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Black & White (Windows)

90
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.7
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Matt Neuteboom (941)
Written on  :  Sep 22, 2005
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars

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Summary

You may like it with just the black

The Good

This game is a true example of what AI is like. Your animal is smart, noticing every single aspect of what you do. Unfortunately, the people are dim-wits which leads to some disappointments. Let's look at the strategy that should have been more of a strategy game and less baby-sitting those dang villagers!

Obviously, you are a god who has been born through the needs of simple folk. You can help them by harvesting their crops, forcing them to breed :-), and basically telling them how they should run their lives. You know, like most Gods do. Eventually you can learn to cast miracles to help them like Heal and Rain. Others hurt enemies like fireballs and wolves. Some just impress them like flocks of birds and fireworks. However you have a creature to help you in all of this.

The most crucial aspect is this game is the creature, which you get shortly after you begin playing. You raise him from when he is as tall as a cottage to as tall as a mountain. They truly couldn't have created a better AI.

The point of the creature is to learn from what you teach him to do. He can learn miracles by watching you perform them, and once he does, will be able to cast them without you having to tell him to. Stroking him after a certain action encourages him to do that more, while slapping him discourages it. Through this an amazing system is born. Not only does he watch WHAT you do, but HOW you do it, WHERE you do it, and WHAT or WHO you do it too. For example, if he notices you healing the sick, when you teach him the heal miracle, he will heal only sick. But if he watches you heal healthy people, he will heal not only the sick, but the healthy as well when he learns the miracle. Another example of this is water. If he sees you casting the water miracle on farms to make them grow, but not trees, he will only use the miracle on farms. Or if you continually cast lightning on your own people and not your enemies, he will kill off followers by following your example and ignore your enemies.

Through this system comes the most amazing part. It is where the game gets its name: Black and White. The ability to choose alignments comes not from a screen selection but the actions you do. Good is basically good. Tend to ALL of your peoples needs, no human sacrifices, don't attack, only impress.

Being bad is much easier. Killing people is bad, but is truly not all creative. You can do much better. Torture people through starvation, burning alive, and sacrifices (big prayer power). Or better yet, burn the houses, and leave them without shelter. Kill all of the children in the village without much of a reason. Use your creature's poop to poison the village store, then burn the farms so none can be harvested! Teach him to play baseball with humans (it is possible)! Or even worse, sacrifice the dead. The list is endless. Being creative has BIG rewards in this department. In fact, this is probably one of the most fun things in the game next to teaching your pet to do it!

Teaching your pet good and evil is so much fun. Pets will follow EVERYTHING you do as long as they are near it. Tie him to the worship site and sacrifice some humans. Eventually he will learn this is acceptable and do it by himself! Burn some villagers. If it's okay, he will do it. Eventually he will grow horns and have a constant black aura around him. People will learn to fear him and obey him. Or he can be good, people will worship him and praise him, and so he will glow rainbow colors. This leads to the exciting possibility that your creature is praised and is glowing rainbow colors while your temples is growing spikes and the world is in infinite darkness.

Through the parenting system almost anything is possible. Teach him miracles, teach him to be bad, teach him to be good, teach him what to eat and what not to, where to poop and where not to. Its absolutely amazing.

The games sports some nice graphics, but it varies depending on a graphics card. I have a fairly bad one, but my creature, villagers, and structure models are absolutely amazing. However landscapes are a little blurry but are nothing to disappoint greatly. Anyway it goes, the graphics are decent even on low-end cards.

Sounds are decent to the game. The music is mostly soft flutes/violins playing in the background, while you hear children and villagers going about their daily business. Ambient sound effects are done nicely, and actually vary depending on what the villagers do (not just generic).

The Bad

Ugh. The game actually justifies a scientific truth. Most animals are smarter than humans. The creature is a wonderful thing. It respects you, plays with you, learns from you. You get to know it as a personal friend as though it really was your own super-smart companion.

The same cannot be said for humans. They are incompetent in almost every way. They are lazy, especially slow, dependent on your for everything. If you help them they become disillusioned and think you will keep doing it (yes, this is a part of the learning system we have come to love for the creature).

Tasks are normally assigned to them. Placing them over a farm makes them become a dedicated farmer. Over trees for wood, over workshop to gather wood for building, over a building to become builders, and over other people to become disciple breeders (how nice could it be to have God tell you your sole existence is too have sex!). However villagers tend to stray to much from their jobs if you help them too much (again, the learning system).

The worst part about them is how they breed. HUMANS BREED LIKE RABBITS, EAT LIKE LOCUSTS, DRINK LIKE ELEPHANTS, AND SPREAD LIKE WILDFIRE. Making only one male breeder can impregnate every woman in your village. This leads to overpopulation, starvation, and wanton need for more homes until there are no more forests, farms, or space on the map. Even making no breeders, those randy little humans will breed with anything that moves. How dare they mate without your consent!

Even two hours of complying with their needs will result in nothing. It works like a cycle. First they will naturally need food. Once they have this they realize they have room to breed! This is where the cycle can stop! However, as I said, they breed like rabbits and spread like wildfire, so nothing will stop them. More children lead to more nurseries and more houses. More houses need more wood. Once all this is done, the population increase will need more food. More food will cause an increase in breeding. One cycle of this for ONE village can take up to 2 hours! For one village!

Tooooooooo much work. Unlike that great game Populous, where as long as you laid a plan, people were perfectly organized. They did it with rapid speed and precision. They upgraded without even you needing to be there. It pretty much maintained itself. If that were the case with B&W, then it would win game of the year. Unfortunately, it doesn't.

Once you've done so much work with villages, this leaves no time for the creature at ALL. This is a great shame. The creature is practically the best part. Without any attention, he pretty much eats, sleeps, and poops all day, not doing much, and not impressing anybody.

The other part of the game which is disappointing is the fact that you don't build up an army. All converting is done through fear or respect. Pretty much miracles. Plus your creature. So what is the point of villages? Well, there is one point, and that is prayer. They just tend to ask for two much food, and starve. And even then human sacrifice will do just as well, probably even better.

After 3 levels of play, you are annoyed with the progression of play which is pretty much endlessly caring to villagers needs. You will find that once you have good enough spells, you can play skirmish. You can go around with your creature demolishing villages, which is insanely satisfying. Remember all the stuff you could do to torture them? Imagine how much more you can do with your creature. Play catch on a cliff. If he misses, down to the rocks below. If he catches them, offer him a reward: the villager as a treat! Destroying enemy villages is just as fun, except if you destroyed the other friendly villages and your own you will not have much prayer to cast miracles outside of your influence. Just let your creature handle it. He does everything nicely if you taught him right. You and your creature become an unstoppable team. After five hours of giving in to all of their TINIEST of needs, destroying the worshipers is the best stress management. Face it. They don't deserve your mercy.

The Bottom Line

The amazing creature teaching AI simply puts every aspect of parenting into a super-genius, giant pet of yours. Unfortunately, the people just lye around picking their noses wondering why the food store hasn't been growing and where the heck is God to take care of it.

In the end, though being good seems the righteous path, you cannot be good without being excessively annoyed. Plus, the few rewards you get for it (longer days, white temple, rainbow creature is pretty much the best parts) is NOT worth the hours of effort. So in the end, you may find your self giving up about half-way through or giving into the dark side and ruling the world the way YOU and your creature like it. This would make a great game in itself. Only you and the creature. Villages rule themselves. You just get prayer if they believe in you. But with great power comes great responsibility I suppose.

So B&W has its moments. But without the great self-reliant villagers of Populous, the worshipers really, really, bring this game's greatest features down. You may like it just with the Black- not the White