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Black & White 2

Some of the people gather resources — ore, food, and wood — while others pray in a temple and a few pair off into couples who will produce more little villagers. I reach down and pick up a villager who isn’t doing anything; I drop him in a field and turn him into a farmer. Then I notice the gathering dusk and the people sleeping outside, so I grab a house, drag, and pull off a blueprint that I can drop anywhere to build a new home.

Ape-like creature kicking warriors.

Your Secret Weapon. A Creature takes care of enemy troops.

These decisions make the villagers happy, but I could have just as easily grabbed that person and thrown him against the side of a mountain, or I could have let homelessness become a bigger scourge. With enough power, I could even summon a terrifying earthquake, or I could rain meteors on the village. The choice is mine to guide my people with benevolence or rule over them with fear.

“One of our goals was to allow players to shape their people and even rip apart the land, if they wish.”

- Peter Molyneux, game designer

“We learned a great deal from making Black & White,” Molyneux observes.”We invited fans from around the world to contribute to a post-mortem of the game, and we found that the biggest mistake we made was that the player just didn’t feel powerful enough. He felt more like an errand boy playing in a sandbox world, not a powerful god affecting the lives of his people.

“So in Black & White 2, one of our goals was to allow players to shape their people and even rip apart the land, if they wish.”

Birds-eye view of a verdant island.

Wish You Were Here. The lands of Eden, as seen from afar.

The RTS Element

A green ring around the village indicates my sphere of influence over the Greeks, who were driven from their original land by the Aztecs and who prayed to me for assistance. Norse villages dot the landscape — they’re not under my control, but I must help my people enlist aid from them if they’re going to regain that land. Along the way, I earn tribute points for completing quests, such as figuring out the father of an unborn baby. (If I don’t, the woman’s father will demand wood from me as a dowry, since he thinks the local god must be the responsible party.) Tribute points also accumulate as I hit certain statistical benchmarks.

I can extend my sphere of influence and absorb the nearby Norse settlements one of two ways: By attacking their town centers and assuming control with brute force, or by increasing the wow factor of my village so much that the Norse will want to join us. I accomplish the former by conscripting my villagers into an army; the latter requires me to spend tribute points and resources on impressive buildings, such as an amphitheater or a skyscraper.

Cow-like creature sitting.

The End of Another Day. This Creature has found a way to sate its hunger, but don’t let yours eat all your villagers’ food. Well, unless you really want to.

Even if I take the nice god route, however, I’ll enter into combat when another village inevitably attacks mine. That’s where the real-time strategy (RTS) part of the game comes into play, and right on cue, a platoon of angry Norse soldiers decide to make a foray into my territory. Luckily, it isn’t a large group, and the few troops under my command immediately engage them. I join in with a few well-placed rock throws.

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“Since we have the hand that allows you to pick up and propel objects, it seemed natural to incorporate a physics engine in Black & White 2”

- Peter Molyneux, game designer

“Having made the decision to make the world more sophisticated and give it weaponry, adding an RTS portion seemed the obvious way forward for the game,” Molyneux notes as one of my rocks bowls over two Nordic fighters and three of my soldiers hack and slash another pair.”However, it’s always aggravated me in RTS games that the physics engines never worked properly. Since we have the hand that allows you to pick up and propel objects, it seemed natural to incorporate a physics engine in Black & White 2, so that’s what we did.”

Creature Features

The battle quickly ends in a victory for the Greeks, and I turn my attention to a circular structure where a large lion sleeps. (A monkey, a cow, and a wolf are also available.) He’s my Creature, another carryover from the original Black & White. As before, I can train him to be good or evil by giving him positive or negative reinforcement when he does certain things, but now I can also place him in a specific role — entertainer, gatherer, builder, or soldier — by putting a certain-color leash on him.

Warriors advancing in a field.

The RTS Element. Soldiers launch an attack.

Thus my Creature can truly become my right-hand beast, working to help fulfill my objectives while I’m focused on other tasks. I could have sent him into battle against those Norsemen, but my soldiers were able to handle the job and I decided to let him sleep for a while. Now I will wake him up and put him to work helping build an impressive building. A university sounds nice.

I’m not sure yet how I want to take over the nearby Norse villages, but when I finish that task, I’ll move on to the next land in Eden, where more difficult challenges await. In the meantime, I ask Molyneux how he likes to play the game.

Wolf howling in the night.

Bark at the Moon. Your Creature won’t just sit around; it will inevitably find ways to pass the time.

“It depends on what kind of day I’ve had at the office,” he replies with a smile that flashes deific sparkles.”If it’s been bad, it’s very satisfying to throw around some villagers, hit my creature, and destroy my opponent’s very carefully built up city, but usually I’m good and have spent hours of my life building up my cities and caring for my tribe.”

With that, he waves good-bye and begins to fade away. I check on my Creature, who’s busy with his work but is obviously getting hungry. He’s eyeing one of his fellow builders as a possible snack, but I have a lot of food piled up in the storehouse. Decisions, decisions…

If you liked this game, check out:

The good god.
Attention Deities

Find out what’s featured in the Battle of the Gods expansion pack included with the main game. And whether you tend toward the dark or the light, you’ll not want to forget to peruse our tips and tricks for beginning deities.

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