Black & White 2
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An example of the cities you can build providing you keep people happy.

Black and White 2

Welcome to my first review. I do hope it's not too shabby, but today I'll be taking a look at the unique aspect of gaming that is Black and White 2, produced by Lionhead Studios and EA Games, and is the second of the series to Black and White.

Gameplay and Story

Black and White 2 follows you, the god, in your quest to guide the Greek people through arduous landscapes, worlds and scenarios in order to finally avenge the Aztecs who banished you from their lands as the start of the game. Be it through peaceful means or evil actions, your quest will have many difficulties as a people lie at your fingertips as you face the Japanese, Norse and Aztec tribe.

The predecessor, certainly follows in the footsteps of the series, but has seen somewhat of a twist. Like always, the player is the character of an unknown god and controls a hand with the ability to interact with almost anything - yes, I mean anything. This god-like ability to control certainly adds to the sandbox-feel giving an openness to explore and refreshing taste of gaming initiative. After all, there's nothing quite like throwing a puny human into the side of a cliff face at the speed of light. It is simple to use, requires only basic training and guarantees an interesting game with each play.

However, the addition of factions of people, the Greeks, Norse, Japanese and Aztecs, has dampened the god-like control. Instead of exploring a land freely and committing acts at your own will as we saw in the first, the player is solely to focus on building villas, public buildings, farm lands and torture pits as if it were merely a creation game. Think of the offspring of Age of Mythology and The Sims 2: this would be it! It also comes with the irritating balance scale of good and evil which can ultimately determine the fate of your game - an annoying worry disallowing any puny human smashing if you are to maintain a clean slate. This will dictate what kind of god you are and will reflect in the land you control as well as the people. No puny human smashing and green meadows for Guy.

The continued addition of owning a creature is another interesting aspect of the game which gives the responsibility of a pet. This feature can be barrels of fun - well, at least for a short while. Choosing between a wolf, cow, lion or monkey to wield as a god-creature is certainly an arduous choice, but feeding, tickling, training and punching - yes, punching - the creature is simply too much! The young beasts require a large amount of training before they reach any real level of dependency to assign them to a task such as "Gathering" without having to monitor their actions every few minutes. This goes hand in the hand with the fact opposing factions will often patrol your walls or attempt an assault (depending on your progress in the game) meaning there's no time for tickling any bellies. Try balancing several cities while cleaning up cow poo.

Citizens in the game have become much more interactive and will adhere to your almighty word. You have the ability to assign them as a farmer, mineworker, refiner and even a breeder - and there's nothing quite like seeing a woman give birth in the street then chop down a tree! Their mood in general, however, will affect your game dramatically so it is important to remain one step ahead building them taverns, shops and buildings they collectively require. An feature which took me a little by surprise after hearing my people cry "We need sleep!" is the ability to control the time of day. By simply clicking the sky, the god hand you control is able to determine whether it is the middle of a bright sunny day or a cold dark night. That'll shut 'em up!

The original idea of the game still lingers, however, and can still be enjoyed when fully utilised. An interesting story line and ability to do almost anything add to its fun factor and the purpose of defeating civilisations such as the Japanese, Norse and the ruling Aztecs leads to an interesting gameplay. Whether it be through peaceful intentions such as crafting impressive buildings, maintaining a good standard of living or just being simply awesome defines a great aspect of routes which determine a rightfully lengthy storyline to defeat the ruling Aztecs who almost destroy your tribe (The Greeks) in the first cut scene of the game. Evil is yet another daring path offering torture pits, crushing buildings and waging large scale wars with hundreds of soldiers.

Nevertheless, this is clearly a true Black and White game with plenty to do and plenty of time to do it in. Perhaps too much time...

Other

The development of "Tribute", the currency of the gods, is a further interesting and pleasing aspect of the game. The player is rewarded for their good deeds with this currency and his able to purchase a variety of buildings, readable insight books, miracles and even toys. This rewarding feature attracts a greater attention and I feel it definitely adds a certain degree of realism to the city building nature of the game. Be it a retirement home for the elderly or a bouncy ball for your creature, the menu has it all! Or does it? Unfortunately it can become quite limited after a short period of time due to the variety of buildings on offer. With a larger variety, this menu could prove to be an interesting factor persuading more to continue that little bit further for that little bit more.

The loading screens are often quite annoying as they are repetitive when browsing through menus and loading saved games. They also fail to inform the user clearly just how long is left to load. Quite an annoying and disappointing aspect often criticised in most games. This is one to add to the list.

Graphics

The graphical side to the game has certainly impressed me regarding what we saw in the first of the series. Its finesse details offered by the EA intervention have certainly stepped up adding a wonderfully detailed outlay of vegetation and crystal clear water effect.

The game is certainly not a competitor with the modern day games being produced today, but is not solely produced with the intention of defining the graphics to any great extent. However, the essentials of what a decent game would require are apparent with a welcomed change of "Windows 7" expectations rather than "Windows 95 graphics".

A sensible 512MB minimum certainly tells us the potential for this game is available and with maximum settings Black and White 2 defines the initiative to make that potential a welcoming reality.

My Specs AMD Athlon II X2 250, 3.0GHz
AMD Radeon HD 6570, 2GB
4GB RAM
Windows 7 Enterprise


Conclusion

I've owned the game for several weeks now and have enjoyed it thus far, but have felt it can potentially become quite repetitive. That said, I always try to create different scenarios and landscapes in order to revive the gameplay which is definitely successful.

Despite the negative issues, the original intention of the game is to create, build and govern. Although some god features have been compromised due to the vast array of additions to the game, those who enjoy Rome: Total War, The Sims series and games such as Age of Mythology will certainly be offered something from this evolving series. Buildings things is fun, smashing them is fun and the game offers both of these features! What more could you ask for?

Ratings

Story: 6/10. The story holds no real depth and is rather simple. It is semi-enjoyable, there are a branch of minor tasks and supports the ability to recreate the god-like features of the player, but it lacks the real depth of a story you'd expect, especially when Black and White offered this throughout the game.

Gameplay: 9/10. Extremely enjoyable and definitely worth the bargain price of £10/$16 you can buy it for - brand new, too. The gameplay will keep you occupied for some time as you explore your powers as a god, crushing things, throwing them and just being an utter nuisance. A sandbox of fun at your fingertips.

Graphics: 8/10. The game offers some new and in-depth graphics, especially in comparison to the first. However, the game is not necessarily one which you'd expect a great deal of detail from and plays no real interest to the player, however, the graphics it does offer certainly do not disappoint at all.

Personal rating: 7.5/10. Black and White 2 is a fun, enjoyable game which can be played for hours and still offer hundreds of different scenarios. It can, however, become quite repetitive and seem limited at times, but it nevertheless holds the uniqueness that others games fail to put forward and would offer an interesting third game in the series if were to produce one. A classic favourite of mine and shall remain proudly on my shelf! The game, I mean.

You interact with anything - literally! Throw it, flick it, love it.