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PC Games (Games)

Review: Black and White 2 165

Peter Molyneux's Black and White was universally hailed as an innovative switch-up in gaming prior to its launch, and frustrated critics referred to it as a toy once they'd had a chance to see the depth of the title's gameplay. The design of the sequel, Black and White 2, seems to be a deliberate response to the denouncements leveled at the original game. The result is a more traditional, less open-ended RTS with some identity issues. Despite that, being a god still has as much appeal as it did back in the days of Populous. Read on for my impressions of Molyneux's marriage of Nintendogs and Age of Empire: Black and White 2.
  • Title: Black and White 2
  • Developer: Lionhead Studios
  • Publisher: EA
  • System: PC
  • Reviewer: Zonk
  • Score: 7/10
While most Real-Time Strategy titles put you in the role of a commander or general, the Black and White series invites you to tap into your inner Marduk and play god. As the deity of the Greeks in an archipelago of war-torn islands, you are tasked with the safety of your people as they're besieged by competing cultures. The Aztecs, the Norse and the Japanese all take part in what appears to be a concerted effort to wipe Greek culture from the face of the planet. As in the original, the pure prayers of your people summon you from the nothingness of the spaces between space. Since this is a Molyneux game, your recently summoned self is a blank slate. Your godly presence's moral compass is up for you to decide. Within your sphere of influence your power is fairly absolute, and you can crush the life out of your citizenry just as easily as you can ensure their survival. This sort of temptation is the basis for much of the gameplay in Black and White 2.

As your people's almighty, you are tasked with propping up and expanding the influence of their civilization. Gameplay to accomplish this is an interesting blend of the open-ended structure of the previous title and more traditional RTS elements. Your presence within the mortal world is personified by a great hand, which you can use to manipulate the physical realm. Using the hand, you can harvest grain from a field or turn trees into lumber. You can dictate roles to your citizens, instructing them to act as fieldworkers or breeders as you see fit. Via interface elements, you can indicate where you'd like to place structures within your civilization's sphere of influence. Structure placement is very intuitive, and every building has some effect on the well-being of your people. The goal is to be as impressive as possible by placing structures on high points, ensuring that the citizenry is happy, and designing the city with certain elements in mind. Simple rules like placing homes a little ways apart to ensure privacy add a layer of strategy to what might otherwise be a mindless mechanical process.

In this fashion you can take on the role of caretaker, and usher your people into a new golden age. Impressive cities attract people from other villages, and if you manage to impress the citizenry of the entire island you are successful by default. The only problem is that if you're dedicated to using this tactic to defeat the game, it may take you longer than some television seasons to work through the title. In a word, the 'good' gameplay is boring. While it's fun to get your civilization up and running, once you've run through all the building types you'll spend hours and hours breeding more citizens, building more homes, seeding new fields, rinsing and repeating.

Besides playing caretaker to your people, you have a pet to look after as well. The Creature was one of the most entertaining aspects of the first Black and White, but training it was often a source of headaches. The attempt at a realistic AI meant that it was hard to determine what exactly your critter felt about any given activity. Thankfully, the sequel has made the Creature's AI more transparent in the interests of playability. If your Creature (be it Cow, Lion, or Wolf) intends to do something, it vocalizes the intent via a large and obvious thought bubble. "I'm going to poop on those trees" might be something you see hovering over your critter's head. At that point you have two options. If you want him to fertilize the trees (not a bad idea), you would click in with your hand and rub his tummy. If you wanted to discourage him from doing that, you'd smack him back and forth across the chops. When you start modifying your Creature's feelings in this manner, a meter will appear above his head. "I'll always poop on trees" is at one end, and "I'll never poop on trees" is at the other. Like the interface elements included to ease city construction, the meter allows you more direct control by stepping back from the free-form nature of the previous title. The Creature is generally more helpful as well, running to and fro to assist your citizenry with their tasks and defending your walls from encroaching invaders.

On that note, placing nursing homes in your cities will make people happier but won't let you kill the enemy any more effectively. (Though the idea of crack trained granny ninjas is appealing.) Armories are the structures that allow you to build military units, platoons of swordsmen and archers. These platoons are your offense and defense, and along with your Creature are your only means of waging war against your enemies. By placing a flag from an armory, you call your citizens to arms and form a platoon. Platoons can vary in size from 10 men to more than 50. The number of able-bodied men available in that particular city dictates the maximum size of the platoon. Once you've formed your platoon, they start consuming a lot more food. They consume even more food when on the march, meaning that quickly your idyllic city will start craving grain.

This is where your evil side can quickly gain hold, as it's tempting to turn your cities into nothing more than food producing slave factories. Waging war at all is regarded as an evil act by the game, meaning that if you enjoy the combat elements of the game you'll gain at least some evility. Raising some platoons to take vacated towns is generally taken in stride by your enemy forces, but converting settled villages by converting their altar is not. Unfortunately. reactions to your military conquests are really the only response you'll get from the enemy AI. Battles are tumultuous and dramatic, with hundreds of individuals involved in final and climactic confrontations. The slow trickle of attacks you'll face, though, means that you can safely reserve your forces with no fear of a campaign unless you start one.

Besides the city-building and war-making, you'll also be presented with mini-quests or challenges. They're somewhat variable in amusement. On the upside, one of them features you acting in the role of catcher as projectiles are tossed your way. The switchup is that they're placental rockets, newborn lambs being shot from a very pregnant ewe. Less entertainingly is the task that has you tossing casks of beer from island to island. It's an easy to hit or miss task, and the last throw requires you to make your toss with a bad angle and no perspective on your target. Good or bad, they're welcome diversions from maintaining your city or moving your efforts forward against the enemy. Successful completion of the task nets you godly currency as well, allowing you to purchase new elements for your city.

Besides graveyards and better lodging, you can purchase some impressively godly things. Miracles allow you (or your Creature) to cast spells of healing, destruction, or plenty as you see fit. Epic Miracles can also be purchased, each with a dramatic effect on the environment. In a single deific moment you can raise a volcano beneath your enemies, shake their cities to rubble with earthquakes, or convert their people with the power of a Siren. These elements are beautiful looking icing on the cake, and are moments that can remind you of the level of power you're capable of wielding.

Above and beyond the gameplay, Black and White 2 is a stunning game with a unique soundscape. The production values of the Lionhead game are top notch, with an incredible amount of detail in every moment. While the hype for this game didn't include being able to zoom in to observe a worm in an apple, the freedom the game gives you to zoom in and out makes for some breathtaking views. Pulling back to observe the entire island you're currently on is as easy as pushing in to monitor a single citizen. The audio environment is just as lush, with warcries from clashing armies and crashing underbrush from deforestation adding highlights to gameplay elements. The musical cues are few and far between, but just like the original game are beautifully orchestrated.

Despite some gameplay frustrations, Black and White 2 is a solid experience. The design has stepped back from the free-form environment of the original, and I think the decisions made to allow for greater awareness and control were wise ones. While I wish it were possible to play as a 'good' god without going stark raving mad, in exploring the various moral decisions it seemed as though the mixed tactic of improving your city while raising armies was the most enjoyable way to go. If you enjoyed the first Black and White title you're definitely going to want to come back to the series, as the freedom and morality play aspects of the game have been woven successfully throughout the sequel. If, on the other hand, you didn't like the original you still may want to give this title a shot. The more approachable interface elements have removed much of the ambiguity of the first title. Black and White 2 is a game first and foremost, and nothing like a toy.

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Review: Black and White 2

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  • TMI (Score:5, Funny)

    by mblase ( 200735 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @01:23PM (#13873097)
    If your Creature (be it Cow, Lion, or Wolf) intends to do something, it vocalizes the intent via a large and obvious thought bubble. "I'm going to poop on those trees" might be something you see hovering over your critter's head.

    Please, please PLEASE tell me that there's no option for online, ah, "interaction" between different Creatures.

    Some of the things that a god thinks should remain mysterious.
  • by indros13 ( 531405 ) * on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @01:24PM (#13873102) Homepage Journal
    Despite some gameplay frustrations, Black and White 2 is a solid experience. Let's try a parallel: "Despite some graphic design frustrations, Adobe Photoshop is a solid experience." Excuse me? If gameplay is a problem, then this game is not ready to go gold, especially given the frustrations over the first version. Additionally, Zonk describes being a "good" god as completely boring and the AI as predictably dumb in war. For a game the promised open-ended choices, it's pretty sad to see that it's one sided in practice. I'd call that a major flaw more than a "gameplay frustration." Personally, I enjoyed the original immensely and found the gameplay just fine, so hopefully Zonk just has a different perspective. My problem with Black & White 1 was the bug that crashed the game every time you tried to save. I didn't have the time or patience to try to play through Black and White "savage."
    • Having played BW2 through from beginning to end, I can say that it is a very fun game. I encountered a few bugs, none of which were gamebreaking. It was a little disappointing in the later levels to have little flexibility as far as strategy is concerned, but the humor of being able to create 50 story high apartment skyscrapers that loom over your temples and fields more than makes up for it. Oh, and the fact that my cow insisted on "pooping on those defenses" and henceforth damaging my city walls with proj
    • The 1.1 patch fixed that, among other problems. Although, if you could save in 1.0, your saved games wont work in 1.1.
    • Despite some gameplay frustrations, Black and White 2 is a solid experience. Let's try a parallel: "Despite some graphic design frustrations, Adobe Photoshop is a solid experience."
      I'd say any game is going to have gameplay frustrations. Gameplay bugs might be better suited to what you're saying. If I keep dying in a FPS because I suck, that's a gameplay frustration. Certainly not a reason for halting the printing of the game.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @01:26PM (#13873120)
    Screw B&W - I want Populous and Syndicate back!
  • by Lordfly ( 590616 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @01:27PM (#13873121) Homepage Journal
    ...and I love it. I've managed to beat it once already, now I'm going through it again.

    This game really makes you feel "Godlike" than the last one; Your hand feels real, as it has a physical effect on things around. You can pick up almost anything, too... I dunno, it's hard to describe. The miracles are pretty sweet, too (The Siren, one of the later ones, is beautiful to watch).

    Your alignment seems less important this time around. There aren't as many morality quests, as the ones you do get are fairly cut and dry.

    Building a city is tons of fun, as is doing the war stuff... watching a 40 foot cow kick a platoon of the enemy down a cliff never gets old :)

    All in all I'm quite impressed with this Lionhead game, for once. I'd recommend it if you have a few hours a night to kill.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      . . . I'm curioius, the one complaint I've heard about the game is the RTS element of it being not up to the same standard as the general city building.

      What are your opinions on this?
    • Zonk didn't bother to take real screenshots for this review. The shots you see are older ones released to press during development. For instance, the evil cow doesn't even look like that anymore. So I hope someone doesn't think that's a really cool-looking cow and get disappointed that the actual game doesn't look like that.

      It should be noted that Lionhead intends to release modding tools to allow people to make their own creatures and skins. I miss my evil, scarred Rhino from the first game, and the li
    • by Angostura ( 703910 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @02:25PM (#13873652)
      The main problem I had with the B+W 1 gameplay was the sheer amount of graft I seemed to have to do to keep my civilisation running. No matter how much I tried to train my population (or animal) to look after themselves, I seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time watering crops, placing individual huts etc...

      Is that any better in version 2? I'd like the criters to get on with their lives more like Sim City
      • by bleckywelcky ( 518520 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @03:41PM (#13874398)
        It would be cool if you could train scientists and engineers, and have them manage and research such projects. They would work on their own developments. And then they could gradually grow to not believing in you. At that point you would have to decide if their really cool developments are worth keeping. Imagine if they developed something to produce 100% more grain. But everyone they shared their idea with lost some belief in you. Then you would have to decice whether to kill them off to prevent the loss of your believers, or try to keep the invention while ramping up your "recruitment" program. I haven't played BW1 or BW2, so maybe this does exist, I dunno. Sounds like a great idea to me though.
      • by markh1967 ( 315861 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @05:46PM (#13875848)
        I didn't like the first game for a number of reasons but liked the fact that it was essentially a battle of wills between the player and the AI.
        A typical gamer such as myself would click furiously doing everything and would inadvertantly train the AI to be lazy and rely on the player to do everything for them whereas non gamers would be more content to explore the world, spend time with their creature and generally play at a more relaxed pace mostly letting the AI villagers do what they wanted. The villagers seemed to be quite able to play the game themselves and would grow their villages and go about their lives quite happily with no player intervention at all if left to their own devices. This meant that any attempt to play the game like a traditional RTS would inevitably lead to the villagers getting lazy and waiting for you to do everything for them rather than doing it themselves.
        It was quite funny to see that, rather than training the AI to look after itself, some players found themselves being trained by the AI to do everything for it.
        • The problem I found is training the AI to take care of itself is considered an evil act...
          Even though I never cast an attack miracle, threw a stone, or did anything someone would consider "evil", the fact I didn't babysit my towns giving them housing 24/7 meant they always had a desire. While my creature spewed rays of holy sunshine out his arse, my god hand looked like it really had been severed and my temple could poke your eye out just by looking at it.
          I never once found out what a good temple looked lik
  • by Gaewyn L Knight ( 16566 ) <> on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @01:32PM (#13873161) Homepage Journal
    I hope upon hope though that they have fixed the game save issues they had with Black & White. Several computers I tried it on you never could save at all and the computer it would save on would often corrupt the save game after 3-4 worlds.

    Black & White 1 rocked... but fighting crud like that made it get old fast.

    Here's hoping Black & White 2 fixed all that.
    • Can you tell us more about the systems you ran into problems with? Were they all running a common version of Windows, for example? I cannot say that I have ever run into such problems while playing that particular game. It has always been rock-solid, unlike most EA games, for instance.

      • Used it on Windows 95/98SE machines... oddly enough it was my 10FPS laptop that it would play on. I had 2 desktops it would play the intro and then freeze because it went to save immediately. Then had 2 I could play the first 5 minutes and then it would lock up in the autosave. Never saw any correlation between OS and working/non-working but....

        The released a patch to "fix" it but it didn't... I have a newer release they put out in the 10$ game category and it seems to be better on most machines but I stil
        • I had problems where the 1.1 patch still froze and left the Giant Creature on the mountain unable to interact, while I was still on the first island. Right before the evil god sets him on fire!

          Which was annoying, in that there is then no way to get to the next level without that animation sequence.
    • The saving problem was fixed in the 1.1 patch, among other things. The only problem is you cannot use 1.0 saves with the 1.1 patch.
  • by CyricZ ( 887944 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @01:32PM (#13873169)
    Does this game play well with Wine, or any of the Wine derivatives, on a fairly modern Linux system?

    • I could never get B&W 1 to run under Wine, even with Cadega. It would install, start and then explode in a shower of jerky graphics and fail.

      According to the onlie info I found, this was pretty much the typical experience. I'll have to try it under the new wine code release and see if it finally works.
      • I got B&W 1 running very nicely in Cedega - right up until you have to evacuate the first island. At that point it crashed hard. Even the various updates didn't fix that, and after running through the tutorial a few times too many I got fed up with it. Haven't played it since, actually, since my save games kept getting corrupted even in Windows. Incredible game, but even with the later patches I was never able to get very far in it. Might have to pick it up again and see if my current system runs it any
      • i found it hard enough to get B&W 1 to run correctly in WinXP. Until i cracked it... Then it worked fine. Copy protection just seemed to lockup on my XP install. Never know, give it a try under cedega, might help.
      • I could never get B&W 1 to run under Wine, even with Cadega. It would install, start and then explode in a shower of jerky graphics and fail.

        So you're saying that Cedega emmulated the Windows experience perfectly?
    • Using Cedega 4.4 there isn't any apparent problems.
      I've installed B&W 1, and it works fine. It is rated 4/5. Game settings won't be saved over sessions and setting to lowest may cause crashes. But apart from that it runs fine for me. I've never had a crash specific to me using linux. The only problem is the performance loss there is.

      My system is debian 3.1, unstable, linux 2.6.12, with some fairly new/standard hardware (geforce fx 5600, 512 mb ram).

      But I have nothing to say about B&W 2... I would lo
  • Multiplayer (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Does anyone happen to know if they will be adding multiplayer to B&W2 in a future patch?

    I found many parts of B&W2 rather annoying, mainly because the enemy AI is terrible. They will sit outside your city with armies, never taking the offense and attacking you when you aren't ready.

    Multiplayer would at least allow me to enjoy this game more.
    • No multiplayer? Gaahh! They just lost a sale. I just spent 5 hours last night playing B&W against someone. The game was dismally unpopular for multiplayer, because the games take hours upon hours to finish. I was hoping they had fixed multiplayer in B&W2, but I guess not.
  • by gseidman ( 97 ) <`gss+sdot' `at' `'> on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @01:34PM (#13873180)
    Yes, a Mac version is in the works (being ported by Feral Interactive []). Of course, there is no stated release date on the press release [], but what can you expect?
  • The Creature (Score:5, Informative)

    by TGK ( 262438 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @01:35PM (#13873189) Homepage Journal
    I've been playing with Black and White for a while now and, while the game is impressive, there are some worthwhile complaints.

    First, all replayability (if that's a word) is derived from going through the same storyline each time. You can change your behavior or your creature's, but ultimately there is no multiplayer capability and no "skirmish" capability as most of us are used to it in RTS games.

    Second, the game, much like the first, as a tendency to want to overeducate the user. Skipping the tutorial section is optional, but you're still bombareded with tutorial style quests throughout the first two lands. Moreover, many of these quests are tied to Tribute, a strategic asset in the game. Skipping the quests, obnoxious as they are, hurts you in your godly persuits.

    Third, your citizens desires aren't terribly clear. There are certain desires, such as a want for grain, ore, houses, etc which are obvious. Other times, your citizens want more free time, or more sleep. No where in the games documentation do we find out how to give citizens more sleep... and while things for people to do DURING their free time abound, there's little in the way of methods to create it.

    At the same time, B&W has other excelent characteristics. The creature is less personable than in the previous version, but is also more intelligent. He helps now more than he hinders. I for one spent most of my time in B&W1 trying to get my creature not to destroy everything.

    Overall the world as presented is spectacular. While it's easy to be distracted by the constraints placed on what is supposed to be a God game, the fact of the matter is that a great deal of freedom exists in the B&W engine. If you can get past the tutorials and deal with the fact that you can't just toss a fireball into an enemy city on a whim, the game is a lot of fun.

    I'd highly recomend it. On a side note, I'd also highly recomend making sure your PC exceeds the system reqs quite substantially. By all accounts, the estimations of Lion's Head as to what runs their software are off kilter.
    • Re:The Creature (Score:3, Informative)

      by HarvardAce ( 771954 )
      Other times, your citizens want more free time, or more sleep. No where in the games documentation do we find out how to give citizens more sleep... and while things for people to do DURING their free time abound, there's little in the way of methods to create it.

      I was confused at first too, until I got to the tutorial about changing time. When you attempt to change the time (by clicking the action button on the sky), you'll see a clock. In the afternoon time, at about 3 or 4 o'clock, you'll see an icon

    • The desire for sleep and free time comes from the citizens being over worked.
      Once your town reaches a certain point of efficiency, the people don't have to work as hard, and thus complain less. I find them complaining about it more in the beginning then any other time.
      You can let the people sleep or have leisure time when they complain by changing the time of the day on the sun dial in the sky to sleep or leisure time. You'll see icons for these times on the sun dial, I don't recall right now what they w
    • You can give your citizens more sleep by left-clicking in the sky and manipulating the time of day. A nifty feature, but the only way to learn about it is to click on one of the various tutorial scrolls on the second (or was it third?) island.
    • I thought you had to change it to nighttime to make the people sleep. Not 100% sure tho.
    • I loved my old creature! I had an Ape. I did have some trouble with him at the beginning, but once I taught him that he could eat grain, it wasn't so bad. He did get hungry a lot, though... So I'd come over, give him some grain, rub his belly 'till he ate it, make him happy. We'd play with the beachballs (he did have a tendency to eat them, though), I'd leash him to a friendly village so he could help out (and raid their stores) - it was a good life.

      It took me about a month before I realized that I'd t
      • by _xeno_ ( 155264 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @03:18PM (#13874142) Homepage Journal

        I never really spent any time with my creature. I managed to teach him not to eat villagers, and even taught him how to grow forests (he'd go, grab a tree, stick it some place, and then cast Miracle Water on it until he had a forest).

        However, whenever I had my back turned, and he was with my villagers, the party would start. He'd start picking up villagers and putting them back down, flagging them as Breeders. I'd be over some place, dealing with crops or grabbing trees to build buildings, and he'd be over by the town, making breeders.

        So when I finally came back to my town, I'd discover that all my villagers were now engaged in a giant orgy of kissing, centered around my creature, who would occasionally dance.

        So I tried to teach him to stop making breeders. I slapped him for picking up a villager. In return, he decided to eat them. (Again.) Trying to discourage that behavior, I succeeded in making him afraid to poop.

        It was around then I decided I was through with Black and White. And, unfortunately for Lionhead, the primary reason why I'm not getting B&W II.

        • <blots tears from eyes> Too funny!

          It's so nice to play a game where you're not merely applying some complex strategy by rote. From my point of view, the Creature really did have a personality of its own. Even if I was frustrated by it, it was still wonderful - Tamaguchi on a divine scale...

          Too often, our games don't have any personality to the gameplay. I think the creature really changed that. The realization that my Ape was so lazy really made me realize what a great game it was!

    • As per the Lionhead forums, multiplayer capabilites will be released as a patch.
      • The consenus on the Lionhead forums seems to be that multiplayer and skirmish modes will be released as a pay-for expansion pack rather than a free patch.

        This is quite disturbind that LH could release an in-complete game and charge for features that should have been present in the first place (at least single-player skirmish).
    • Does the game throw any nasty surprises at you, like how the first title *took the creature away* from me just as I had gotten it acting somewhat useful? I spend hours on this damn creature, advance to the next level, and suddenly it's gone and they expect you to spend hours and hours conquering towns just to get the creature back. Screw that, it's easier to turn off the game and play something else.

      *ahem* But it was a serious question, as that was my major reason for hating the first game. Does it thro
      • Not as far as I know. Now keep in mind that I started with version 1.0 and patched half way through the game, so I've still not seen the other side of level 4.

    • At the same time, B&W has other excelent characteristics. The creature is less personable than in the previous version, but is also more intelligent. He helps now more than he hinders. I for one spent most of my time in B&W1 trying to get my creature not to destroy everything.

      This is, in a nutshell, why I liked the first B&W -- seeing what stupid thing I'd have to break my creature out of next!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    An OK game, but c'mon, why did I have to hear my creature taking a crap all the time.


    I play games to escape, not to walk around with a monster bag.
  • Shame that they've still kept the Tamagotchi-like 'Creature'; who wants to train a Cow-Wolf when you can cause Volcanoes?

    Also, why does a god have to waste time performing the harvest etc.?

    Shame, because the idea had potential.
  • Peter Molyneux created a pretty nice game in B&W (the original). Graphics were great for their time, nice playability, etc. The problem was the philosphy behind "NO BUTTONS".

    I can't say I remember 100%, but I know you had to draw circles and squares and such in order to use a skill or spell or something. This is total stupidity, especially when it is just easier to click a button.

    If game developers decided to start innovating GAMEPLAY which *was* done with B&W, there wouldn't be such an inherent nee
    • i have to disagree with your opinion.
      the no-buttons thing was actually quiet good! i loved to play the game without stupid things that only steal screen-space... it was nice to have those beautiful graphics with nothing else on top.
      the fact that you had to make gestures with the hand was also a good gameplay thing, because they ARE SPELLS... its magic man! :) just clicking a button a do it its half the fun...
    • The entire point was that it meant miracles couldn't just be tossed out without thinking. They were akin to special moves or combos in a fighting game, they required a certain amount of skill and precision to cast and were something to be practised to allow you to become more adept at them.

    • I liked the philosophy behind no buttons, it made the game unique. People grumble too much about it, when they should realize that in the end it probably did not impact their experience as much as they thought it did.

      At first, I thought mouse gestures in a game were stupid, now they're everywhere, even available in Mozilla.
    • Err, the point about using the gestures was that you had to learn and practice to be good with them; particularly in combat when rushing the spells sometimes go wrong. I personally thought this was a bloody clever aspect to the game-play. Much more involving that simply clicking an 'annihilate enemies' button.
    • I totally have to agree, but I can see that it did serve a purpose. It slowed the game down, and made you think about what you wanted. Sometimes, it was difficult to draw the shapes in the heat of the moment, and my feeling that the AI god cheats compounded that issue for me. I swear he got tons of free resources--and the AI moves WAY too fast for a human to compete--not that it's necessarily very smart, though.

      If it weren't for the carpal tunnel inducing nature of the glyph drawing, and the scrolling, z
  • A marriage of Nintendogs and Age of Empire? Let's get real here, Black & White predates Nintendogs by some margin. If anything, Nintendogs would be the divorce of Age of Empire from Black & White.

    But not really because it's a poor description, anyway.

  • Another review (Score:3, Informative)

    by Kaimelar ( 121741 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @01:44PM (#13873272) Homepage
    Eurogamer did a review of B&W2 recently at 124 []

    Based on this, I'm not sure I'll be picking one up. I think having more feedback from your creature is wonderful -- this was one of two complaints that stopped me from finishing the first one. It just became too frustrating to train my creature.

    The other complaint I had does not seem to have been fixed -- the bullshit quests. You're a *god* -- why are you having to find lost sheep or bring wood to a bunch of sailors?

    Of course, I'm also pleased to see that Peter Molyneux continues to do interesting, innovative work. I might give him the benefit of the doubt and get a copy of this game anyway.
    • Why would anyone give that man the benefit of the doubt after B&W and Fable? He promises the moon, and delivers a hunk of limburgher every time.
    • Re:Another review (Score:3, Informative)

      by maxpublic ( 450413 )
      The other complaint I had does not seem to have been fixed -- the bullshit quests. You're a *god* -- why are you having to find lost sheep or bring wood to a bunch of sailors?

      Because you start out as a pathetic, minor, forgettable little demigod and can only achieve greater status by increasing the number of people who worship your ass - which requires that you actually do something for them, else they'll find some OTHER pathetic, minor, forgettable little demigod to worship.

      Just because you're a god doesn'
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @01:45PM (#13873277)
    For those who haven't figured it out yet, even the opening logo is "playable". When you see the Lionhead Studio "bucket" appear, click your left mouse button and start waving it around.
  • by giblfiz ( 125533 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @01:46PM (#13873286)
    critics referred to it as a toy
    Last I checked video games were supposed to be toys.
  • by RexRhino ( 769423 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @01:50PM (#13873332)
    Black & White was one of the most original and creative games ever made. It introduced a whole slew of gameplay elements not seen before, and was truly brilliant.

    Unfortunatly, it just didn't PLAY that well. I wanted to love it! I wanted to tell people how great of a game it was. It SHOULD have been one of the greatest games ever because of the creativity, and quality of production. I have no problem saying a game isn't good when it is clearly a low-budget ripoff, or another lame first person shooter. But it is another thing to say a game isn't good when it is clear that the creaters didn't sell out, and truly tried to push the boundries and create something new and great.

    Hopefully Black & White 2 corrects these things, but from the reviews it sounds like it still has some problems.
    • My problem with B&W wasn't the gameplay. It was the bugs.

      Despite the huge amount of effort Molyneux and co put into it, the game ran like compressed crap. It crashed frequently and had a memory leak like Niagra Falls.

      There was a patch that fixed *some*, but certainly not all of the crash bugs, but it also contained a lot of code that 'fixed' PVP balance issues. Unfortuneately, these changes made the single player game almost impossible to play.
  • Black & White, ugh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slackmaster2000 ( 820067 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @01:58PM (#13873397)
    I suppose this is a bit off topic.

    I'll always remember Black and White as being one of the most emotional gaming experiences I've ever had.

    At first the game was amazing, simply amazing. We immediately bought copies so that everybody could play. The AI was SOOO impressive. The graphics were great. The animation was clever and funny. The game was unique and bizzare. For days and days we played.

    But then after a few days we quickly realized that they forgot to make the GAME part of the equation fun. In fact, it was less than fun, it was downright irritating, frustrating, annoying, rage inspiring.

    I have never played a game where I actually grew to HATE every aspect of it. I hated my creature and my only release was to torture him repeatedly. I'm not a hateful person, mind you, but I hated that zebra bastard who I had once found cute and entertaining. So yeah, he of course would rampage and burninate all my peasants, but I didn't care because I HATED my peasants. Needy good for nothing worthless sacks of shit that couldn't do anything efficiently but die. It wasn't long before I just destroyed everything. Everything. I even realized that I hated the whole game concept and I didn't really care about the outcome. Oh no you captured my creature? You can have the bastard, I'd rather play without him. Multiplayer was an terrible excercise in who cares. I played Dungeon Keeper 2 for quite a while so I was familiar with the concept of playing a game where the only thing in your direct control is micro-managing resources, but at least DK2 was fun. B&W missed the boat.

    After a week, maybe a little longer, we sold all our copies on eBay and I remember feeling GOOD as I was mailing them out. Not good because I got a fraction of my money back, but good because I'd never have to see that zebra's sour face or hear those whiney ass peons bitching and moaning ever again.

    I've played many games that turned out to be pretty bad, but this was the only one to actually inspire inner rage. Playing Black and White was about as much fun as dragging a cart load of cranky kids through a crowded Walmart.
    • I'm glad I'm not the only one who had this experience with the game. Really neat concept, fascinating AI... and absolutely horrendous to play. I despised this game. I tried to give it to a coworker's kid, and he gave it back. I vowed that the next time I had an urge to buy a game Molyneaux had anything to do with, I'd give a friend of mine $10 to kick me in the nuts instead. Just as much fun, and cheaper.
    • >> Needy good for nothing worthless sacks of shit that couldn't do anything efficiently but die.

      Now you know how it feels to be god. I'd say the experience was worth $43.95 plus tax.
    • Actually, it sounds like the game invoked raw emotional rage in you. Since games are often compared as works of art, this can only be seen as an undeniable success on behalf of the creators. Artists love to invoke intense emotion in the viewers of their works. And it looks like Peter got you good :)

      Now the aiming system in GTA:SA is another issue altogether. That thing is a piece of shit, and it most certainly is not art.
  • by millisa ( 151093 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @01:58PM (#13873410)
    I played B&W2. I am *not* a super-gamer. I finished it from start to finish in maybe 9 hours of game play, a large quantity of it being repetitive and somewhat boring.

    The game is *very* pretty. If you have the graphics card and a nice sound system, you'll have some wow factor. But game play? Come on. The AI is downright stupid. The enemy creatures get 'stuck' looking at trees because they lose their pathing when you close off your gates to your city. Their armys will stand there waiting for you to open the gates, but if the gates close, they stop. I got past peekaboo early on in life and just playing it with an army until it gets close enough for archers to take out doesn't do much for me.

    What's worse is I completed every single quest (barring a couple that would have switched my alignment) and I finished this game in less than a half day's worth of playing.

    I'm sorry, but 50 bucks for something like this? Just for pretty graphics? I want my money back. (on the other hand, I didn't get any save crashes).
    • 9 hours is less than a half day's worth of playing for you? Holy crap you have a lot of free time. 9 hours is at least a week for me.
    • I didn't think it was very fun and I agree the AI is very stupid. The pathing AI is bad - I had to constantly micromanage my units who wouldn't do what I told them. Trying to build walls around my cities was an exercise in frustration due to the rubber band effect. Get the walls to line up and close was a problem.

      As you say, simply opening / closing gates around the cities caused the enemy AI to charged / flee. All you need to do it put archers on the walls and toggle the doors and the enemy will be picked

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I thought "Look to the cookie"!

    "The thing about eating the Black and White cookie, Elaine, is you want to get some black and some white in each bite. Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate And yet somehow racial harmony eludes us. If people would only look to the cookie all our problems would be solved." - Jerry Seinfeld, Seinfeld (The Dinner Party)

  • by Speare ( 84249 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @02:04PM (#13873462) Homepage Journal
    I loved everything about the first Black & White game, except the frickin' pet. If I wanted one of those Tamagotchi (egg pal) electronic pets, I'd buy it on a keychain. I want to be a 'god' to my 'creation,' not an obedience school to some baby mothra knockoff. I want my 'worshippers' to follow MY vengeance with fear and tribute, not cringe at the Second Coming of the Great Big Teddy Bear. Too bad this is Black & White & Pet II, not a real god game.
    • My thoughts exactly. My brother would actually play the original Black and White up to the point where you could start skirmishes, but BEFORE you chose a creature, just to play the game WITHOUT the thing. The thing I hated the most about that game was micromanaging the stupid creature. The most annoying thing was that slapping the creature would actually effect the surroundings. I've lost track of how many buildings and villagers I crushed by slapping my creature - usually because he had just eaten a vi

  • by TrevorB ( 57780 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @02:14PM (#13873545) Homepage
    Alright everyone, admit it, you're trying to waste time reading other game reviews trying to pass the 24 hours for Civilization IV is released...
    • Squirt some more leamon juice in my paper cut, pal.

      Yes, yes, I admit it! I'm weak!

      Me: Hi, I'm Number 6.2, and I have a Civilization Problem.

      all: Hi 6.2!

      Dr. Meyer: Here, take these two tablets and call me in 2000 years...

  • by DavidLeblond ( 267211 ) < minus pi> on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @02:18PM (#13873584) Homepage
    The only way I found to win a game during Black and White 1 was to toss my creature's poop at the opposing side's food supply. As soon as you landed one in there, game over!
  • I have had nothing but trouble trying to get this game to run properly on any of my different PC's.
    First off, it requires Pixel shader 1.1 support on your video card chipset, which many Nvidia cards do not support(I know many of them do, just not some of mine)
    List if Un-supported Nvidia cards []
    Secondly, you are going to need a newer generation video card with 256 Mb minimum.
    My first PC has 128mb geforce MX, 512Mb ram,2.6Ghz intel , and the game will not start due to the pixel shader 1.1 issue.
    My other pc
  • Black & White was awesome -- I was sadden that they added an interface with point and click buttons. casting miracles was part of the fun of the game...if you sucked at doing it, you were going to get owned by he who could cast fastest. plus, there was shortcuts like the R key for 'repeat miracle' that helped B&W 2 seems fun, except for the fact that there is ak nown bug on NVIDIA cards that it runs like crap by default due to the pixel shaders. I had to edit my graphics.config and change
  • by Durzel ( 137902 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @02:46PM (#13873838) Homepage
    One thing I would say is that whilst the game is technically and graphically very good, the amount of micro-management required even with just two or three townships under your control on a map is too onerous.

    The enemy AI, not unlike games like Command & Conquer, becomes fixated on constantly attacking you very early on in the game to the point where you barely have any other time free to do much else. This coupled with the fact that you have to manually create armies to defend your bases just adds to the frustration. You can assign your armies to defend certain structures, but any force that does not pass directly through this defensive circle is just left unchecked to wreak havoc. If an army manages to get past a group of archers, well.. they just sit back and watch them maraud through the town.

    The collection of resource is another annoyance. You can have several storehouses (structures that store wood, grain and ore - required to feed your people/armies and build other structures) but invariably one will sit there near empty whilst the others are completely full up, even if they are placed adjacent to eachother. Again, managing this requires you to take time out and move resources around manually - something the AI is plainly incapable of doing.

    It is also not always immediately obvious what the mouse is positioned over, and it can be frustratingly difficult to isolate something quite small when there are other objects that can be picked up in close proximity. Picking up individuals, for example, when your population is quite high can be annoying at times.

    There are also a number of faults in how the A.I reacts to events. For example, you could position an armada of archers on your walls and towers, and if positioned correctly the enemy A.I will continue to send armies along a fixed path straight in the firing line. I counted at least 10 times where this occured (the A.I never seems to learn that its last brigade got massacred before even launching an attack themselves), before the A.I - I'm sure by chance - got blocked by an obstacle and was forced to take a different route.

    Another key failing (although you could view this as intentional) is that it is difficult to earn "tribute" (essentially credits with which you can buy better structures) unless you follow the "good" path. Very early on in the game you are tasked with removing a boulder from someones garden, a task which - if you simply remove the rock - you are awarded a valuable amount of tribute. If you choose to disregard the persons cry for help, and instead throw them in the sea before depositing the rock on their house, you get nothing.

    All in all, a disappointing game unless you are a fan of extreme micro-management and practically zero autonomy.
  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Tuesday October 25, 2005 @02:47PM (#13873844) Homepage
    B&W was a great psychology experiment. Let me explain why.

    The most common complaint I hear about the first B&W was that the creature was too hard to train. So now it pops up bubbles explaining to you what it is thinking. The second biggest complaint was constant micromanagement of villages.

    I thought it was easy to train a creature: less is more. By the end of the first level I had trained my creature to heal hurt peasants, give them food if they need it, and water trees and fields in the spare time. It didn't take much effort and it was quite intuitive. And the creature did all the micromanagement for me. Brilliant!

    But on to my point about patience: I watched my 9 year old brother play the game. He spent 99% of the game doing stuff with his creature. Punishing him, rewarding him, giving him stuff to eat, etc. Whereas I spent 10 minutes out of each hour doing that. His creatures never acted on their own, they followed him around, they ate everything, they pooped on everything.

    I get the impression that most people doing game reviews have the attention span of 9 year olds. It wasn't the game's fault: these reviewers need to go back to playing Quake 3 because they fingers were twitching too much.
  • I'm not an uber-gamer anymore, but b/c I enjoyed B&W1, I bought this game.

    While my machine is on the lower end of the specs for the game, I believe I'm well within tolerance. So far, I have had crashes involving the start of the game, clicking on scrolls within the game, and army battles.

    It's quite frustrating, really. And since I promised myself I wouldn't spend $300 upgrading my machine just to play a game, I guess I'm out of luck.

    As someone who grew up playing PC games (starting with Dungeons of Da
  • []

    Seems to sum it up quite nicely.
  • I learnt that it's very important to keep in mind that a man's visions with a game doesn't make him a good game designer. That's why they often have different designers and visionaries at modern game companies. I'd look at both B&W 1 and 2 for examples of this. And conversely, people with not too many new visions can be excellent designers. I could look at Diablo II for an example of this, in large based on the ancient Roguelikes, and also admitted to be so by the designers at the division formerly know
    • human's collective minds (Diablo II)

      Sorry, I meant "collecting" here. Was talking about the huge item focus of Diablo II. Most I've heard that like the game still plays it for that, and for many it's addicting as hell. So I wasn't suddenly mixing in the Borg into this discussion. :-)
  • Biggest problem in the original game was that it was somewhat awkward to use anything but a mouse. I had difficulty using my trusty wrist-saving Logitech Trackman FX Marble to cast spells, throw things, and compete in some of the contests (e.g., bowling). There was talk from the developers about how the new version would get rid of some of the mouse-ballet-dancing annoyances in the original.

    Unfortunately, B&W II seems worse for trackballers overall. Spells are more point-and-click, but elementary m

  • Taka!
  • In a single deific moment you can raise a volcano beneath your enemies, shake their cities to rubble with earthquakes,

    Heya! They reinvented Populus!

    Nah, just kidding. There ain't any new game ideas coming out of any major dev studio anyways, so I'm happy if they do some old stuff in a good way. It looks interesting, but it definitely has lost the "wow, this is a cool, new and unique idea" bonus.
  • First off, black and white 2 is fun. The combat is simplistic like previous bullfrog games, but that didn't stop them.

    Now, I have a fairly beefy computer. Not brand new, but beefy. Dual athlon 1600s, 512mb DDR, GeForce 6800 GT, SBLive... This barely hits the minimum specs for the game. And those specifications are low. Exceptionally low. By the time you exit the tutorial, any mediocre city bumps the ram consumption near 480meg. Fine fine, I'll bump the details to nothing, turn all of the shiny things [and

Civilization, as we know it, will end sometime this evening. See SYSNOTE tomorrow for more information.