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Populous logo of the Sega versions

Populous is a computer game developed by Peter Molyneux and released by Electronic Arts in 1989 . It is the first work by Molyneux founded Bullfrog Productions . Populous was very successful and is considered in some sources, as opposed to Utopia, as the founder of the god simulation , a variant of the economic simulation . Bullfrog Productions expanded Populous into a series with two successors .

Populous is an English adjective and means populous , it is pronounced ˈpɒpjələs .


Populous Logo.png
Populous logo (game box)
Studio United KingdomUnited Kingdom Bullfrog Productions
Publisher United StatesUnited States Electronic Arts
platform Amiga , Atari ST , DOS , Sega Master System , Sega Mega Drive , PC Engine , Super Nintendo , Game Boy
genre God simulation
Game mode Single player , multiplayer
control mouse
system advantages
Amiga: 512  kB
Atari ST: 512 kB
medium 1 × 3.5 " floppy disk , cartridge, download
language English
Age rating
USK released from 6


The player and his computer opponent represent imaginary gods who fight the epic battle between “good” and “bad” by trying to increase and strengthen their people through indirect influence , in order to ultimately destroy the people of the other god. In addition, the god can change the isometrically scrolling environment in favor of his believers by raising and lowering land. The direct interaction with the people takes only a very small part of the game one, because the direct control of the game figures exclusively by the Papal Magnet ( English papal magnetic possible). The trailers automatically populate the surrounding land. The player only changes their attitude between pacifist and aggressive attitudes, which is responsible for whether their own supporters when they meet the opposing followers peacefully cultivate the free land or try to conquer the houses of the opponent and fight his supporters.

In most of the levels , the respective god is only able to generate the landscape in a limited area - namely only in the vicinity of their own believers or their houses. In contrast, natural disasters such as earthquakes or the flood can be triggered specifically across the map. In addition to creating swamps and volcanoes , crusaders can be generated from the leaders of the people (bearers of the miniature version of the Papal Magnet ) and sent out to destroy the opposing structures and eliminate their inhabitants. The ultimate magic is Armageddon , in which all residents of the entire world leave their homes and meet in the middle of the level for the final, all-decisive battle.

By generating land and casting spells, mana is converted, which is replenished as the population increases - the higher the number of believers, the higher the mana regeneration. The population lives and multiplies in the buildings it has built itself, which vary in size depending on the land area generated by God - from tents to mud, wood and stone huts to huge castles. The size of the buildings has a decisive influence on what happens in the game: in small huts there is more likely to be a lack of space, so that descendants leave their parents' house sooner to build their own. On the other hand, the residents of larger houses are usually stronger and therefore less susceptible to hostile takeovers of the building. Big buildings also increase mana production. The construction of buildings or the takeover of enemy houses also expands the sphere of influence of the respective god.

The fact that residents leave small houses faster than large ones can be actively exploited. If you want to collect pendants on the Papal Magnet in order to create a crusader, you can temporarily make large castles smaller by placing a mound of earth next to it. A moment later, a trailer leaves the house. The same can be done to colonize land faster.

The campaign , in which the player takes on the role of the "good" god, includes 500 worlds, starting with the Genesis level . The worlds each consist of one of four different landscape forms: pastureland , sandy desert , ice desert and lava ash , in which the sea, in contrast to the other scenarios, does not consist of water but of liquid lava. The nature of the soil has an influence on the fertility rate of the population . The lava landscape has the highest population growth due to the fertilizing effect of the lava ash , while the ice desert not only has the lowest but also harbors the additional risk that homeless believers lose their strength more quickly and freeze to death and die in search of suitable building sites. The other two landscapes are in between with their fertility rate.

You play against the computer , or in multiplayer mode via null modem cable against a human player, although there is also a slower option of multiplayer via modem . Populous was one of the first computer games that could be played over a modem.

There is also the option of free play, in which the player competes against the computer on randomly generated worlds. With this variant it is possible to change the playing conditions and even the sides in order to be able to act as an "evil" god. Except for the change of the color of the people from blue (“good”) to red (“evil”), the choice of sides has no playful effect, since both gods can work the same magic. However, the available spells for each party vary from level to level.

Development history

Bullfrog originally created the game as a board game with Lego building blocks within a few days. Peter Molyneux was in charge of game development. In an interview he mentioned that the reason the topography could be manipulated was simply that he was too easy to create the many predefined maps.

In the same year the two expansions The Promised Lands and The Final Frontier for AmigaOS and the Atari ST were released, with which you have the possibility to play in different additional scenarios. The specialty of the expansion disks is that they can be read by the Amiga as well as the Atari ST. The game principle as well as the level codes remained untouched, but the level of difficulty was increased significantly.

The 2001 game Black & White , also developed by Molyneux at Lionhead Studios , is considered to be the "spiritual successor" of Populous .


In the case of the expansion The Promised Lands , the graphic design is particularly noteworthy, since in contrast to the main program, the landscapes are very funny. The levels that still look “most normal” are those of the French Revolution (including a guillotine as a Papal magnet ) and the Wild West with cowboys and Indians . Then comes the crazy world , in which buildings z. B. are reflective spherical palaces. The two funniest level designs include the block world , in which the buildings, the landscape and the characters look as if they were made of Lego bricks , and the computer world , in which the floor is made of printer paper and the buildings, depending on Size can be represented by individual microchips , via home computers to huge computer systems that are modeled on the Cray-1 computers. The flags of the opposing peoples each have Commodore or Atari logos, which, depending on the platform version, were swapped among the parties so that the "Atari supporters" on the Amiga represent the "evil" side and vice versa.

In the expansion Final Frontier , the colonization of the planet Mars takes place. This expansion was produced as a cover disc for the British computer magazine The One , which explains the low level of awareness outside the UK . In contrast to the main program and the first expansion, the landscape of this expansion is consistently the same in all levels. It consists of a dusty surface and the equivalent of water is crystal floor tiles . Trees have been replaced by crystal pillars and volcanic rock is also made of crystal. The respective peoples are represented by green Martians on the “good” side and by astronauts in space suits on the “bad” side . The buildings vary, depending on their size, between small landing capsules and multi-story laboratory complexes. The level of difficulty has been increased again compared to the first expansion.


In 1992, under the name World Editor a programmed by the Germans Alexander Kochann and Oliver Reiff level editor for Populous , which was officially distributed by Electronic Arts. This not only makes it possible to create your own levels, but also to change the graphic details (e.g. landscape, buildings or units).

The editor also contained two new landscapes: "Space", where men in space suits fought between different space vehicles on asteroids, the vastness of space replaced the water, and "Fast Food", where two well-known snack chains between hamburgers and pizzas for supremacy struggled. There was also an improved version of the original grassy landscape with lush meadows, cornfields and vegetable patches.


In the 2000s, Populous was re-released via digital distribution , for example in September 2011 via gog.com and in August 2013 via the Humble Origin Bundle .

Press review

Populous received a positive response from the trade press, for example it achieved a rating of 92% on Power Play .

Biff Kritzen from Computer Gaming World magazine wrote a positive review, noting, "as heavy-handed as the premise sounds, it really is a rather light-hearted game." The game's catchy design was praised, as was the colorful graphics.

Populous II - Trials of the Olympian Gods

Populous II - Trials of the Olympian Gods
Populous II logo (PC version)
Studio United KingdomUnited Kingdom Bullfrog Productions
Publisher United StatesUnited States Electronic Arts
platform Amiga , Atari ST , MS-DOS
genre God simulation
Game mode Single player , multiplayer
control Mouse , keyboard
system advantages
Amiga & Atari ST: 512  kB
(1 MB recommended for extended graphic effects)
medium 2 × 3.5 " floppy disks , download
language English
Age rating
USK released from 6

The backstory of Populous II - Trials of the Olympian Gods was chosen from Greek mythology , in which the player slips into the role of a son of Zeus . The buildings, the characters and the user interface were graphically adapted to the look of ancient Greece .

The basic game principle remained the same as that of Populous (as well as the landscape types: desert, fertile land, snow, lava ash), but some expansions and improvements were made. In addition to the improved graphics and controls, new magic options and heroes with various abilities have been added, which, similar to the crusader from the predecessor, are generated from the leader of the people. In addition, it is possible to build impassable protective walls and roads for the opposing people, which accelerates the movement of your own people.

One of the most important innovations is the possibility to expand the abilities of one's own alter ego (similar to role-playing games ) by awarding experience points that one receives after completing a level. This makes it possible to increase the effect of certain spells, which in comparison to Populous - in which the spell effects are always the same - means an enormous change in the tactical approach. There is now the possibility and at the same time the danger of expanding one's own abilities too one-sidedly, which in certain circumstances means that you cannot neutralize the enemy's spells in certain levels.

The number of worlds to be conquered has been doubled to 1000 compared to Populous . As in the predecessor, however (depending on the number of points achieved) after completing a level, some worlds are skipped, which prevents you from playing through all levels in practice.

Also Populous II offers a multiplayer -possibility via null modem cable or modem .


The expansion The Challenge Games is basically the same as the main program, but the story of the game is set at the time of feudal Japan .

The game's campaign includes 500 worlds that have been graphically adapted to the Japanese theme. Buildings are depicted as pagodas and heroes as samurai or sumo wrestlers, and the people wear kimonos . The user interface has also been decorated with Kanji characters .

The only game change is the added "Challenge mode", which, in contrast to the modes "Conquest" (campaign) and "Custom" (free game) in the main program (and its predecessors), does not aim to conquer a world , but gives the player tasks such as: "Save the last remaining inhabitant of this world from the approaching flood". The player has the option of casting spells regardless of their mana supply.

Populous: The Beginning

While Populous II is playfully similar to the original Populous and through the use of isometric graphics, with the third part, Populous: The Beginning, the representation of the game world was switched to perspective 3D graphics . The game world is also not flat, but consists of a ball. Instead of a divine being, the player in Populous: The Beginning takes on the role of a shaman who has yet to rise to the goddess (by defeating several opponents on numerous worlds). In the last scenario, she finally rose and is only present in the game as the "hand of the gods".

You have the player color blue; There are 3 tribes in total. The shaman can summon spells such as B. Insect plague, fireball, bridge, erosion, level land, hypnosis, invisibility, angel of death, volcano, rain of fire, earthquake, etc. There are a total of 25 levels in which you try to wipe out your opponent (s).


Bullfrog developed a multiplayer mode for Populous: The Beginning , but it doesn't work in modern networks. The community "Populous: Reincarnated" has fixed the multiplayer mode of Populous 3 with an unofficial patch . Through a game lobby, the player can use the chat to establish contact with other players and join their games.


  • Populous (1989)
    • Populous - The Promised Lands (1989)
    • Populous - The Final Frontier (1989)
    • Populous - World Editor (1992)
  • Populous II - Trials of the Olympian Gods (1991)
    • Populous II - The Challenge Games (1992)
  • Populous: The Beginning (1998)
    • Populous: The Beginning - Undiscovered Worlds (1999)

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Edge editorial team: 50 GREATEST GAME DESIGN INNOVATIONS . Edge magazine . November 1, 2007. Archived from the original on September 21, 2008. Retrieved on December 28, 2008.
    "IGN Hall of Fame: Populous . IGN. 2008. Archived from the original on November 4, 2013. Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this note. Retrieved on February 8, 2011: " 42. God games. This genre is a mashup of construction and management simulations, real-time strategy games, and artificial life games, with some extra qualities all its own. […] Probable first use: Populous, 1989. " @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / games.ign.com
  2. ^ Ernest Adams: What's Next for God Games . Designer's notebook. 2008. Retrieved February 8, 2011.
  3. a b Biff Kritzen: And On The Eighth Day ... (English) . In: Computer Gaming World , August 1989, pp. 16-17. 
  4. Edge editorial team: The Making of: Populous ( English ) In: Edge magazine . nex-gen.biz. May 8, 2009. Archived from the original on May 3, 2012. Retrieved on April 8, 2011.
  5. Populous and Ultima land on GOG - More EA classics exhumed. on eurogamer.net (English)
  6. We just added two games to the Humble Origin Bundle! , August 22, 2013 (English)
  7. Top 100 Games: Populous . PowerPlay magazine. P. 76 January 1990. Retrieved November 18, 2010.
  8. New Player , Populous Reincarnated (English)