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Video Game: Populous: The Beginning
Play your way to godhood

Populous: The Beginning is the third game in the PC strategy god games of the Populous series, developed by Bullfrog Productions in 1998. The game was the first in the series to use true 3D graphics. In a radical departure from earlier games in the series, which cast the player in the role of a god influencing loyal followers, The Beginning cast the player as a shaman, who directly leads her tribe against opponents.

Throughout the twenty-five missions of the campaign, the player leads their tribe across a solar system, dominating enemy tribes and tapping new sources of magic, with the ultimate goal of the shaman attaining godhood itself. The game, playing very different from earlier titles, was welcomed to mixed reviews, with reviewers noting the excellent graphics; complaints were directed at the artificial intelligence and the inability of the game to decide between being a real time strategy title or god game. The PC version of the game was released November 30, 1998; a PlayStation version was later developed and released on April 2, 1999.


This game provides examples of:

  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: you could have a maximum of 199-200 followers normally but you could exceed this by hypnotising enemies and sending them in for training, potentially crashing the game.
  • Artificial Stupidity: Sometimes enemy Shamans will try to defend themselves from melee assailants with the Swamp spell, killing themselves in the process. In addition, if you place a Swamp at the enemy Shaman's favourite hangout spot, she'll walk into it, die (giving you mana), reincarnate, then walk into it again. Rinse and repeat.
  • Baby Planet: Although functionally, the planet is more like a toroid.
  • Boring, but Practical: The Blast spell, which is a simple fireball that explodes when it reaches its destination. Although weak in terms of damage, it has several positive qualities: it has the second-fastest charge time, good for when your Shaman needs to fend off attackers; has good knockback, useful for pushing enemies off cliffs or into water; and travels fast, giving it slightly better homing capability than other spells.
    • The Blast spell is even better in the Playstation version: It can be used infinitely which allows you to spam fireballs as fast as you can press the button.
  • Charm Person: The Hypnotise spell. It temporarily converts enemy units to the caster's side. Cast it in the middle of a large group of firewarriors and watch hilarity ensue. If can also be used to add permanent members to your tribe by casting it and then directing the hypnotized to one of the training huts before the spell expires. When they come out as a different class, they are now permanent members of the tribe.
  • Color-Coded Multiplayer / Color-Coded Armies
    • Blue: Player
    • Red: Dakini
    • Yellow: Matak
    • Green: Chamara
  • Death from Above: The Firestorm spell, which conjures a meteor shower. Extra points of awesome because of how everyone nearby will run around screaming in chorus.
    • The trope name is also the name of one of the timed levels, where your Shaman and a ragtag bunch of followers must sneak into the enemy's base to summon a bunch Angels of Death to wreak havoc on them.
  • Death Is Cheap: as long as you have even one follower, your shaman will always resurrect in your base's Reincarnation Circle. The con however is that if an enemy is responsible for the death, they will get a hefty piece of mana from your partially charged spells.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: In the 8th level, "Continental Divide", the front entrance to your base is a narrow pass. First-time players may try to seal it up with the Landbridge spell, thinking it will thwart the enemy's early rush. However, rather than going the other, long way around the world to your back entrance, the enemy Shaman will just unseal your entrance with another Landbridge spell when they come to attack you.
  • Disc One Nuke: somewhat. There's no tech tree in the game, every spell and building is available right from the start. Chances are however that going for high-level spells right away WILL put you at a serious disadvantage as the enemy will mercilessly wipes you off the map by the time it's charged.
  • Divide and Conquer: once more than one enemy factions start appearing on singleplayer maps, this becomes a viable tactic. On some maps, the enemy factions even spend more time fighting each other than you!
    • The sixth mission has two enemies for the first time. The main aim of the map is to raise a landbridge between their bases which makes them attack each other. Or to be more exact, the Matak will direct their attacks at the Chumara base while the Chumara redirect their route to your base to lead right next to the Matak base.
  • Do Not Touch the Funnel Cloud: The Tornado spell. Sucks up any units (including your own) and scatters them randomly across the landscape (possibly killing them or tossing them into water). Also tears buildings and trees apart.
  • Easy Evangelism: The Convert spell. (Near-)instantly converts wildmen into Braves of the caster's side.
  • Eleventh Hour Superpower: You finally attain godhood at the end, and the final level lets you smite and wipe out the remnants of your enemies with infinite ranged spells, although you still need to charge them up first.
  • Enemy Exchange Program: Preachers.
  • Enemy Mine: One of the singleplayer maps has your tribe allying with one of your enemies to wipe out another. It only lasts for that map then it's back to free-for-all.
  • Fantastic Nuke: The Volcano spell. Summons a cone of fiery death that tears buildings apart and chars large tracts of land (see Salt the Earth).
  • Final Battle: The Armageddon spell. Creates an arena out of the earth, teleports every tribe into it then lets them fight to the death until only one remains. Once cast, you lose control over your followers and once finished it (obviously) ends the level.
  • Fog of War: Mostly avoided except in multiplayer and two single player levels.
    • And even then there is only shroud and not fog. When the shroud is uncovered by a unit, the land remains fully visible even when the player's units no longer occupy the area...
  • Game Mod: not exactly. Someone wrote a hack that makes you able of playing skirmish matches against the AI on multiplayer maps with all the settings available for multiplayer matches: banning certain spells/units, turning on shroud, setting up alliances, etc.
    • Similarly, there is a fan-made map editor floating somewhere on the internet.
    • Despite the game's age, there are still two multiplayer matchmaker servers operating on the internet. Using them is possible via installing the relevant patch.
  • Giant Flyer: the Angel of Death which is essentially a Nigh Invulnerable dragon.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: mana is a universal resource needed for training non-basic units and recharging spells. Every unit generates mana merely by existing but braves (basic unit) generate the most by doing stuff or sitting in huts doing nothing.
  • Gosh Hornet: The Swarm spell. Summons a swarm of angry stinging insects that causes enemy units to panic (making them temporarily uncommandable), scatter and lightly damage them (or if they're already on the verge of death, kill them). It also forcibly vacates enemy buildings, boats and balloons, even if they have to jump out in the middle of water to not get stung.
  • Hero Unit: The Shaman.
  • Implacable Man: The Uber Trick allows you to create followers with an INSANE amount of health.
  • Lady of War: Ditto.
  • Large Ham: The announcer in the PSX port, who replaces the tooltips from the original game.
  • Magical Incantation: Each spell (but one) has its own unique incantation that all the Shamans use.
  • Mega Manning: The vast majority of singleplayer maps has this as its main theme: the enemy possesses a new unit/spell and you can steal it from them (either by raiding the Vault of Knowledge storing it or completely wiping the enemy out). Afterwards, the unit/spell will be permanently available.
  • One-Hit Kill: The Lightning spell is guaranteed to fry any person that it strikes. But you'll need a lot of luck and excellent timing to hit a moving target.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: the shamans, with enough worshippers and high-level spells.
    • One of the singleplayer maps is even based on this trope: you have to do the map with the shaman and nothing else. Dying even once is an instant game over. The tradeoff however is that by the time you do this map, you already have your full arsenal.
  • Ridiculously Fast Construction: somewhat averted, but buildings can be taken apart remarkably quickly.
  • Salt the Earth: Whenever a building is fully destroyed or lava flows over an area, the land underneath becomes charred and damaged, which cannot be built on. Fortunately, the land heals after several minutes.
  • Sprite/Polygon Mix
  • Status Buff: Magic Shield makes spells casts bounces off units and negates the knockback to most spells. Bloodlust dramatically increases a unit's speed, strength and health.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Swimming hasn't been invented in this game. Water and swamps are instantly fatal.
  • Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors: Warriors rush in with their swords to kill firewarriors and braves. Priests stand in place, preaching, neutralizing and eventually converting anyone who comes close, including warriors. Firewarriors can pick off priests from a safe distance across terrain, and so on.
    • Said rock-paper-scissors relationship is prone to collapse once you can build/steal hot air balloons. If either side is in a boat or hot air balloon, neither warriors or priests can attack/convert. This makes firewarriors on their own an effective threat against anyone but the enemy Shaman (who can still kill them with an assortment of spells).
  • Terrain Sculpting: There are no less than four spells based around the manipulation of terrain, and doing so is one of the game's core tactical elements.
    • The Volcano spell in particular can be used to not only destroy enemy buildings, but if you then use Flatten on the top of the resulting mountain, you can create a large area of high ground from which to assault the enemy with the high ground advantage.
  • The War Sequence: casting the Armageddon spell available only on certain maps will summon every unit on the map into an arena for a cutscene free-for-all. The player with the last units remaining wins.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: Wood is the only resource, and trees always grow back unless you build buildings on top of them. And even then, the tree will grow back next to the building as close to its original position as it can get.

PopulousReal-Time StrategyPerimeter
PopulousWebsite/GOG.comPost Mortem

alternative title(s): Populous The Beginning
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