do with some improving. The Populous look was all very well in fhe late '80s, but we've entered the retrospective age of the '90s now. Fashions have changed and we now favour larger characters and bigger, more defined buildings. Or at least I do. It would also be useful to be able to rotate the main game area, as quite often the things you might want to see are obscured by things you don't. You can't - if you want to be unamusing about it - see your woodsmen for the trees.
Ttirning to you sir
Cosmetic denunciations to a man though. Genesia is full of those 'nice touches' that make a reviewer's life worth hanging on to. The search for the jewels, the invention lists, the assignment of different jobs, the fact that your people can revolt if you don't take good care of them. Perhaps most of all, though, is the fact that it's all semi turn-based. One of the main problems I have with Populous was that being real-time I can never get my world to develop as quickly as my opponent, simply because I can't manipulate all the buttons quickly enough. In Genesia I am able to develop in an equal time to everyone else while still retaining all the strategic elements necessary in a game of this type. Magic.
Doing a runner
So there you go. I like it and yah boo sucks to everyone else. I fear I'll be in a minority, though. People in this country are always far too proud of our own achievements and I can't help seeing Genesia becoming swamped in a torrent of pro-Bullfrog comments.
Just remember where you read the review that went a bit deeper than surface beauty. Honestly, I'm too good to you lot...
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP