Shall I Eat This Villager?

As you might have guessed from the above, I’ve been playing Black & White 2, a game in which you play a god. I like the concept. At its best, it gives a feeling of absolute control as people worship you and you perform acts of godly power. At its worst, the game is maddeningly hard to control. It seems the game can get in the way of what you want to do, something that should not happen. Take, for example, building a gate in a wall. I selected a gate in the build menu, and tried to line it up with the wall. I tried for several minutes to get a valid position without success, during which time an enemy army charged through the gap I was trying to close.

The manual is too short to tell everything, and it seems to me that in the lack of a complete online manual, the only way to learn is either by painstaking trial and error or by suffering through the horribly annoying and poorly constructed tutorials. The ability to skip the tutorials was added in the latest patch, (Edit: announcement down, patch still seems available.) before which the earlier patch must be installed. Why they didn’t bother to package them both together I do not know. The patches did seem to fix many a glitch, among them a problem where if there were too many roads crossing in a small area people would get stuck there. If I picked them up and moved them somewhere else they seemed to just turn around and run right back over there. Strange.

The creature is fun. As a god, you get to choose an animal to represent you. The choices are monkey, lion, wolf, and cow. (In a baffling turn the cow is referred to as male and yet sports udders.) All of these animals start out rather small and cute-looking. You must train your creature what to do and what not to do, which for me meant not pooping in the village or eating the villagers. I’ve tried to make my creature run over to the side of the village and poop in the trees, which seems to be working somewhat. I’ve never had the courage to just see what happens, as the results can surely be devastating. The creature does not have to be in free will mode, as you can assign it various roles, although not for too long otherwise the creature will lose free will. I found myself becoming attached. My creature is also quite able to make mincemeat out of an enemy army. 🙂

The game is beautiful, despite being a bit old. The sun changes the lighting on the landscape as it goes throughout the day, the water ripples, and fire looks very nice. The forests and wheat grow! It is strange that the graphics are pretty while the UI leaves a lot to be desired. I would happily accept it being less pretty if it were more playable.

Another area of significant weakness in this game is its voice acting. The writing is cheesy, especially that of the prayers you receive. Coupled with the overacting and awkward emphasis, I found the prayers (given only in cinematics) to be laughable. You have two advisors, a good one and an evil one, who won’t leave you alone and sometimes seem to be designed to be as annoying as possible. I will use as an example the first tutorial island. You are given a pile of rocks and told to throw them at a small target across a gap. Every time you miss (as you surely will, the target is really small) the evil guy pops up and says something about your miss. Every time. If you sit there, the good one pops up and reminds you you’re supposed to be chucking rocks. This kind of thing happens elsewhere, like on the third tutorial island. You are told to create a forester by picking up a villager and dropping them next to a tree. If you drop them anywhere else, the good one criticizes you and reminds you to make a forester. Is it that important that I do it now? The point of a game is for the player to have fun, not to be bossed around! This is another contrast I found jarring. The advisors refer to you as one might to a god, and yet they boss you around. It just doesn’t fit. I found myself wishing the game would shut up and just let me play.

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