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Black & White 2 PC DVD-ROM

Published by Electronic Arts
Developed by Lionhead Studios
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £34.99

Black & White 2, an introduction.

Black & White has to be one of the most hyped games in PC game history. Long before the game was released many games magazines were singing its praises and commenting on how it was one of the best games to date. When the game finally made it to the shops it turned out to be something of an anti-climax. Partly because of the bugs the release version had and partly because many gamers had simply not known what to expect; opinion on the game was divided and whilst some loved it, others just didn't like the game. Personally I think the game had a lot of potential that just wasn't realised. Here we have the long awaited sequel, Black & White 2, which may have received far less hype but is definitely a much better game.

What's the game about?

The story in Black & White 2 is focused on your people, the Greeks, and their impending doom at the hands of the Aztecs. Whilst you, their god, has been slumbering more and more people have been leading godless lives and have chose the evil way. Fearsome weaponry has been created and it's enabling the Aztec people to crush the Japanese, the Norse and of course, the Greeks. Some still believe in you and as the Greek people are on the verge of annihilation, it's a desperate prayer that calls you out of your slumber. Can you help the Greeks and put an end to the constant threat from the Aztecs?

What's good about the game?

Most of the game sees you building settlements and attempting to win over the rival settlements. You have two main choices for this. You can either build up a large army and take the nearby settlements by force or you can attempt to build up an awe-inspiring city that will lure inhabitants into leaving their current settlements or villages and coming to bask in your greatness. Of course taking the evil route is much quicker and is a very tempting option at times but the city building elements of the game have been done very well and luring inhabitants from other settlements or villages is a lot more satisfying in the long run.
It's not all about city building though and once again you'll have your own creature that can be trained to do your bidding. Looking after your creature is a lot more straightforward this time around. Thankfully you'll get to see what your creature is thinking (text appears in a speech bubble above his head), so it's easier to see what he needs or wants. You even have five different roles (free will, entertainer, builder, gatherer and soldier) for your creature to perform and you can leave him to get on with his role, which is great if you have other things to do. As in Black & White you also have those special tasks where you have to help a villager in one way or another. As with other parts of the game it's completely up to you if you help them out or simply ignore them. Keeping your people happy is highly advisable though as this will earn you tribute, which is effectively your currency for purchasing pet toys and miracles etc. Micromanagement was tedious in Black & White but thankfully it's not so much of an issue this time around. You can still help to harvest the crops and assist with the building etc. if you want to, but your people are quite capable of helping themselves. Perhaps the biggest improvement in Black & White 2 is that you have a proper interface. Black & White attempted to do away with a traditional interface and whilst this was a novel idea it wasn't very practical. Black & White 2 has a very helpful interface with an excellent toolbar (along with plenty of useful hotkeys) that help make everything much easier.

What's not so good about the game?

Out of the box the game isn't very stable and crashes back to the Windows desktop are frequent. However, a patch weighing in at 106MB was available almost immediately, which solved the problem and you are highly advised to install this before beginning a game as it will make your saved games unusable (the patch does give you fair warning of this before installation). Having played through the first couple of levels I was slightly disappointed to learn that the patch that would fix the crashes, would also lose my progress in the game. However once the game was patched the crashing problem was solved.

Black & White 2 is a real system hog and on running the game with an AMD 64 3200 with an ATI X800XT and 1GB RAM the game isn't as smooth as it could be. The cutscenes were choppy for me and load times were rather lengthy. I managed to borrow an extra 1GB of RAM for a few hours and noticed that with 2GB of RAM load times and the general smoothness of the game was significantly improved. Whilst the game packaging states only 512MB of RAM are needed to run the game, I wouldn't advise playing the game with anything less than 1 GB. The game itself, whilst being an improvement on the original Black & White, does feature a fair amount of repetition and whilst you usually have a choice of whether to be a benevolent or malevolent god it's usually a lot more time consuming to be take the benevolent route. Finally there is no multiplayer game this time around which will disappoint those who were looking to use their creatures to battle online like you could in Black & White.

How does it look?

Black & White looked great when it was released and the same can be said for this sequel. As we've mentioned above the game is a system hog and you'll need a really beefy PC specification to have the game running in all of its glory. The creatures in particular look spectacular when they are fully grown. The settlements, villages and cities all look very good and it's a testament to the game engine that even when you zoom in really close on your inhabitants they look quite detailed. The islands in the game all look great and there's some really nice effects here such as the ocean that surrounds your island and the dynamic weather, as well as the day & night cycle of course.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Subtitles can be enabled in Black & White 2 and the game will not give deaf gamers any problems. During the cutscenes and tutorials you'll notice that the subtitles are colour-coded which is excellent. The game uses a lot of icons to deliver information and again this is absolutely fine for deaf gamers. Your creature expresses his thoughts and desires in text so you'll always know what he needs or wants. Objectives are displayed on the top left of the screen so again you'll have no problems and will always be aware of what your goals are. The game features plenty of helpful tooltips and you'll find signposts that will reveal useful information when you click on them. The game manual weighs in at around 40 pages and contains all you need to know, although the game does go to great lengths to show you what needs to be done.

Final thoughts.

Whilst I personally had several issues with Black & White, I have to say I found Black & White 2 a lot better. There's more direction in the game and you're never left feeling like you don't know what to do next or that you don't know what you're doing wrong. This time it's a lot more straightforward looking after your creature and much better being able to see the needs and desires of your creature rather than simply having to guess all of the time. Some may see the lack of a multiplayer mode as a problem but as a single player game Black & White 2 is a lot better than Black & White and it's a game I would recommend to strategy fans in particular. However, you'll need a good PC to run the game and don't forget to install the patch before doing anything else.

 

Overall Game Rating: 8.7/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:


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Black & White 2 is the game Black & White should have been. You will need a good PC specification to have the game looking its best though.