Sunday, September 9, 2012

Computer games - Populous II

Some settlements.  The land is not too flat here, but they
have a leader.  The big Sun thing is what all the people
want to get to.  The big house has a small sun over it
to show that it's the leader's residence.  
I first came across Populous II as a demo on an Atari ST Format cover disc.

I enjoyed the game because I was allowed to build up huge armies of followers and send them out to annihilate the enemy.  As well as doing this, I could also look after my people by manipulating the landscape to make it flat and give them lots of space to build better settlements which were able hold more people (more people meant more manna or magical power which was needed to use your powers) and also bigger settlements could produce better weapons which made the tribes more effective in combat.

I could also appoint a leader my making them go on a pilgrimage to a huge Sun object where the first tribe that stepped into it could become the leader and any other tribes would join with them.  This meant that I could create a super powerful tribe which would go where I wanted it to (wherever I placed the sun thing) as opposed to mill around, which is what they normally did.

Forest + fire = fun
If my followers were being a bit slow, I could take matters into my own hands and create some powerful effects to destroy the enemy.  There are six categories of powers - people, plant, earth, fire, air and water.  My favourite trick was growing lots of trees and then creating a pillar of flame to set fire to them and burn all the people and houses in the forest, creating lifeless burnt out ruins.

Another great trick I learnt was to put a baptism font (a pool of water which made whoever fall into it switch sides) under the opponent's leader generator (a medusa's head) and watch a queue of bad guys just fall into it.  This would only work if my opponent could not change the lay of the land.

Not a suitable place to build
a settlement.  
Each time you battled a god, you would have a selection of these powers and a different landscape.  You had to get creative with them in order to win (although I always used to play a one off game where I had access to all the powers).  The hardest games were the ones where you could not manipulate the land as this meant that you could not make it flat for your people to make some good settlements.  It was even harder if your opponent could.

Populous II had a simple concept which was easy to learn quickly.  Its replay factor came from the different strategies you had to adopt depending on which powers you had access to.  The same principle applies to gamebooks - you can have a very simple system that can create many options with a few ways to fiddle with it.  Destiny Quest has done this well with a simple combat system but a whole host of abilities that you can use in combat to your advantage.  However, you need to develop the correct strategy to do it well.


  1. Nice to be likened to such a classic - spent many of my college and Uni years playing Populous 2. I suppose, for me, it was the first real RTS game I played - resource management, building, pummeling the opposition with spells/disasters, summoning heroes/monsters... Great game.

    I think Bullfrog Productions were a great company for 'sandbox' style games (Dungeon Keeper and Theme Park being particular favourites). Although I don't think their later games could beat the simplicity and addiction of Populous.

    Also puts me in mind of another great game, The Sentinel, that I lost days/weeks to on the Atari ST :)

    1. EDIT: sorry for serious overuse of the word 'great' there... :-o

  2. This game was groundbreaking. I spent so much time on it... almost as much as transport tycoon. The graphics engine was a work of art for that time.