Populous: The Beginning

Download Populous: The Beginning and take on the role of a divine being with the power to shape the world. Command your followers, use your godly abilities, and build a thriving civilization in this classic real-time strategy game. Can you lead your people to victory and ascend to true godhood? Play now!
a game by Bullfrog Productions
Platform: PC (1998)
Editor Rating: 8.5/10, based on 1 review, 5 reviews are shown
User Rating: 8.7/10 - 6 votes
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See also: God Games, Political Games, Games Like Tropico, Populous Games
Populous: The Beginning
Populous: The Beginning
Populous: The Beginning
Populous: The Beginning

Populus the Beginning is not the kind of game many people expected when they heard that we were getting a third game in the series. Rather than follow on from Populus 2 as a god sim, this game took the series in a very interesting and new direction. I can see why those who wanted a Populus 3 were disappointed, but there is something very charming about this game and it is one of the more forgotten real time strategy games from the late 90s.

Enter The Shaman!

This time around instead of playing as a god, you play as a Shaman and you are trying to become a god. As you would expect from a game from Bullfrog Studios, Populus the Beginning has a real tongue in cheek style of humor and it is great. Playing as “god” in the other games was great, but I for one feel that the change in direction here was the right way to go, and trying to become a god is more interesting and the premise of Populus the Beginning is one that I really do like.

Follow Me!

The gameplay is very much that of a real time strategy game. You play as a shaman and need to get people to follow you. Once you have followers, you can then start to get them to do stuff for you. This ranges from building things to fighting and even recruiting. The standard “followers” will gather stuff and build what you want them to. Wood is very plentiful in the game so you do not have to worry about that. If you want to have followers become fighters or priests for example you have to make it happen. You do this by putting them in the right place. For example, you put a follower in the barracks, they will become a warrior. When they change and become a certain type of unit, they can no longer build stuff so that is something to consider if you only have a few followers at the start. There is not exactly a ton of units in the game, but there is so much personality here that it does not affect the fun facto of Populus the Beginning.

You, Will, Follow Me!

While it is fun to use your followers to wage war on new tribes that you come across. Playing as a shaman means you also have magical abilities yourself. These are really fun to use with my favorites being the one where you send in a plague of insects and you then see the little people freaking out and running around. I also like the lightning you can cast down which then makes them soothe their burnt butts. The overall gameplay I feel is very simple, but that is what I like. I can see why some may think it is too simple, especially considering how in-depth the other games were.

Move That Camera

At the time it was released, Populus the Beginning was a great looking game and a huge leap over what had come before it. While the followers are 2D sprites, you can move the camera around any way you want, you can zoom in and so on so you can get a great view of the action. I love the visuals of the game and feel it helps with the overall personality.

I can see why when it was released this game got a bit of a mixed reception. It was a drastic departure from what people expected from a game with the Populus name. However, I still stand by this and say that Populus the Beginning is a fun time. It may be basic in comparison to what we have with modern real time strategy games, but I have always had a good time when I have played this.


Final Score


  • I love the charm of the followers
  • Using magic is a lot of fun
  • The game is very easy to get into
  • Lots of levels in the campaign
  • It does also offer multi-player action!


  • It is certainly very different from the two games that came before it
  • Not much variety in terms of the units

Download Populous: The Beginning


System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Game Reviews

The second of our two Bullfrog games this month is Populous: The Beginning, which takes the Star Wars route of being the prequel to its predecessors, despite being the third in the series.

The Beginning feels much more like a real-time strategy title than the the previous games. The god-game idea is still there, although this time you have an earthly incarnation in the form of a magical female Shaman and the theme is more to do with manipulating people than the landscape (though you can still have some giant mystical bulldozing fun). Through Little Miss Shaman you strive for a godlike status by bolstering your own tribe to become little fuzzy battle machines, then waging war against lots of other tribes that get in your way in order to conquer different areas.

The 3D engine is nowhere near as tasty as it was when the game was first released, but nevertheless the game is still smooth and fun to play, especially the spells, which range from the simple such as Create Bridge, to full, apocalypse-style raining fireballs and spontaneous volcanic eruptions.

The general gaming premise hasn't weathered the years as well as the Dungeon Keeper and Theme Hospital games, simply because the RTS genre has since produced many similar titles, but it's still cheap and cheerful fun.

Strategy Guide Part 2

Planet 13

Aerial Bombardment

Your main opposition comes from yellow balloons. Warriors are useless against these high-altitude attacks, so place fire warriors in guard towers, then use the shaman to zap the balloon occupants with lightning. When they are empty, steal them and attack the other tribes.

There are three stone heads on this world. Two are within easy reach of your followers. The first, and closest to your reincarnation site, has a single-shot volcano spell.

The enemy shaman frazzles any of your followers who I try to worship this stone, so proceed with extreme caution. The second head, near the I green Vault of Knowledge (VoK), contains three shield I spells. The last, on a I separate island, contains a f firestorm spell.

Planet 14

Attacked From All Sides

You start this world with little land to build on and three tribes attacking. The yellow tribe, camped on an island away from the other tribes, launch ocean assaults. The red tribe, camped beyond the mountains, send spies and raiding parties. And the green tribe, on the plateau above, rain spells down upon you. Force their shaman away from the cliffs to stop this.

The red tribe guardaVoK containing the firestorm spell. Also, near their settlement is a stone head with a single-shot earthquake spell. The green tribe's VoK hides the flatten spell, and a stone head on the beach near their settlement contains the angel of death. The yellow tribe guard a VoK containing the shield spell.

You must assert yourself quickly in this world, or you won't last five minutes. Attack the reds first - their incessant raids are a nuisance but, more importantly, they guard the firestorm spell, a most desirable weapon. Hold back the yellow tribe with preachers and fire warriors in guard towers. The green tribe can't reach you, so they pose little threat, but their sporadic lightning attacks can be annoying. Use the angel of death on this lot, which keeps them occupied while you concentrate on more pressing matters.

Planet 15


This third 'special' world sees our shaman bang to rights, spell-less and helpless. She must escape her prison before time runs out. Once your population is growing steadily, send three or four braves to build boats. Fill a boat with warriors and sail them to the three guard towers guarding the entrance to the enemy island. Touch down near one of the side towers and send your warriors to attack. The enemy fire warrior inside blasts your men, but they can take it. Eventually, they dismantle the towers. Put your warriors back in the boat and repeat this tactic on the other two towers. Once completed, sail them into the little bay just inside enemy territory and wait.

Meanwhile, back home, train up a variety of aggressive followers and place them in boats. Ferry them to the aforementioned bay and land away from the main enemy stronghold. Pitch preacher against preacher, and warriors against guard towers.

When the enemy is overwhelmed, select as many followers as possible and left-click on the prison to free the shaman. Now command her to pray at the obelisk for a volcano. Cast the volcano into the valley to decimate the enemy.

Planet 16

Incarcerated Bloodlust

Bloodlust is a 'guest' spell, available only on this world and found within two stone heads. The first head is near the borders of your territory, the second is by the green settlement and is better because it contains infinite shots. The head on the island in the middle of a lake contains an angel of death spell.

Set up guards quickly to protect against the red and yellow tribes. Use high land to build more solid defences. Both yellow and green use balloons, so fire warriors should be used in abundance. Casting swamp in front of enemy settlements provides a cunning defence too.

Planet 17

Middle Ground

The armageddon spell is in the stone head in the centre of the island. Unfortunately, three other tribes are vying for the same prize, and they've already built their settlements - tricky. But all is not lost. These tribes are intent on scrapping among themselves, and thus slow each other down.

A cunning trick Is to cast swamp on the stone head to swallow any enemy followers who attempt to worship there. You can also use erode to estrange yourself from the enemy.

Finally, only cast armageddon when you are sure of victory. Train as many warriors as possible beforehand to give you the best chance in the arena.

Planet 18

Head Hunter

There are three stone heads on this world, each guarded by a different tribe. The nearest head is guarded by the red tribe and contains an armageddon spell. The yellow and green tribes each guard a single volcano spell.

Initially, the adjacent reds pose the biggest threat. The yellow and green tribes use boats to attack, and the green tribe even have the audacity to use landbridge to invade near your reincarnation site. They could do this at any time, so stay alert. Ultimately, armageddon is the way to victory.

Planet 19

Unlikely Allies

On this world, you are allied with the yellow tribe. The red tribe soon begin attacking your buddies and it's up to you to protect them. If they are destroyed, you lose.

Because of the lack of land, you must use landbridge to create more. Erect a guard tower by your reincarnation site, go inside, and cast landbridge to the yellow base. The shaman can then wander over to help.

Swamp can be a useful defence, giving both of you a fighting chance. There is also a spot at the other end of your island where the red tribe can landbridge over, so make sure you have patrols set up to watch this area.

Two stone heads populate this world. The first is at the opposite end of your island and contains three teleport spells. This spell is limitless and teleports the shaman absolutely anywhere she wants to go. The second is at the end of the red village and contains a volcano spell which, when cast, sets off the dormant volcano, damaging the red tribe's settlement.

Planet 20


Yet again, use landbridge to exploit the islands and expand territory. The red tribe guards a VoK containing the angel of death spell. This can be reached quite easily by heading past some fire warriors in guard towers. There is also a stone head on another island, which contains a landbridge spell. Set this off and another stone head appears elsewhere containing a flatten spell. Other stone heads in the chain grant you singleshot firestorm (unfortunately, this also casts a firestorm around the head, killing nearby followers) and volcano spells.

At first, the red tribe attack by water. To avoid this, cast landbridge to their island, forcing them to attack you over land through a narrow corridor. You can then guard this corridor with fire warriors and swamps.

Planet 21

Fractured Earth

This world is very unstable, and volcanoes erupt frequently. Close unstable fissures by casting flatten spells over them. The totem pole near your reincarnation site actually closes one of these fissures for you, which helps because the reds are volcano crazy and create them from the start. The volcano VoK is away from the reds' main settlement and therefore vulnerable, so go for it early. The stone head at the opposite end of the island contains two erode spells.

The landscape is barren and hard to navigate. The red tribe prefer to attack by balloon and come in from the sea behind you. Also watch out for raiding parties from the small settlement next to the VoK.

Planet 22


The final 'special' world is a lone shaman suicide run. It's a nightmare, so save often. The three obelisks are the keys - they grant you full mana and spells. The first is near the start, the second on an island near the first, and the green tribe guards the third. But remember: because you have no followers, you cannot charge mana. You only have what you gain from the obelisks and killing other shamans, so use it wisely.

When you defeat the red tribe, grab the boat by their boathouse and sail to the yellow settlement. Use the balloon to reach green territory. An angel of death can be very effective on this level.

Planet 23


It's a three-pronged attack again! At least you have plenty of space to build upon, and don't be shy about creating even more with landbridge. Use small hills to create impassable walls and cut off the green tribe. The stone head contains three firestorm spells, but since you already have that spell you might as well cast swamp around it to trap the reds. The yellow tribe is lurking on an island, so they use boats and balloons to reach you.

Planet 24

Journey's End

All four tribes take to the stage for the ultimate battle. First order of the day is survival, so seal yourself in nice and tight by setting up some perimeter towers to block oft the entrances to your island, then get those huts producing. After that, use pretty much every tactic going. Speed is the essence here, and if you can bring an angel of death into the fray, all the better. This is the final showdown B - there's nothing more VM to say.

Planet 24

Wow! A final secret world. Go and enjoy yourself-IMMORTAL!

Strategy Guide Part 1

Populous: The Beginning is a complex affair with multiple solutions and strategies. But don't fret This two-part guide begins by providing a comprehensive walkthrough of the first 12 worlds, and expert advice on making the most of your spells and followers. The road to immortality starts here.

Planet 1

You start with eight followers. Send three into each hut to start breeding, and build another hut with the remaining two. Worship the stone head. Use the land bridge spell to reach the centre island. Worship the Vault of Knowledge to learn about warrior training, and then the other stone head to get lightning.

Now build a warrior training hut; train about ten warriors. Use the land bridge again and storm the Dakini island. Send your warriors straight towards their shaman while blasting their huts with lightning bolts.

Planet 2

Extract your shaman to the totem pole and begin worshipping. Use your followers to build two extra huts and a warrior-training hut. Move a follower to the stone head to worship with your shaman once she's finished at the totem pole. Create approximately ten warriors and march past the guard tower into Matak territory. While the shaman heads for the Vault of Knowledge, your warriors should make a start on the nearby hut. Cast tornadoes at the Matak huts and send in the warriors to clean up. Use the swarm spell to keep your toes from grouping together.

Planet 3

Get your followers to start building two huts. Send Shammy off to the totem pole. When she's finished there, move her over to the Vault of Knowledge to learn about temples. Now build a temple. Train ten preachers and send them into Matak territory. Spread out and watch the poor impressionable fools sway to your plight.

Planet 4

Take the shaman over to the Vault of Knowledge, then the stone head. Set breeders going in three huts and build a warrior hut with the remaining few. Use the shaman to convert about 15 wild men, and then train up 20 warriors in total - they can be the shaman's bodyguards. Move towards the next Vault of Knowledge and use blast to remove any Matak preachers. Worship at the vault, keeping your warriors close by. Wait until you have amassed at least three lightning bolts. Attack the right flank of the village and use blast again to remove any lurking preachers. Use lightning primarily on the Matak temple and warrior hut, and throw the remaining bolts at anything that deserves it.

Planet 5

Worship the stone head near the start to gain the convert spell, then head back right to the stretch of coast near the guard tower. Use the convert spell to reach across to the savages on the island. Then use these new followers to worship the totem pole. A boat appears - use it to take your shaman and four warriors further right to the land mass where the Angel of Death statue lies. Divert the waiting warriors with a lightning spell, get your braves to guard our mighty shaman and try to squeeze her through to worship the Angel. Use the blast spell tor protection.

Planet 6

Okay, things start getting tricky now. Your shaman should worship the Vault of Knowledge, then start converting wild men pronto. Build up a strong base near the large pool above the reincarnation point and start producing preachers sharpish. Also build guard towers on the hills surrounding your base, and man them with fire warriors and preachers. Worship the stone head in the stone circle.

The enemy soon attacks. Soak up these onslaughts and eventually a bridge appears to the stone head across the channel. Worship here. Now you can hypnotise the Chumara warrior by the totem pole on the island. Get those holy knees bending and another bridge forms further up the channel.

The Matak and Chumara tribe can now throw bees at each other in a bizarre ritual apparently known as battle. Meanwhile, sneak about ten preachers into each camp and watch them fall like flies. Bring in a dozen or so warriors accompanied by lightning spells. If you're ultracunning, worship the stone head above the Matak base for the firestorm spell.

Planet 7

The enemy tribe barely appears if you get through this level fast enough - which is in less than 20 minutes, ideally. Begin by converting about 20 savages. Merge them with the rest of your followers and build a temple on the coast opposite the island. Next, build a warrior hut and three normal huts. Create about ten preachers. Cast a land bridge spell to the island and lead five preachers to worship. Watch out for the enemy shaman's lightning spell - she tends to come along while you pray.

Once you have the erode spell cast another land bridge spell to the Chumara side. Infiltrate all your preachers into the right side of their camp and cast offensive spells. Concentrate mainly on destroying the Chumara preachers, temple, and the guard tower in the middle. The battle should slowly swing in your favour. Add a few warriors to mix it up a bit.

Planet 8

Your base should consist of five huts and a temple. Guide your shaman across the world converting simpletons as you go. Guide her towards the Vault of Knowledge, and if she's well protected you obtain the fire warrior knowledge. Now head over to a stone head on a ridge by a pool to get a shield spell.

Back home create an army of ten fire warriors and ten preachers. With the shaman, march your army north into the Chumara camp, covered by shield and invisibility spells. As before, destroy the tower in the middle and the fire warrior hut next to it. Have your shaman lend a hand with lightning.

Planet 9

Usual tactics: convert wild men and raise a base consisting of four huts, a temple and a fire warrior training hut. Send the shaman walkabout to find two stone heads: one containing an earthquake spell, and the other a tornado one. Keep some followers and continue up the island. Before you reach the Chumara base, cast invisibility on the braves and send them scurrying along the left coast until they find some boats - steal one and flee. Point your shaman towards the Vault of Knowledge at the end of the peninsula; cause havoc with spells as you try to reach it Ultimately, worship here to learn about boat building.

Send the shaman over to the island teeming with natives, and convert a few to worship the head containing the volcano spell. Keep the Chumara shaman well away from your base until the volcano spell has been learnt Sail the shaman and some protection over to Chumara territory and whop down a volcano. Let fly with lightning too. Don't despair if your shaman is killed - sail back over there with two boats packing invisible fire warriors and preachers. Start the finale with earthquake and tornado spells, then let the infantry clean up.

Planet 10

Don't worry about the frightening start - escape in the boat with your shaman and four preachers. Cruise to the small island with the totem pole - mumble at that for a while and 'Atlantis' rises out of the depths. Convert the wild men and repair the slightly wet base. Sneak some invisible preachers over to pray at the enemy totem pole and half the island sinks.

Ha! Revenge. That'll teach 'em. Finish off their miserable hides with fire warriors.

Planet 11

The main thing here is to keep expanding your base. Once you've disposed of the Matak tribe, a big army is required to stop the Chumara scum. Send your shaman with a boatload of invisible fire warriors around the back of the Chumara base and attack from there. Cause as much mayhem as possible before you're hopelessly slaughtered. Send another two boats in, while simultaneously attacking with a bigger invisible invasion force from the other side. Back up this horde with your shaman, and head straight for the temple and fire warrior huts. Strike at these with lightning, and head for the Vault of Knowledge during the ensuing chaos. Keep adding preachers and fire warriors as back-up.

Planet 12

This is the first world where you are pitched against three enemy tribes. Luckily, you begin on a separate island, while the other conquistadors fight each other on a bigger continent. You don't get much land to build on here so use land bridge to landfill the ocean. Also cast land bridge across the corner hills to wall yourself in and guard against any waterborne attacks.

Each tribe guards a Vault of Knowledge: the Chumara, spy training hut; the Matak, erode spell; and the red tribe, the tornado spell. The red and green tribes will try to cripple the yellow tribe, leaving you to finish them off. Keep a lookout tor any spies who might try to sabotage your settlement.


These are the first eight spells. Well give you more next month when you can handle them


Tills Is the simplest, but also one of the most powerful spells in your arsenal, even though it has a short range. Tactically it's brilliant near water if any enemy followers are running along the coast - cast the spell to the other side of them so they're blown into the drink.


Invisibility doesn't last long, so only cast it on your target followers at the very last moment. Preachers become visible again when they start preaching, and fire warriors reappear when attacked or ordered to attack.


Often this will just scatter the enemy and, ultimately, cause more problems - although It's a good way of stopping your followers from being converted by preachers. Cast It on boats and balloons and watch the occupants throw themselves over the side in terror.


As well as being used to join two areas of land separated by water, it can also level hills and valleys for building on. By placing the shaman on one side of a hill and casting the spell on the other side, you level the land.


Swamp can be very useful when placed in the enemy's path, especially in front of your defences. But remember your followers are vulnerable to your own swamps.


When you first attack a settlement, use the hypnotism spell to temporarily convert enemy followers so they begin attacking their own kind.


They follow you about like lovesick puppy dogs, but they do other stuff too


She is the only member of the tribe who can fire spells. Seeing as how spells are the only way you're going to get through the game, your shaman must be well protected at all times.


Spies sneak into enemy bases and set fire to huts. They are best used during the early stages of a match when each player is still setting up their settlements. Spies delay the enemy's progress and lower his mana rate. Groups of spies are fairly formidable foes.


Preachers, though weak, are surprisingly powerful If used in groups. Tty smuggling Invisible, shielded preachers into a camp - the effect can be devastating. Unfortunately, the same works in reverse, so watch out!


These guys have quite a long range, so keep them at a distance from the enemy, preferably on higher ground. Once again, this type of follower is highly effective when invisible and shielded. And in a balloon, well... they can be frightening.


Warriors are the toughest of your followers, but lack special abilities. Keep them away from preachers, and use them to back up your attacks. Warriors should be your last line of defence.


Braves are the foundation of your tribe. They generate four times more mana than any other follower, but only when building or resting in huts. Keep huts populated to keep the mana flowing, man.

Eight years. That's how long it's been since Bullfrog unleashed the ever-so-popular Populous onto an unsuspecting general V public, in effect spawning the whole 'God sim' genre all by its pretty little self. Some years down the line, to the present day, and we're not too far off the unveiling of their long-awaited third instalment in the series.

Populous: The Beginning, as it is now known, retains the essential gaming ingredients of its predecessors - such as the raising and lowering of land on which your tribesmen settle and co-exist, and the hilarious battles that ensue when contact is made with opposing forces - but with one major exception: instead of starting as a 'God', controlling the action from above, this time round you begin the game as a mortal (as a Shaman) and have to work your way up to a place in their lofty HQ by crushing the mortal opposition. The concept of the gameplay remains one of population growth and real-time combat. Again you will have to nurture an army from virtually nothing, overpower your opponents by whatever means available, and rain fire and brimstone down on them with an impressive array of powerful spells.

Much has been made of the revolutionary 'spherical' 3D environment on which the game unfolds - and with jolly good reason. To put it simply: Populous: The Beginning is one of the best-looking games ever created. The ever-changing globe rotates and spins, and zooms in and out with remarkable speed and realism, the impressive curvature extending into every aspect of the graphics, from the scaling of the characters to the lie of the land. New spells (Burn, Earthquake, Erode, Firestorm, Flatten, Ghost Army, Insects, Land Bridge, Lightning, Volcano, Whirlwind) turn visual cartwheels when called into effect. Huge swathes of land can crumble; seas boil - in glorious 3Dfx-accented manner. There's even a moody 'Martian' landscape punctuated by eerie purple lighting and weird fog effects. It really does have to be seen to be believed.

Populous fans can sleep soundly in their beds at night, safe in the knowledge that Bullfrog haven't wimped out when it comes to the gameplay side of things either. A refined mouse/keys control system enables easy manipulation of the tribe's Shaman and the finely bred brethren that follow her. Angels of Death, Warriors, Super Warriors, Braves and Preachers make their debut on that particular front, each with differing abilities and AI traits. Boats and skyships are also planned, adding that extra dimension to the already infallible concept.

Our favourite bit, though, is still Armageddon: the 'all-out war' command that pits your entire population against that of the enemy. Initiate this and the landscape morphs into a gigantic coliseum, ready for the impending battle. Arms flail, bodies fly into the air, and much hilarity is generated in the process. It seems Bullfrog still have that wicked sense of humour that we've come to know and love.

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