Black & White 2
Lionhead's stellar sequel finally lets you become a god. But is it too little too late?
All those years ago we had to brave an agonising wait for Black and White to hit our PC monitors, and in a way we're still waiting, waiting for the true god game we were promised to emerge. Maybe Lionhead was overly ambitious after all - and maybe in fact it regocnised that, because Peter Molyneux's studio has broken its strict "no-sequel" policy to bring the fine follow-up that is Black & White 2.
If Lionhead set out to create a game that makes you feel like a god, than Black and White 2 is a success. The developer has followed its design mantra very closely; the game is designed so that you need never use anything but the mouse, you can lie back in your PC chair and literally play god. Your little hand cursor will brush the grass aside as it traverses the land, you can even raise it upwards and pluck the sun from the sky, changing day to night. As a god the world is there for you to manipulate - every tree, fence and rock can be pulled, thrown and crushed.
The game is a similar affair to the previous in structure. Your guiding conscience - a bearded good guy and a red devil with realistically rendered man-boobs - will help you get comfortable at your new position as Greek god. You will be put in charge of various towns and islands to try and defeat gods of rival civilizations such as the Japanese and Aztecs.
You can do this by either attacking and overthrowing other towns, or by winning their support through being awesome in some way. Each building you construct adds awesomeness to your city, and the grander the temple or the alter, the more awesome you will be. Cool, huh?
Being a Lionhead game, it simply couldn't be released without some sort of 'good or bad' system - and why not? It's becoming a very appealing feature for many gamers, and the game has been purposefully designed so that you do everything in a good or bad way.
Enemies can be defeated much easier if you give in to anger and burn them to the ground with legions of soldiers, but whilst it's tempting to throw your own villagers at the enemy battalions, you can also get a flock of new migrants, should you impress your rivals by being nice to your town's inhabitants.
New RTS elements like tributes help spice things up. Tributes are currency you can collect by completing objectives and generally keeping everyone happy, you can purchase new game features in the tributes menu including buildings, game controls, creature toys, miracles and army upgrades. In the later stages of the game, tributes help shift the gameplay style over to more traditional RTS base management. In the similar RTS style, miracles can be purchased by producing mana through the amount of worshipers at the town alter. Initially, you have a simple rain miracle you can water your fields with, but later on you can earn more impressive skills like healing your townsfolk and spurting volcanoes from the ground.
Turning your villagers into an efficient work force is the key to success in Black & White 2. By picking up a villager and placing him next to a field you will turn him into a farmer who will collect grain, placing a villager next to a tree will make them collect wood and so forth. You can also put a villager into the role of 'breeder' and they will spend their days searching out partners to get down and dirty with, increasing the population of your town. However you don't have to totally rely on your villagers to keep things moving, you can collect resources to store by grabbing them yourself, and whilst villagers will happily build buildings for you if you're in a rush, you can simply build them yourself by dropping the required resources onto their templates.
Like the first Black & White, at the beginning of the game you will be asked to choose one of four cute and cuddly creatures. Ripe for your picking are a monkey, lion, wolf and cow. Your creature is you own personal pet in the world, you must raise and discipline your furry friend just as you would a real child, if he does something you don't like, for example making a bowel movement on your worshipers like mine did, you can make sure he doesn't do it again by giving him a good smack, like any good parent would. Similarly, if he does something that pleases you - which could well be the same example for some - you can reward him with a gentle stroke on his fluffy chest, bless. But your creature isn't completely dependant - you'll rarely ever find your creature slipping up by running into walls or other common AI cock-ups, in fact, their AI is so good that it apparently gets a mention in the Guiness Book of Records.
Your pet can be raised to be a cute little playmate or a flaming beast of death, he can blast his enemies with flames and bring fear to the battlefield or he can entertain your villagers and keep a clean pen, itís all up to you.
You can put your creature to work in a variety of different areas, you can set his role to build, gather resources, entertain your villagers or go into an offensive solider mode. You can make him work more efficiently by attaching his virtual leash to a set point, he will then patrol the area gathering resources of building depending on what role you currently have him playing out. It's a good idea to keep a keen eye on your pet whilst he's running around doing your deeds - you need to continually raise your pet so that he knows what's right and wrong, it's not good practice to have a creature who has learnt to urinate next to the town alter. Treat your creature right and you can shape him into either a mischievous pet or a disciplined warrior.
Black & White 2 is certainly up to scratch where visuals are concerned - there's some especially beautiful water effects. The two conscience characters are well animated and sport some equally good voice acting, we found them to be a very effective way of making the game narrative appealing and accessible to all breeds of gamer.
Presentation is also of the high standard you'd expect from Lionhead, from the clean, intuitive menus and GUI to the fun little Lionhead physics mini-game upon launching the game. We're a bit miffed by the omission of any kind of multiplayer mode, which the game could have benefited from.
Whilst I'm sure it will be contested, I found Black & White 2 to be a satisfying game. Unfortunately, the slow nature of the 'god game' genre means that things can get slightly slow and boring if you're the type who craves a bit more action in your games, but it's obvious that the whole point of the game is just that - to be able to chill out in a comfortable chair and get a kick out of managing your world, teaching your pet, and brushing the foliage with your hand.
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Black & White 2 Video Interview
Exclusive video interviews with Peter Molyneux on everything Lionhead including B&W2 (480x360, 400kbps)
Black & White 2
Official trailer (EA)
|1.37m||13.5 MB||DF, SD, 30