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POPULOUS - THE PROMISED LANDS by Richard Karsmakers

I would like to dedicate this separate article to Miranda (girl -
for writing such beautiful and lovely letters to my working
address in Germany), Yngwie Malmsteen (guitarist - for "Live in
Leningrad"), Sony (Discman manufacturer), Stefan (chief editor),
the Bullfrog Team (for "Populous"!) and Gard Eggesbø Abrahamsen
(insanely witty looking person - see you after Christmas!!), for
in some way or another creating an extremely inspiring atmosphere
that resulted in me writing this.


Once upon a time there was a world. A world where everybody
lived happily and where there was no war; indeed, a world where
people just lived, hunted, harvested, ate, slept, and multiplied.
In this world it was that a man called Zantar lived. He was
ruler of a tribe several dozen people in size, and a very
thriving tribe it was indeed - in spite of its rather small size.
Among them were some excellent huntsmen, and they even had some
primitive means of using the power of running water to help them
with various tasks they would otherwise have to perform solely
with their own physical power.
Years ago, the peace and fortitude of the tribe had been
confronted once with war: When the Noruasians had conquered the
land, only to be beaten and wiped away by intervention of some
kind of utterly divine being.
Ever since that day, weird things had happened to the village.

But that morning...

Zantar woke up to sounds he had never heard before. A feeling of
dread manifested itself in his stomach and right in the marrow of
his old rheumatic bones, and it was as though he knew something
was wrong outside when he stepped out of his bed.
The voice of a girl in her late teens could be heard, muffled to
such an extend that it barely succeeded in coming out from
between the chaos of pillows and blankets.
"Come back to bed, Zantar, honey..."
"Not now, Neja, babe," Zantar said.
Zantar walked to the window and pulled the curtains aside. He
beheld what he saw with astounded astonishment in his eyes.
Right before his window, something that looked a bit like a big
green rectangle with silver paths on it stretched itself onto the
very horizons, ornamented with dark grey shapes with many little
shiny feet, ropes with coloured parts and big blue shapes
standing on what seemed to be two spears.
Zantar noticed that it radiated with malice - and even more
particularly, a heat that seemed to arise from one of those grey
dark shapes on many feet on which the text 'SHIFTER' could be
read in large, white characters.
"Oh Ynnor the Divine One," he sighed, "not again..."
It was not the first time something this weird has happened to
Zantar's tribe; ever since the Noruasian attack, the entire
village had been mysteriously though regularly transported to
polar regions, hot deserts, and even more strange places.
Sometimes even to all those places within a matter of days.
Zantar decided to call together the Council of Elders.

Only half an hour later, the entire Council was gathered in
Zantar's hut: Sendatsuh the Scientific One, Nafets the Earnest
One, Sacul the Extensive One, Seec the Fortuitous One, and Drag
the Tiny One. Drag had been a member of the Council ever since
the death of Nrøjbrot, who was killed by the Noruasians. He was
selected because he looked so insanely witty, and usually didn't
contribute much to the meeting except to improving its
atmosphere.
"Blackened is the End", Nafets proclaimed, "thus soundeth the
Prophecy."
"Winter it will send," Zantar added, "yes, Earnest One, hard
times are bound to be nigh."
"Throwing all you see," said Sacul, as if adding yet another
quote to the words just spoken, "into Obscurity!" With the last
words, he heaved his hands to the sky.
"Woe! Woe!" Sendatsuh chanted, "the end is nigh!"
And Drag just looked insanely witty.
"Quiet, fools!" Zantar cried, "as of yet, Ynnor the Divine One
has shown us nothing that would point to this, and this strange
happening will most likely be another one of those weird things
that have happened more in recent years..."
"Aye," Sacul agreed.
"Quite right so," Seec added.
"Could very well be," Sendatsuh muttered, "but I am not sure if
it agrees with my Sublimal Relativity Theory..."
"Ah, keep thy oral cavity shut, Scientific One!" Nafets said.
And Drag just looked insanely witty.
They sat silently for several seconds, each apparently in such
deep thought that all their entire speech apparatuses failed to
work at all.
Suddenly, Zantar moved. He shook his head and closed his eyes,
pressing his index fingers at the corresponding sides of his
skull.
"What..." Sendatsuh inquired.
"Zantar! My Lord!" Sacul exclaimed.
Seec and Nafets didn't say anything, and Drag just looked around
him, in a rather insanely witty fashion.
"Silent!" Zantar cried while pressing his eyelids even more
tightly shut.
He saw visions of a Great War, but he saw that it was no war of
their time. Millions died, but when peace ruled again, a Great
Wall was built to keep people apart although they actually were
at peace with each other. Only after about forty years, the
people found out that the wall was a rather daft thing and broke
it down again, selling the little pieces of concrete and stone at
ridiculous prices to souvenir seekers.
When Zantar opened his eyes, he was even more confused than he
had been before. Surely, it was impossible that so many people
would die in any war, and that thing with the wall was really
mindstaggeringly absurd. So he discarded his vision as one of
irrelevance.

"We must start a quest," Zantar said after another couple of
moments, "and find out where our village has been moved to now.
So be it."
"Aye," Sacul agreed.
"Quite right so," Seec added.
"Could very well be," Sendatsuh muttered, "but I am not sure,
either, if this agrees with my Sublimal Relativity Theory..."
"Ah, keep thy oral cavity shut, Scientific One!" Nafets said.
And Drag just looked insanely witty.
At that moment, a knock could be heard on the door of Zantar's
abode.
"Yes?" the Eldest of the Elders inquired.
A click could be heard, and from behind the thick wooden door
came some heavy music that a post 19th-century terrestrian would
no doubt have recognised as the fanfare opening bit of Strauss'
"Also Sprach Zarathustra". It made Zantar think of a science
fiction vision he had once had.
The door was thrown open and in the doorpost stood a truly
gigantic figure: A man on all accounts, but rather squarely built
and a strange device hanging in a leather kind of holster on his
right hip. He had long sideburns, and his fists looked massive -
surely not the kind of fists one would like to meet!
On one of his legs, a battered and dusty woman clung as if
her entire life depended on her hold on the squarely built man's
extrement. Dried blood lined her face, and her legs and arms were
bruised and coloured with brown and purple spots. She was
scarsely dressed, and it was clear for everybody to see that she
had a large belt of leather and metal strapped around her waist.
There was a sturdy, rusty lock located hanging between her legs,
and two others (also quites sturdy and quite rusty) on each side
on her hips. The remains of what had probably once been a
perfectly functioning hairpin protruted from the keyhole of one
of the locks. A wailing sound came from her dried out, bursted
lips and disappeared into the stunned silence of the Council
without leaving a any trace or impression whatsoever.
One of the hands of the large man disappeared in his tunic and
another metallic click could be heard. The music instantly
ceased.
"Woe..." Sacul silently muttered, shaking visibly.
"Good morning," Seec added, equally softly.
"Well I'll be..." Sendatsuh muttered, "but I am positive that
this is impossible according to my Sublimal Relativity Theory..."
"Hack off, will thee?" Nafets said, some irritation obvious in
his voice.
"You took the words right out of my mouth, Nafets!" the Eldest
of the Elders said.
Drag seemed to feel uncomfortable for a second or so upon seeing
the woman, but then quickly looked just insanely witty - as could
have been expected.
The big man sniffed once. It seemed as though a familiar,
ghastly smell was apparent to him - a scent that nobody else
sensed, however.
For a moment, the man appeared nervous and looked around as if
he expected some kind of animal (a Mutant Maxi Mega Monster of
the kind that is found on a planet called Multifizzic Omega, to
be more precise) could attack him any moment now.
But some nanoseconds later he had completely recovered.
"What are you looking at?!" the rather squarely built man said
when he noticed that all Elders except for one were staring in
a rather silly way at the female hanging on his leg.
The Elders started to study the ceiling and the furniture quite
zealously, as if they has just discovered some kind of rare shiny
metal in them, or unexpected design beauty that had miraculously
slipped their attention before.
And Drag just kept looking around him.
In an insanely witty way.
The enormous figure looked down at the shape of what once had
been a far better recognisable female and was seemingly startled
to find her there.
"Loucynda," he said reprovingly, "I told you to let go, didn't
I, before leaving Sucatraps?"
The shape that had once been a far better recognisable female
and that will henceforth (for ease of reading - and WRITING!) be
referred to as 'Loucynda', muttered something that could have
meant anything between 'yes' and 'no'.
Zantar coughed, and therewith succeeded in getting the attention
of the squarely built man - though he really only meant to clear
his throat (honestly!).
"Why do you honour us with this visit?" Zantar asked.
The man looked as if he thought this to be the most stupid
question that could possibly be asked, and as if he was about to
give the smartest reply ever.
But he kept his mouth shut for another while and assumed a
spread-legged position. Just when Zantar was about to speak
again, he spoke.
"I am told that you are in need of a leader," the gaint man
spoke, "a leader for a quest. Isn't that so?"
"Aye," Sacul replied.
"Quite right so," Seec added.
"Indeed we are," Sendatsuh muttered, "though I am not sure if
using an outsider falls within the limits of my Sublimal.."
"Hack off, Scientific One!" Nafets and Zantar bellowed
simultaneously.
For a moment, it looked as if Drag was about not to look
insanely witty.
But, to noone's suprise, he did so anyway.
Zantar proceeded: "Indeed, we are, noble sir. And, with respect,
you indeed look like you're the man to do it."
The man muttered in himself, as if he was calculating or
contemplating something. The silence that was the result of this
was only broken when he looked up and said: "What's the pay?"
"Pay?" Sacul wondered.
"Pay?" Seec added.
"I am not sure whether I have a pay factor in my theories,"
Sendatsuh considered.
"Hack off, Sendatsuh!" Zantar roared.
"Pay?" Nafets asked.
"Pay?!" Drag uttered. When he noticed everybody looking at him
rather startled, he assumed his natural (insanely witty) look and
shut up.
"Yeah, sure," the man continued, "the pay."
"Ah, yes, I see, the pay." Zantar said. After thinking (deeply)
for another couple of whiles, he said: "We can give you a couple
of horseloads of gold - we have no use for that anyway. But
therefore we'll have to be back in our normal environment again,
and out of this insane world we have ended up in now."
The man blinked his eyes, and a spasm seemed to itch one of his
legs. Unfortunately, it was the leg on which Loucynda hung. She
was knocked out cold, but her cramped fingers retained their hold
on it.
Zantar sighed deeply.
"So it's a deal, then?" he said.
"No," the man replied, "I want more: I want you to open the
locks on my bride-to-be's chastity belt."
Zantar, who had held his breath, sighed again (even more
deeply).
"That's a deal then," he said.
The man took Zantar's hand and shook it. "All swell," he said,
"Warchild, Cronos Warchild's the name. I will not let you down."

The next morning, everybody would loved to have seen the sun
rising above the weird land that the quest was about to travel
through. But, unfortunately, there was no sun to be seen
anywhere. Instead, the sky was a kind of beige grey, and only on
the left of the village were what seemed to be frills in the sky
through which rays of light protruded into the half darkness.
Cronos - now without Loucynda clogging his leg, who was dropped
at the blacksmith's - towered high above the other questers,
which were Enur, Oblib and the latter's cousin Odorf. The only
Elder that could be omitted from the Council, Drag, was also
balancing with some gear on his back. Even during that procedure,
he looked insanely witty.
When the party left the village and set foot on the
preternaturally green ground, shivers ran down their spines
(well, nothing ran down Cronos' spine, of course, but you're
probably not surprised to read that). When they looked behind
them they saw their loved ones standing, crying softly and waving
handkerchiefs.
Who was that old woman, crying viciously and looking at a small
painted picture on which someone looking insanely witty was
portrayed?
"We will not forget you!" they could hear Zantar cry in the ever
increasing distance before the Eldest of Elders was pulled back
in his hut by a girl in her late teens, and the curtains of the
hut were hastily drawn shut.
Drag looked even more insanely witty than usual.
They lost sight of the village when they changed direction and
disappeared behind a large dark grey object, on which MMU was
written in large, white characters.

At the evening of that day (approximately when the questers
would have liked to see a sun setting and when they noticed that
they once again had to be satisfied with the meagre light rays
coming from shapes like frills that were mysteriously located in
the beige grey sky, only partly penetrating the half darkness) a
deafening cry could be heard echoing through these Bit Plains.
All the questers looked in turn at each other and then at
Warchild.
Warchild, however, appeared not to have heard anything, and was
instead fumbling with his hearing aid.
"Reficul the Evil One is upon us!" Enur cried.
"May Ynnor the Divine One aid us!" Oblib yelled.
"May the Powers of Light be mercyful on us!" Odorf screamed.
"Oh shit." Cronos muttered.
And Drag just looked insanely witty.
The deafening cry was repeated.
"The demo works!! Finally!!" they could hear it roar, quite
clearly.
It sounded awesomely atrocious, and even Cronos soon recognised
that it could only have been made by a being much larger even
than himself - or maybe even two of those beings.
Next, the earth (or whatever they were in or on) shook. An
enormous shudder drove them all toppling to the ground (all on op
of Drag, strange enough - who continued to look insanely witty
even under the weight of his fellow-questers AND Warchild).
Before they had a chance to get up again, it suddenly started to
rain through those mysterious frills in the beige grey sky.
The rain was pretty mysterious, too. It was a kind of warm
brown, and it was quite sticky, too.
"Reficul's Power Potion!" Enur cried.
"Evil Rain!" Oblib yelled.
"The Powers of Darkness are upon us!" Odorf screamed.
"Hmm....sniff....sniff....Alcohol?" Cronos wondered.
And Drag just opened his mouth and drank from it - looking
insanely witty, of course.
"Damn it!" Cronos cried enthusiastically, "That's Plantiac
Vieux!" He frantically looked for the first pool on the floor and
started drinking from it - in quite an uncivilised way, one might
dare to add.
"No! Fool! You'll be doomed for eternity!" Enur cried.
"The Evil Rain has taken its toll!" Oblib yelled.
"No! Woe! Woe! Reficul, damn thee!" Odorf screamed.
"Burp," Cronos said.
Drag was lying unconscious on the ground, an insanely witty look
plastered on his face.

Meanwhile....in the village...

Though the deafening 'Reficul' cries had also been heard in the
village, a high and frantic screaming coming from the
blacksmith's place, virtually tearing the night in two, caused
quite much more of a stir.
A nude woman came running from the blacksmith's (yeah, even
without her chastity belt) and hid herself behind some bushes.
Zantar came out of his hut, looking kinda weary. His beard was
looking extremely chaotic, and he was wearing a pair of Cammy
knickers (with, strange enough, some blue furry hair stuck to
them).
"Have you succeeded in removing that belt?" he asked the
blacksmith that had now also appeared on the street, seemingly
looking for the nude female.
The blacksmith didn't actually reply, but instead blinked a
black eye and just looked unfocused at the Eldest of Elders,
looking insanely witty.

And in the wide vastness of the Bit Plains...

Cronos stopped relishing the taste of what his companions called
"Reficul's Acid" when he felt something. He didn't know what it
was, or for what purpose he felt it, or even where he felt it.
He just felt it.
A light bulb appeared above his head, in what seemed to be a
fluffy kind of cloud. Due to some miraculous means, it succeeded
in burning without any power supply.
Then he knew.
His beloved Loucynda was in danger.
Then he knew.
He had wanted to get rid of her for a long time, anyway.
Then he knew.
She must have betrayed him. That darned blacksmith must have...
Drag looked at Cronos in an insanely witty way.

*****

In ST NEWS Volume 4 Issue 3, I wrote a review of one of the most
original games of the decade, Electronic Arts' "Populous". Now,
the time has arrived to review "The Promised Lands" - the
"Populous" data disk. For a full review of "Populous" and the
principle behind it, I would like to direct you to the issue of
ST NEWS mentioned above.

The "Populous" data disk consists of four new worlds, which each
have totally different terrain as well as totally different
inhabitants. There are Révolution Francaise where typical
Frenchmen gather in castles, windmills, cafés or next to the
guillotines, Silly Land with larger than life people whose
expressions change with the action, Block Land (unofficially also
called "Lego Land") where everything from the people and the
trees to the castles and the seas are made from blocks, Wild West
where cowboys and indians fight it out and teepees, forts and
jails dot the landscape and The Bit Plains. This last one is a
computer programmer's world with computer printout paper as the
land, various computers ranging from ZX81's to Crays as the
settlements and cigarette stubs and pencils as various landscape
features.
"Silly Land" has really futuristic graphics, with warped
Martians, green men walking around and water that looks a bit
awkward; the knights look like Snorkels (you know those?) and the
regular inhabitants look like Wuppies (know those? ). The "Block
Land" functions to bring back childhood memories; the trees look
really lego-istic, blocks shapes like radar wheels, green seas,
etc. "Revolution Francaise" includes some real guillotine action
performed by the religious leader; the baddies are red and black
and the goodies are in striped white-blue T-shirts.
The graphics look of equal or better quality, and the variation
between the levels is much bigger than with the original game.
Some people complain that these 'strange' new lands will destroy
a part of the charming reality of the original game (which was
quite serious), but I think this is not the case. "The Promised
Lands" simply offer you a new game for the ridiculously low price
of a tenner minus five pennies.

Game Rating:

Name: Populous Data Disk
Company: Electronic Arts
Graphics: 8
Sound: Not applicable
Playability: 8
Hookability: 8
Value for money: 9.5
Overall rating: 9
Price: £9.95
Remark: Great game disk. A classic made
even more so
Hardware: Color monitor, mouse, "Populous"
game disk

The thanks this time go to Sara Shrapnell (yes, now I have her
surname!) and Lesley Mansford for the review copy - and to
Catherine Simon for just being VERY nice and thoroughly
enchanting. All these girls work at Electronic Arts, and I am
glad to say that in general the software is up to the same
standard as their hospitality, generosity, and femela employees.
Excellent!
Further information can be obtained at:

Electronic Arts
Langley Business Centre
11-49 Station Road
Langley nr. Slough
Berkshire SL3 8YN
England

P.S. The UK magazine "The One" also had a 'scenario disk' for
"Populous", called "The Final Frontier", in the November issue.
This also features alternative graphics on 500 worlds, and is
just as vital an addition to "Populous" as "The Promised Lands"
(though I think the EA release has four new graphics sets, and
the One one only one - ahem).

P.P.S. Sincere apologies for the introductory novella. It is no
novel with an open end, and you should surely not try to
understand what is happening at all. I just ran out of
inspiration and didn't want to write any longer. You know what?
If you write an original ending to this story, you can win
original copies of both "Populous" and "The Promised Lands". But
you will have to send in your entries before June 1st, 1990!
So hurry and write! The best entry will get published (and will
get the game).

Disclaimer
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.