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Publisher: Feral Interactive    Genre: Strategy & War
Min OS X: 10.4    CPU: G5 @ 1800 MHz    RAM: 512 MB    Hard Disk: 5100 MB    DVD-ROM    Graphics: 128 MB VRAM


Black & White 2
June 24, 2009 | Michael Yanovich
Pages:12Gallery


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And that’s basically it. I tend to go down the middle of the road. I use good deeds to grow my civilization – even though they give me “good” points when I build houses for my villagers, I see it as selfish behavior because I want them to prosper so that I can build an army – for which I earn “bad” points – to defend myself from attack and to eventually march on neighboring towns. Of course, you can play any style you prefer, which is one of the game’s most appealing aspects.

In addition to your direct divine influence, you also have a pet, a large creature that adds quite a bit of flavor to the game. You can train your pet to encourage or discourage certain behaviors, or command them to do specific tasks, or just let them roam and do as they please, even if their desires sometimes conflict with yours (do you REALLY want your pet to eat your villagers and destroy your houses?). The choice is yours, once again. (For the record, I encourage my pet to eat just a handful of my own villagers every now and then. They need to be a LITTLE afraid of me. Though I have finally convinced him that pooping on the villagers – and no, I’m not making this up – is a bad idea. Still trying to get him to poop on the fields instead, to fertilize the crop. It’s been a tough lesson to teach him.)

It’s All In The Brain

Now that we’ve got the idea taken care of, let’s discuss the problem areas. Ugh. First off, the AI is dumb as a post. Really, it’s just plain stupid. This is only a single player game so you need the computer to offer up some basic competition, as human vs. human playing isn’t an option to up the ante. I mean, I had one situation where an enemy platoon was trying to take over one of my villages. The invaders had been almost wiped out and only two or three of them were left, and my large army and creature were there trying to put an end to the attackers.

Instead, the attacking platoon started running back and forth from one end of my village to the other, while my larger platoon chased after it. When the enemy turned around and went back the other way, they had to run straight THROUGH my soldiers and right past my creature, and instead of a slaughter my soldiers and creature reacted by turning around to chase after the ping-ponging invaders once again. The entire time the game audio was playing the “we’re under attack” bells, telling me that my village was being wiped out.

Another time enemy soldiers were gathered on one side of my village circle area, with my soldiers directly across from them. And the two sides couldn’t find out how to get to each other as there was a large, um, circle in their way. Neither side attempted to move around the obstacle until I manually added waypoints for my soldiers to follow.

You can consider these unique bugs more than blatant AI issues, but I see them as extreme examples of an AI that is all around in the bottom 25% of its contemporary peers.

What’s worse than the AI are the controls. The concept is clever, as your disembodied hand is used to move you around the map, grab items, throw items, order your units around… shame it doesn’t work well in practice.

See your army? Want to control a platoon? You gotta grab the flag representing said platoon. Yeah, that tiny red thing. OK, zoom in then. Better. No, don’t grab the tree right next to the flag, put that down. Never mind, the invaders are on you, pick up a boulder and throw it at them. Oh, boy, that rock went flying off in the wrong direction, didn’t it? Grab another one. Now quick, grab that tiny villager in the midst of all the other tiny villagers and assign her a task. You want her to work the mines? Fine. Shame the mines are near a forest and you keep turning her into a forester instead. Oh, you have the flag in your hand. Put it down. How? By shaking the mouse back and forth. OK, that didn’t work. Shake it again. Harder. Keep going. THERE, you finally dropped it.

Seriously, there’s a huge lack of precision in an interface for a game that requires extreme precision to win. All these issues can be overcome, but I keep wondering, why do I have to overcome them in the first place?

Sight & Sound

Graphics are nice, especially at higher resolutions. (How’s that for an obvious statement?) Really, I liked the graphics quite a bit at high resolutions but that brought my machine to a grinding halt at times. Yes, even with a newish machine and an older game. But at 1000 x 1600 resolution I had a decent middle ground of good images that filled my monitor and very playable frame rates.

The audio narration – your conscience will be a constant companion in the games – is very well done, as are the village sounds. Overall very good voice acting and good production values. Music is minimal for the most part.

Conclusion

I know it seems like I’ve been bashing on this game a lot, but the bashing is really over the little things. Well, other than the AI. But it bears repeating that I really do plan on continuing the game play, and once I finish the game I’ll move onto the included expansion pack, Battle of the Gods, which raises the stakes by giving the computer player a beast of its own, plus several new features and tweaks.

I really commend the developers for taking a big risk with this unique game style, and I look forward to what future installments might bring. If the interface can be brought to the next level, and if the AI can be sharpened, we just might see a truly great game, instead of a great concept wrapped around a good game.

Pros
• Unique concept
• Fun and challenging
• Tremendous flexibility

Cons
• Weak AI
• Clunky interface



Black & White 2
Publisher: Feral Interactive
Buy Black & White 2 now at MacGameStore.com


Pages:12Gallery




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