The RTS Pantheon

I’m not differentiating, though there are small differences between the two, as the main focus is the same: you don’t directly control your players on the pitch, instead using a cursor to navigate a map at the bottom of the screen and issue orders. Run here, shoot now, kick his legs off, that kind of thing. Not only is it a surprising take on a footballing game, it’s one that actually works as an idea and, oddly, makes sense now I’ve played it. What it isn’t, though, is actually much fun. Playing with a controller is hellish, the computer always knows what to do and what’s going on, and my old man brain just can’t keep pace. I have let you down, Zico, and for that I can only apologise. Just because it’s in real time, doesn’t mean it’s fast-paced or remotely interesting to watch. Trust me, both Populi games on the consoles are fun, even if they’re… slow. Very slow. Oh so slow. But they’re solid, early entries into the god game genre which in many ways spun off into the main RTS pantheon. Wait, should say pantheon and relate it to gods, that’d be a clever way of spinning it.

Note to self: don’t forget to edit the script to include that zing..oh. So Populous and its sequel made their way to the SNES and Mega Drive, bringing with them two entirely new worlds from before the horror of Peter Molyneux’s lofty promises. While each veers far more in the direction of strategy than any of the other elements we’ve come to associate with the RTS genre, there is still some brawling to be had and conquest to be enjoyed. It’s just a bit… hands-off, let’s say. More focused on divine intervention than direct orders, and more about not really remembering how to play the game than making something captivating for the viewing audience. Sorry. Wouldn’t you know it, it’s another Bullfrog god game – this one a spin-off of Populous and pretty much the same kind of thing, just without divine intervention.

Power Monger, in context, ended up being more like the modern RTSes that came to define the genre – it’s a military conquest, there’s sacking of towns and villages, building up your forces and generally being a militaristic git while slaughtering sheep. All pretty recognisable stuff. The console ports were a bit of a surprise back in the day, as Power Monger operated with a three dimensional engine and so was seen as a bit of a push for the SNES and Mega Drive hardware. Neither does a particularly admirable job, I have to say, and as you can see from the SNES footage on show here it ran… well, I mean, it ran. That’s about all you can say for it. A good game backing it up, even if it’s another case of the mechanics behind it being lost in the ether good god I’m so old, but not a console legend. Just a console… thing… that was there.