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Religion sim Godhood promises the world, but delivers much less

Strategy game lacks passion

an overhead view of a ziggurat in Godhood Abbey Games

Godhood is a turn-based strategy game about creating a new religion and conquering the world. It’s available on Steam Early Access by Abbey Games, a developer best known for 2013’s god game Reus.

Being a fan of god games — and noting that the game had done well on Kickstarter — I spent a few hours in its company.

Unfortunately, I find myself disappointed. Godhood fails to make me feel particularly powerful. It’s more like the sort of repetitive drudgery experienced by, say, a medieval acolyte, endlessly passing their fingers over a set of holy beads, one after the other.

In the beginning, I choose the name of my religion, and its general direction; pacifistic, hedonistic, whatever. I get to dictate how I am referred to by my followers, so I choose “Oh Mighty One.” The religion that I gift to the world is “Total Obedience.” So far, I’m having fun and the game seems to have a good sense of humor. It’s time for me to attract my first followers.

This is a world of little people in simple villages, nestled among simple, cartoon lands. It harks back to the great god games of the past, such as Populous. I call unto a random little person milling around beneath me. She becomes my prophet. She sets up a base, attracts a few disciples, and we’re off and proselytizing.

Each turn, I direct three minions to perform “rituals,” which are thinly disguised resource-collection activities. These resources — fanatical followers, holy artifacts, and such — allow me to collect boosts and combat-move cards through a system called miracle working. This quasi-mystical mechanic is a matter of turning over cards.

Abbey Games

I send three of my disciples off, each turn, to do battle with a nearby pagan village. This takes the form of a 3v3, turn-based grid battle that plays out automatically. Attacks and boosts are generated in the manner of random attack/defense/special move generators. If I win, I gain more followers, which allow me to level up. And so it goes on.

The main point of the game is to boost my team of characters to the point where they can win more fights than they lose. Individual disciples belong to certain classes, so the lottery of upgrades is important and briefly diverting. It’s good to attain a boost that fits well with a fighter’s class and personality.

As the game progresses, the number of resources increases, as do the ways I can win fights, but this feels less like an expansion of horizons than an accumulation of gameplay baggage.

I work my way through clickable tasks, before hitting the “next turn” button. Each cycle soon begins to feel like a chore. Godhood fails to generate the throbbing beat of a bad-assed strategy game feedback loop, attaining only a distant tremor of progression desire.

Resource collection, stats management, and geographic expansion are the core activities of strategy games. But Godhood doesn’t give me the sense that I’m in control of events. It adds activities such as relic collection, buildings with upgrade paths and personalization, but it plays out more like a toy, or a simple mobile game, in which my interactions are sorely limited.

My desire to stick with the game until the end is finally undone by an erratic difficulty curve, in which I’m either engaged in fights that are way too easy, or far too difficult. I have no desire to work at improving my performance.

Early access games sometimes launch poorly, and improve drastically over time. I hope this is the case with Godhood, which offers a strong premise. I enjoy the idea of managing a worldwide religion. As it stands, it feels like a promising but underdeveloped idea.

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