||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (September 2012)|
European cover art for Populous
|Release date(s)||June 5, 1989|
|Genre(s)||Real-time strategy, God game|
|Mode(s)||Single player, Two player|
|Media/distribution||Floppy disk, Cartridge, CD-ROM|
Populous is an award-winning computer game designed by Peter Molyneux for Bullfrog in 1989, and is regarded by many as the first PC god game. It is the first game in the Populous series, preceding Populous II: Trials of the Olympian Gods and Populous: The Beginning.
The main action window in Populous is viewed from an isometric perspective, and it is set in a "tabletop" on which are set the command icons, the world map (depicted as an open book) and a slider bar that measures the level of the player's divine power or "manna".
The game consists of 500 levels, and each level represents an area of land on which live the player's followers and the enemy followers. In order to progress to the next level the player must increase the number of his followers such that they can wipe out the enemy followers. He does this by using a series of divine powers.
The most basic power is raising and lowering land. This is primarily done in order to provide flat land for the player's followers to build on (though it is also possible to remove land from around the enemy's followers). As the player's followers build more houses they create more followers, and this increases the player's manna level.
Increasing the manna level unlocks additional divine powers that allow the player to interact further with the landscape and the population. The powers include the ability to cause earthquakes and floods, create swamps and volcanoes, and to turn ordinary followers into more powerful knights.
In this game the player adopts the role of a deity and assumes the responsibility to shepherd people by direction, manipulation, and divine intervention. The player has the ability to shape the landscape and grow their civilization - and their divine power - with the overall aim of having their followers conquer an enemy force, which is led by an opposing deity.
Expansion packs 
An expansion pack called Populous: The Promised Lands was made available, which added five new types of landscape. In addition, another expansion disk called Populous: The Final Frontier added a single new landscape-type and was released as a cover disk for The One.
|Famitsu||31 / 40 (SNES)|
|Computer and Video Games||96%|
Populous was released in March 1989, and received almost universal critical acclaim, although Peter Molyneux notes that it was released at the same time as the The Satanic Verses controversy was happening, and that Bullfrog was subsequently contacted by the Daily Mail and warned that the "good vs evil" nature of the game would lead to them receiving a similar fatwā (though in fact this did not materialise).
The game was reviewed in 1989 in Dragon #150 by Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk Lesser in "The Role of Computers" column. The reviewers gave the game 5 out of 5 stars. The game was voted the 6th best game of all time in Amiga Power.
Biff Kritzen of Computer Gaming World gave the game a positive review, noting, "as heavy-handed as the premise sounds, it really is a rather light-hearted game." The simple design and layout were praised, as were the game's colorful graphics.
MegaTech magazine said the game had "super graphics and 500 levels. Populous is both highly original and amazingly addictive, with a constant challenge on offer". Mega placed the game at #25 in their Top Mega Drive Games of All Time.
In 1991 Populous won the Origins Award for Best Military or Strategy Computer Game of 1990 as well as 1990 Computer Game of the Year in American video game magazine Video Games & Computer Entertainment.
Initially Molyneux developed an isometric landscape, then populated it with little people that he called "peeps", but there was no game; all that happened was that the peeps wandered around the landscape until they reached a barrier such as water. He developed the raise/lower terrain gameplay mechanic simply as a way of helping the peeps to move around. Then, as a way of reducing the number of peeps on the screen, he decided that if a peep encountered a piece of blank, flat land, it would build a house, and that a larger area of land would enable a peep to build a larger house. Thus the core mechanics - god-like intervention and the desire for peeps to expand - were created.
Bullfrog attempted to prototype the gameplay via a board game they they invented using Lego, and Molyneux admits that whilst it didn't help the developers to balance the game at all, it provided a useful media angle to help publicise the game.
During the test phase the testers requested a cheat code to skip the end of the game, as there was insufficient time to play through all 500 levels, and it was only at this point that Bullfrog realised that they had not included any kind of ending to the game. The team quickly repurposed an interstitial page from between levels and used it as the final screen.
Sequels and spin-offs 
In 1990 Bullfrog used the Populous engine to develop Powermonger, a strategic combat-oriented game with similar mechanics to Populous, but with a 3-dimensional graphical interface. In 1991 they developed and released a true sequel, Populous II: Trials of the Olympian Gods, and in 1997 a further direct sequel, Populous: The Beginning.
Populous was also released on the SNES gaming console, developed by Imagineer (Japanese company) as one of the original titles for the console in Japan, and features the addition of an unlockable race based on the Three Little Pigs.
Populous DS, a new version of the game (published by Xseed Games in America and Rising Star Games in Europe), was developed by Genki for the Nintendo DS and released November 11, 2008. The game allows the user to shape the in-game landscape using the DS's stylus. It also features a multiplayer mode allowing four players to play over a wireless connection.
- Edge Staff (2007-11-01). "50 greatest game design innovations". Edge. Retrieved 2008-12-28.
""IGN Hall of Fame: Populous". IGN. 2008.
Ernest Adams (2008). "What's Next for God Games". Designer's Notebook.
- Bullfrog (1989). "Populous user manual" (PDF). Populous. Electronic Arts. Retrieved 2013-02-22.
- 30 Point Plus: ポピュラス. Weekly Famicom Tsūshin. No.358. Pg.32. 27 October 1995.
- MegaTech rating, EMAP, issue 5, page 78, May 1992
- Out-of-Print Archive • Mega Drive reviews • Populous
- Wilson, David (January 1992). "Populous review (re-release)". Zero 27: 82.
- Rignall, Julian (April 1989). "Populous review". Computer & Video Games 90: 30–32.
- Higham, Mark (April 1989). "Populous review". Amiga Format 10: 72–73.
- Hamlett, Gordon (July 1989). "Populous review". Your Amiga: 46–47.
- Molyneux, Peter (2011). "Classic Game Post-Mortem: Populous". Game Developers Conference (GDC Vault). Archived from the original on 22 January 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-22.
- Lesser, Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk (October 1989). "The Role of Computers". Dragon (150): 68–73, 95.
- Amiga Power magazine issue 0, Future Publishing, May 1991
- Kritzen, Biff (August 1989). "And On The Eighth Day...". Computer Gaming World. pp. 16–17
- Mega magazine issue 1, page 76, Future Publishing, Oct 1992
- "The 1990 Origins Awards". The Origin Awards. The Game Manufacturers Association. 1990. Archived from the original on 3 February 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-22.
- "The Making Of: Populous". The Edge Online. 2012. Archived from the original on 10 July 2012. Retrieved 2013-02-22.
- IGN: Populous DS
- IGN: Populous DS Preview