Black & White

Wouldn’t it be great to be a god for the day? Zooming around the world, burning bushes, parting waves, and throwing great parties where wine runs from the water tap and a loaf of bread goes a long way. And that’s exactly what Black & White casts you in the role of – it’s a god sim of the highest order, and should convert even the most ardent atheists. Part simulation, part real-time strategy game, Black & White places you in a 3D world filled with unbelievers and competing deities, where you have to battle it out with a combination of miracles, prayer power, and a towering creature that roams the land doing your bidding. No grey areas
What is unique to this kind of god-sim, is that the game adjusts to your playing style. There are no rules as such – you are a god after all – so you can choose to be kindly and merciful, or cruel and tyrannical. In short, black or white. Starting off with a small village of believers, you help them expand and grow using traditional real-time gaming means. By picking up villagers with the hand of god, you can convert them into disciples, and set them to task planting corn, building temples, gathering wood, or breeding more believers that will swell your power. You get your energy from their prayers and belief: form cloudbursts over drought-ridden farms or throw bolts of lightning onto the homes of heretics, and more people start to believe in you as you demonstrate your godly ways. You are also given a creature – initially you can choose between a cow, tiger, and monkey – which will help you with tasks. Towering above the land, it learns from you as you play, eventually helping you in tasks such as attacking other villages, or performing healing miracles on wounded followers. It’s also like a digital pet. You attach a leash to it, and then praise or scold its actions. At first, it might start eating the villagers themselves, and you can either smack it to show it the error of its ways, or stroke it to encourage more of the same behaviour. Black & White is quest-based. By reading magical scrolls, you are charged with missions that progress through a decently paced story, and involve warring with other gods, saving villages from disaster, or extracting your revenge on different religions. You also get two advisors – a devil and an angel – that help you on your quest and provide some comic relief. There are some shades of grey in Black & White, though. The interface is gesture-based, meaning you have to weave symbols on the screen to perform godly acts – only sometimes it’s a little hit-and-miss as to actually getting them. Movement control is also clumsy, with you often getting lost or swatting a few bystanders with a misplaced gesture. It’s also a long game that demands tons of patience to get rewarded for your efforts. A two-button mouse is recommended, although it’s more than playable with a standard Pro mouse.

OUR VERDICT

Black & White is a stunning game with complex artificial intelligence, deep storyline, and engrossing gameplay that will see you lose weeks of your life. Still, you can always repent afterwards.

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