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    Black & White

    Game » consists of 2 releases. Released Mar 25, 2001

    A highly ambitious real-time strategy game, Black & White casts players in the role of a newborn god responsible for cultivating a loyal following of human worshipers and interacting with a sophisticated artificial intelligence in the shape of a large anthropomorphic animal.

    matthew's Black & White (PC) review

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    A Game For The Gods

    Black and White is essentially a strategy god sim with some tie-ins with Populous, a game also coming from the mind of one Peter Molyneux. But the similarities might just as well end there, from the interface to the complex Artificial Intelligence, it is safe to say it is different from pretty much everything out there. 

    The setting is simple: you're playing god and it's your task to convert as many nonbelievers to your cause as possible, and in turn, gain power. You can play a good god or a bad god, an evil master of chaos or a benevolent flower-power daddy - or any of the millions of shades of gray in between. By how you manage your villages and fighting opposing gods, you strive for ultimate control.

    From the beginning of the game, you know you're in for a treat simply because the game engine is unbelievable. Lush landscape presents itself from absolutely any direction, at any height. Zoom all the way in to check out the textures on a wild horse, or pull out to the atmosphere and get a feel for the land. With an innovative scalable graphics system, the important details in the terrain become evident as you get closer. The world is truly seamless, bereft of even the tiniest loading time. The result is truly breathtaking.

    Freedom of this form comes with its own take on navigation and control throughout the game world. Although the game gives players several ways to navigate the land (mouse commands, keyboard commands, hotkeys, bookmarks, etc.), the learning curve is fairly steep. Even some accomplished gamers will fight with the camera for a bit before it becomes comfortable. But considering the revolutionizing freedom of the game engine, this isn't really a flaw so much as a given.

    The complexity in the details is jaw-dropping. You are able to actually zoom in to watch two 'breeder' villagers smooching. Not that you would. This extends itself to the interaction with the environment. You can pick up any random tree or rock and fling it across the horizon, inspiring awe and gaining belief points. Villager ticking you off? Pick him up and drop him into the ocean to teach your followers a lesson. Don't just cast a fireball - hurl it. The physical joy of actually moving the mouse to throw things around heightens the immersion tenfold.

    This leads to just one of the revolutionary aspects of Black & White - the gesture based system. To cast miracles, you move the mouse in pre-defined geometric shapes, illuminating the land with your hand and powering up spells. It's simply brilliant and seems to make clicking on icons a thing of the past.

    Actually, you'll be hard pressed to find an icon anywhere, as the whole game is built without the use of a Heads Up Display or little windows, resulting in one of the most immersive games yet experienced. Hours pass and you'll hardly notice. This won't just piss off your girlfriend, it will totally demolish your relationship - which, I suppose, is the highest form of flattery for any game.

    The single player campaign walks you through a long, linear story, complete with optional side quests. It is here where the hook for Black & White appears – The Creature.


    You are able to choose one of three initial Creatures to nourish, teach and instruct from infancy all the way to  lumbering, jaw-dropping Godzilla-ness. The Creature acts as a physical manifestation of your godly presence. By petting it gently or backhanding it, you can teach it to do just about anything, thus showing your godly might amongst your followers, as well as those belonging to other gods.

    The AI here is nothing short of evolutionary. Not like a Tamagotchi, it will act independently to feed itself, relieve itself, and do, just about anything. Guide it to develop a taste for enemy villagers and you’ll see it run into their village for a midnight snack. Teach it to cast spells and it'll act like a gigantic Merlin. Heck, you can even instruct it to crap in the ocean. These extreme range of behaviors and the seeming randomness of it all means your Creature is capable of doing anything at any moment. Essentially, it's a piece of code that truly acts like a living thing.

    For example, I taught my avatar cow to cast a water miracle. So captivated is he now that he's a virtual gardener, almost obsessively watering villagers' crops and forests, helping me in earning belief points while giving them more food. He also just happens to be the world's best fireman. Everybody loves firemen.

    When two creatures collide, they can fight in the form of a death circle fight, complete with the campy kungo fu background music. And over time, your Creature will grow . . . and grow . . . and grow, eventually reaching titanic proportions. The hilarious sight of a gigantic cow and an enormous monkey duking it out atop a mountain peak is nothing short of fine art. It's almost like having your own private Monster Island.

    Perhaps the games only major flaw, Black & White is at times excessively heavy on the micromanagement. Your villagers aren't particularly independent, often unable to even build houses without your needed divine intervention. The problem here is that the game isn't really designed to make this easy. It seems like the developers almost wanted you to be completely involved with the minute details.  But we are to keep in mind a fact that Black & White is, at its core, a real-time strategy game, so a problem such as this does not completely blindside you.

    The two main resources you will have to deal with are food and wood. Supplying your villagers with enough of each is a definite necessity and an occasional pain in the ass, as it is repetitive and repetitive. Even though you play a god, you cannot click, drag, and highlight a group of villagers - you have to pick them up one at a time and give them specific tasks. You cannot really set up supply lines, meaning an unnecessary amount of time must be spent dealing with galling day to day details, much like finding wood to create scaffolding just to build a measly house.

    As you can suppose, this can become frustrating.  One suggested way was to train your creature in these details.  Taking care of all the minute details while you focus on the lay of the land, finding other gods’ kingdom and subsequently, totally owning that other god.


    If the single player experience didn’t turn out to be deep enough, the game does have a multiplayer mode. Your task, should you choose to accept it: Prove to the world that your cow is THE Kung-Fu master!

    All of this is simply the tip of the iceberg. The complexities of the gameplay could take much much longer to explain. Black & White has captivated this reviewer with its ridiculously creative and unique gameplay, humor, and graphics. It's the type of game that comes around once every couple years and totally revolutionizes the gaming landscape. Awake pagans - there's a new god in town

    Other reviews for Black & White (PC)

      An Ambitious Experiment 0

      Few game developers have résumés as diverse as Peter Molyneux, current Creative Director of Microsoft Games Europe. A few games early in his career made waves critically and commercially—Populous and Dungeon Keeper spring to mind—but he did not truly blossom as an auteur until he founded Lionhead Studios.The first game out of Lionhead, Black & White, was to be Molyneux’s most ambitious title to date. In fact, I might argue that it is still his most ambitious game, which is saying something a...

      0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

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