When you don't have anything nice to say, maybe you just shouldn't say it--especially when your criticisms stink of hypocrisy. Over the weekend, Peter Molyneux snubbed Electronic Arts' mobile reboot of his classic Dungeon Keeper franchise, calling it "ridiculous." By all accounts, the new Dungeon Keeper app is a soulless, free-to-play husk of the original, riddled with stifling demands on your time that can only be circumvented by money. But hey… you know what that sounds like? Godus, the most recent work from Molyneux's studio 22Cans, which burned players as much as EA's Dungeon Keeper ever did. In other words: You better chiggidy-check yourself before you wriggidy-wreck yourself, Molyneux.
If you didn't pitch in for the Godus Kickstarter or pay $20 / £15 for the Early Access version on Steam, you probably aren't aware of the resentful uproar coming from the majority of Godus' monetary backers. They seem to have collectively bought into a promising idea: an expansive god game that recalls the genre's 1989 roots, in the vein of Molyneux's own Populous series. The Godus Kickstarter page asserts that the game will be "powerful, unique and rather wonderful."
But from the sounds of it, those who've put the alpha and beta builds of Godus through the ringer experienced something restrictive, underhanded, and rather miserable. Both Godus and Dungeon Keeper seem to infuriate gamers for the same reason: They ensnare fans of hardcore PC gaming properties, then pull the rug out from under them with a casual-friendly, watered-down presentation. The original Dungeon Keeper and Populous were deep, imaginative simulations that let you manage supernatural elements. EA's Dungeon Keeper and Godus seem engineered to keep you mindlessly clicking, forcing you to wait a good long while between landmark gameplay moments.
The Steam user reviews for Godus paint quite the sordid picture, with nine vehement condemnations for every half-hearted recommendation. "Godus does more to perpetuate the empty addicting feeling you get with other social games then add any real depth," says one reviewer. "Want to feel like a god? Look elsewhere. This game is about digging up [resource] cards in the dirt," says another. The most damning appraisal comes from user bytestream's 1,500-word manifesto on why the game is a rip-off, stating how Godus' "lack of interaction between you and your followers makes the game feel soulless," while multiplayer battles are "incredibly boring and not tactical at all; they are more about who clicks faster." Said post has a 92% approval rating from over 2,000 users. Clearly, Godus has thus far failed to deliver something that supporters can be remotely happy with.
But the Godus community's biggest grievance is the unnerving sense that microtransactions could be added at any time. In fact, they already were: an early build included a Gem Store, where real money could purchase in-game Gems that speed up build times and resource gathering. The result was, as bytestream put it, an "incredible shitstorm" that prompted 22Cans to quickly abolish the Gem Store and Molyneux to reaffirm that "There is no shop."
And yet, Molyneux has no problem slamming EA's treatment of Dungeon Keeper. "I felt myself turning 'round saying, 'What? This is ridiculous. I just want to make a dungeon,'" said Molyneux. "I don't want to schedule it on my alarm clock for six days to come back for a block to be chipped… I don't think [EA] got it quite right, the balance between keeping it familiar to the fans that were out there but fresh enough and understandable enough for this much bigger mobile audience."
But judging from the complaints made against his own product, Molyneux also has to face the ire of disappointed gamers--old-school fans of properties like Dungeon Keeper or Populous, furious to see these beloved franchises converted into repetitive grinds. Both games try to parlay niche PC gaming experiences into mobile app success, which seems doomed to leave both casual and hardcore players confused and dissatisfied.
I have nothing against Molyneux as a person, and I'm totally neutral to the beloved franchises he's worked on. But when developers openly express their double standards, it's dismaying. Even if you also think the new Dungeon Keeper is a travesty, don't applaud Molyneux for sticking it to the EA man. This is the guy who offered a piece of £50,000 DLC for his mobile app Curiosity, and openly wept about making overambitious promises. To hear Molyneux criticize restrictive game design that he employs in his own games just makes him sound two-faced. And nobody likes an untrustworthy developer.