Digits & Dragons
Playing God: Black and White 2
How many games do you know that let you run a city, train a giant destructive cow, and
have near godlike powers? With features like that, how can you go wrong? Black and White 2
will give you all of that and more in a unique strategy game that will push your tactics (and
sometimes your patience) to the limit.
Our adventure begins when the noble Greeks are attacked by the savage Aztecs and they
flee into exile through portals which just happen to spring up out of nowhere. (Now, already,
you may be wondering why the folks at Lionhead decided to create an imaginary world but fill it
with people from random times and places belonging to this one. Well, I don't know, but I think
it may have something to do with the outrageous accents and pithy phrases you'll hear from the
Japanese later in the game.)
These wayward Greeks are in a pretty bad state so they begin to call out for divine help.
That's where you come in, bringing along your choice of a cow, wolf, monkey, or lion. Think
carefully on this decision: you'll have to put up with this beast for the rest of the game. In my
case, I chose the wolf, and although he tended to go off and do random things too much, he fared
pretty well in battle and ripped up tons of enemy soldiers.
With your help, the Greeks will regain their former status and your creature will grow
into a fearsome tool of war or peace. And through all of this, you will have a handy devil on one
shoulder and angelish thing on the other. Cliché? Yeah, but pretty funny too.
This motley crew is out to conquer the world
Keepin' the City Slick
While Black and White is known mainly for its creature management and omnipotent
powers, this is kind of deceiving. I quickly found that most of my time wasn't spent being the
all-powerful one or training my cute little minion but instead on building roads, buildings, and
Now, this isn't all bad. The pleasant graphics and busy people make putting up cities
more fun than about any other strategy game I've played. Unlike traditional strategy games,
however, there isn't really a whole lot the buildings actually do, besides looking cool and making
the neighboring towns jealous. With just three military units and a small number of spells, the
city building does get old towards the end of the campaign.
Cities look good and (usually) function without micromanagement
Your peasants do what they were born to do and mostly take care of the resource
gathering for you. When you get bored watching them slowly move from mine to construction
site and back again, you can always just rip up a tree or grab a chunk of ore and build the
building yourself in a few seconds. I found myself employing this strategy a lot early on but
eventually decided it was a lot more fun to keep the trees around to throw at people.
Speaking of throwing, I noticed pretty quickly how responsive the physics were. Rocks
roll down hillsides, arrows don't damage stone, and people thoroughly die when you throw them
Being God ain't what it used to be
You would think being a god would make growth and battle pretty elementary, but there
seems to be a lot of limits to the gods of this world. Your sphere of influence is limited to a
region around your town, so as fun as it would be to go ripping up enemy buildings, you'll never
really have the chance. Instead, you'll have to keep yourself content by helping your peasants
build buildings and harvest resources.
This doesn't mean that your influence is only peaceful; on the contrary, when enemy
soldiers get too near your base, then you can really have some fun. I think my favorite part of the
game was picking up stones and trees with my godly might and chucking them at incoming
armies. Chucking pieces of the landscape at your foes will take care of big chunks of the
buggers, but you can't rely on your own powers alone; you'll still need walls, soldiers, and of
course your creature.
Now, what would a god be without some miracle powers? As your people's love for you
increases, it will open the way for new miracles that can either bless your people or cause
ridiculous amounts of damage to your enemy. The volcano and earthquake miracles, for
example, can literally take out half of a large enemy city. Yeah, sound a little overpowered? It
is. I had to quit the game for a while after one of these disasters totaled my town. Pretty
annoying. But, on the flip side, anything they can do, you can do better!
As you make war or peace, and cause love or fear, your disposition will generally grow
more good or evil. One of the greatest parts of Black and White is that you can win levels by
being warlike or peaceful or through a combination of strategies: it doesn't matter if you're black
A Thirty Foot Tomagatchi
If you have heard of Black and White, you probably heard about the cool creatures and
the AI behind them. Well, this is one portion of the game that clearly separates it from any other
strategy game and with good reason. The destiny of your creature is totally in your hands,
literally. Your gentle petting or sharp slaps teach the creature which actions you approve of, and
he will usually respond accordingly.
I raised my wolf to be a generally good wolf; most of the time he spent gathering stones,
erecting buildings, and playing with the peasantry. When war time came, however, wolf-man
was always the first to the scene and when backed by archers he won just about every battle he
Between my wrathful hand and Creature's wrathful feet, enemy plattons were thoroughly smitten.
Keeping him on track was another matter… I often had to grab his leash and drag him to
an enemy invasion because he was too busy playing with his toy or sleeping in the forest. I
suppose it's my own fault for not raising him right. Maybe next time I should adopt a cow.
The levels are long and repetitive and the AI sometimes fails to impress, but Black and
White 2 gets my recommendation as a fun, original game. Raising a virtual pet has never been so
rewarding and really expands the strategy genre. Add in godlike powers and you have a game
built for the ages.