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Black and White 2 - The First 15

by Nick Haywood on 17 October 2005, 10:53

Tags: Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA), Strategy

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The First 15 Minutes - Black and White 2

Black and White 2 – The first 15 minutes

On loading up Lionhead’s long awaited sequel to Black and White, you’re greeted with the same video intro from the first game, which is a little disconcerting. You do have to wonder, if the intro sequence is the same, just how much else of Black and White 2 is the same as the original?

Well, the answer is quite a lot is the same and if anything, the ‘improvements’ appear to actually lessen the depth of the game… But is this a good or bad thing? Being a massive fan of the first game, I reckon I’m one of the comparative minority who ‘got it’ and played the game to it’s fullest, instead of those who just belted through it ignoring all the sub-quests and the like.

After a little bit more than 15 minutes though, I’m left feeling very much like this is Black and White Lite, dumbed down and simplified for bigger commercial appeal. After the intro sequence you get a quick storyline update and you’re left saving what Greek followers you can from the rampaging Aztecs and then you’re into your first peaceful island to learn how to build cities and either care for or subjugate your people.

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The main emphasis seems to be on building cities either impressive enough to make everyone else on the island flock to your city or make them large enough to support an army to take other settlements by force. I’ve spent a large amount of time just placing various houses and buildings and making different types of disciples for my city’s needs, all of which are now accessible through a toolbar menu, something which the original Black and White was proud to not have… but here it is in the sequel.

Creature training has been made far easier or depending how you look at it, dumbed down too. Instead of having to keep an eye on the little sod to make sure he doesn’t eat a villager or poo on their houses, this time you just pull up the creature training menu and then either pet him or slap him depending on which action you have selected… Though this system let’s you quickly mould your creature to your wishes this removes a great portion of the depth that Black and White enjoyed… There’s no fun anymore in watching your creature figure things out… it’s like simply programming a robot instead.

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Everything now revolves around ‘tribute’, a currency you now need to use to gain new powers, housing types and pretty much everything else in the game. This makes Black and White 2 feel more like a resource collection based RTS than anything else… throw in the armies to take over other towns and you’re there, to be honest.

Graphically, Black and White 2 looks very good indeed, but you'll need a pretty high spec machine to run it in all it's glory. The HEXUS.gaming Test Rig ran the game quite happily at 1280 x 1024 with most of the bells and whistles turned on, but when the screen got busy there was a slight lag, which made picking up objects and interacting with the world a little tricky as the etheral 'Hand of God' that is your main interfacelagged just that tiny bit... Still, the water looked really nice, as did pretty much everything else. It has to be said that the villagers are still just as blocky and 'Lego like' as before..

So overall, first impressions are that this isn’t the stunning sequel we were expecting and perhaps it isn’t even a case of ‘more of the same’ either. For one thing, obvious by it's apparent absence, are the sub-missions or sub-stories, whatever you want to call them... Black and White had these by the bundle, from early on in the game. Who remembers the sailors? Or the Pied Piper?... I've yet to come across anything like that, so perhaps they're waiting later on? So all in all, and only more playing time will confirm this, first impressions are that Black and White 2 feels like ‘less of the same’, which is a unique feat for a sequel and a massive, massive shame.... let's hope I'm wrong.

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