Look closely at your armchair. Does it resemble Mount Olympus, the Seat of the Gods? Currently, perhaps not - but in Populous that's exactly what it can become, as you look down on a world in which you have divine powers, and influence the lives of the population at the touch of a mouse button. As a Divine Being, the more followers there are to worship you, the more power is put at your disposal to influence wordly affairs to your own advantage - and you're going to need a few advantages in order to survive. Why? Because it's war down there. Another bunch of people living there follow a rival deity (controlled by either the computer or a friend, who can be sat right next to you or playing miles away via a modem or datalink cable) and these worlds aren't big enough to support both tribes, so one has to go. And that's where you come in.
First thing to do is build up a good following. This is achieved by ordering your meagre population (which starts at about three tiny men, each representing a tribe) to settle. In this mode, the tiny men wander the countryside looking for flat pieces of land to build houses (representing towns and villages) on. The flatter the immediate surroundings, the more advanced a house the little chaps can build - up to a castle. The more advanced the dwellings, the faster your power builds up and the greater the population's technology level, which helps later when it comes to fighting.
So what if the land is too uneven to build on? Easy: flatten it for them. Using the left mouse button, click on a piece of land and, lo and behold, a small hillock appears! This is very handy for filling in gaps between other hills and thus creating flat land. The right mouse button has the reverse effect, so by creating and digging out pieces of land you can encourage your population to grow.
Right, the population's growing nicely, your power is increasing and it's a lot of fun playing with the landscape. But your people aren't populating the more remote areas lovingly created for them - what to do? Simple, make them journey to settle by placing what's known as the Papal Magnet in the right spot. The Papal Magnet is a kind of religious icon, a monolith that your population is attracted towards when put in 'Go to Papal Magnet' mode.
If your followers have a leader they all head towards the leader who in turn heads for the Magnet, but if you have no leader they head directly for the Magnet and the first to reach it becomes the new leader. Leaders can be fun guys, especially since you can turn leaders into knights, who immediately set off for the nearest enemy settlement, kill the inhabitants and burn down the houses, destroying the land which the community was using to sustain itself. Knights remain on the rampage until they're eventually killed.
Once you get your people in the right place, all you have to do is switch them back into Settle mode and they'll populate the right area. Assuming things are going well and the other player appears to be struggling it might be a good idea to switch them to Battle mode. Then they'll look for enemy houses and fight the inhabitants, taking over the house if they win. If there are no baddies in sight they'll settle as normal. This is a handy way to polish off the last of the other player's followers, so destroying the power of the opposing god, and winning dominance over the whole world. Then it's on to another world, a new kind of landscape and another challenge.
Populous is a terrific game. The 1,000 worlds alone will take months to play through -and don't expect to win each one - but the ability to play against a friend (especially a remote one) increases the lasting interest even more. Unless you're the world's most obsessive shoot-em-up fan, you're bound to enjoy playing Populous for a long, long time.
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