Last week, I wrote about games dressing up their mechanisms to make them seem snazzier than they are, because really, underneath it all, they're often just numbers. I love how they do this. It's like draping a fancy cloth over an engine, obscuring the mucky oiled cogs with colour and character, and it works so well. It was Slay the Spire, a card game, which got me thinking about it, but no sooner had I written about it than another game came along I couldn't ignore.
Godhood, it's called, and it has the most appealing sales pitch I've ever come across: create and spread your own religion! What a remit - think of the things you could do...
It begins well. You name your god - you, in other words - and you name your religion, then you decide what your worshippers will be called. How cool is that? A few customisation tweaks later and you choose what you'll be about: peace, war, lust or chastity - there are a couple more options but they're greyed out. Then, you're in.
Into an Aztec campaign map and setting, all bright colours like a children's cartoon, with steppy pyramids (I'm pretty sure that's the technical term) dotted around. These are settlements and one is yours, and it's here you'll build and expand your religion's HQ, attracting and inspiring worshippers to your cause.
Your disciples are your most important assets. You can have half a dozen and it's these guys who will fight your battles - literally. You need to fight and take over waypoints on a world map to spread your godly word. The battles play out automatically, turn-by-turn, three characters against three. Win the battles and more followers will flock to your cause, eventually raising you a god level, which allows you to build more structures and further strengthen your cause.
How strong your disciples are depends on their level, which can be increased by earning experience and performing miracles somewhere in your HQ. Where they perform the miracle determines the stat-boost they'll receive in return - you can upgrade structures to influence this - and they'll unlock new abilities as they grow.
Governing all of this are various types of resource. Followers, I've mentioned, but there are also Fanatics, which you use to upgrade buildings, Offerings, which you spend to perform miracles, Sky Shards, for learning new disciple abilities, and Bloodlust to power special War-god faction abilities (I assume this differs for peace and lust and chastity). Each resource is harvested at different buildings.
The loop, then, soon settles into something like this: fight a battle, return to base to level up, upgrade and expand a bit, fight another battle, etc. Viewed like that, Godhood is a fairly rote settlement expansion game, and not a particularly complicated one - although the cartoon look is deceiving because there is a fair amount of depth to combat underneath. It revolves around a wheel of strengths and vulnerabilities, related to powers like Life, Dark, Nature, Ancestral and so on, and once you get the hang of it, it's compelling.
But nowhere do you actually seem to do much with your religion. Nowhere have I seen the ramifications of spreading a War religion across the land. No blight, no famine, no warmonger shame or guilt. Nowhere has my religion really been questioned or explored. All it really seems to boil down to are buffs and debuffs in combat, and factional abilities. The higher-level philosophical stuff I expected, I haven't yet seen, which I'm disappointed about. It feels like unfulfilled potential - like it's all only window dressing after all. As though my love of dressing mechanisms up has come back to bite me on my arse.
But then again, Godhood is young. It's only just launched on Steam Early Access (where it will apparently be for a few months) and I've only played a few hours (this isn't meant to be a review). So as it stands, Godhood is intriguing - which is more than can be said of a lot of games - and simple fun, and maybe there's more to come.