Well, Bullfrog comes through again with Populous: The Beginning, delivering an original game with some new concepts and unique gameplay. However (there's always a however, isn't there), Bullfrog also came through by making it one of the buggiest games you'll ever play... (Theme Park was very buggy too)
Recommend this product?
The actual gameplay is very nice. Even though I don't have a 3d card, which is supposed to make much better graphics. Basically, you make villagers and different attack-type units. However, the unique part of the game is the Shaman. This is your head character who can cast spells that are effective and fun to watch, like volcano, earthquake, erosion, tornado, poison swamp, etc. (it's fun watching people fly in the air and yelp in Looney-Toonish pain when hit by a fireball or being swept up by a tornado)
Also, boats and balloons make location a big factor.
Speaking of location, this game plays on spherical maps... that is, you're on the surface of a planet, and you can walk all the way around it. This, in my opinion, makes a whole lot more sense than C&C or Starcraft, where for some odd reason you can't go beyond the top of the screen.
It's somewhat easy to get around, with different views available, and hotkeys. Still, it gives the "oh no, I forgot about that" and "ack, it's a surprise attack" factors that make games like this more interesting.
Base attack and defense rely mainly on tactics, including using different units in conjunction, and timing. It's often dependent on QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY of your attack or defense.
Well, this sounds like a wonderful game so far, but there is a down side. In what seems to be a Bullfrog tradition, this game is buggier than the underside of a rock in a moist garden with rich soil. On occasion, the graphics are slightly messed up, though not noticeable. Sometimes it seems you should be able to do something and you can't. Still, those aren't the bad bugs. The bad bugs are in the online play, which, to me, can make or break a game. When I bought the game, the online matchup service was horrendous... besides the lack of players, games often failed to launch. If you were lucky enough for the game to launch and get into the pre-game setting room, and start the game... 9 times out of 10 it would freeze, lock up, boot you out, drop connection, or be horribly laggy... in other words, finishing a game was almost a lost cause. I think it might be better now, with patches and an upgraded matchup system, but (oops) I lost the CD last July and haven't seen it since. Oh well.
Good game if you like playing mostly single-player, and also if you can play it over a LAN. It's quite buggy, but it's fun to play, and fun to watch lots of the little disaster animations (and the "aaagh" "ooh" "oh" etc. sound effects are fun)
A good buy if you can find it on a discount rack for $20 or less...