Sure, today playing god in a game is nothing new. We have plenty of options if this is your one and only goal in your electronic entertainment. Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s though, options were much more limited. Populous took the idea of a sandbox game, mixed in plenty of “god like” elements and let loose on computers. Fans ate it up. Bullfrog and Electronic Arts, when they were not totally evil, did their best to port Populous to as many platforms as possible.
The idea behind Populous is rather ambiguous- it really depends on your interpretation of how God would act in this situation. The basis for the game is simple. Lead your people to annihilate the evil deity’s followers and take over the map. Now, how you accomplish this is up to you. Your followers will build houses, castles and the like only when there is prime land to do so. As they multiply they will migrate from their current housing and search out a proper place to build more. This continues until you feel confident enough to wipe out the enemy’s followers that reside on the other side of the map.
Now, since you are basically God, you have powers over the mortals on the map. You can raise and lower land, including leaving your followers to drown- later in the map you can do this to your enemy’s followers. The twist is, you are limited in power and only can perform actions when near your followers- where you are apparently “strong”. You can even create a knight to go on a crusade against the enemy. Other offensive, world screwing up, actions available include creating mountains out of molehills (or out of the water, where ever), raise volcanoes and even earthquakes among many others.
The fun in Populous is the worlds that you battle on. The environments take a toll on your followers. Icy levels means your followers are not able to survive as long without housing for instance. Also, the worlds go wild when you add the expansion pack on computers, The Promised Lands (or just play the Super Nintendo version). With this expansion there are worlds based on the old west, “lego’s” and more.
Populous was life changing for many gamers as it was one of the first examples of this type of game. Eventually we saw Populous hit the Super Nintendo and other consoles over the years and many computer platforms (they found the missing Commodore 64 version even). There are several sequels but it seems the series has died as far as Electronic Arts is concerned.