Matt: I had been playing the original Black and White for many years and have been eagerly anticipating its sequel. I was rather pleased when playing it for the first time that so much had been improved and built upon from the original, and especially that it ran fairly well on my machine at maximum settings. And you'll be pleased to know that Lionhead Studios have already released a patch fixing several bugs that were discovered after shipping the original copies.
Dan: Now, Black and White is one of those games which I've always intended to get but never got round to buying. Just for the purpose of this review I've scoured the bargain buckets of my local pound shop to acquire a copy, so that I can sound vaguely informed as I drone on.
Matt: Graphically, Black and White 2 is miles better than the original. Grass grows from the ground, trees sway in the breeze and move to the motion of your godly appendage while luxurious hair sprouts from your creatures skin. The creature's fur is rather clever actually, each strand of hair taking on the color of the pixel it sprouts from.
Dan: 'Godly Appendage'? I think you need to lay off those hallucinogenic drugs Matt ...
Matt: Quiet mere mortal, lest I send forth my army of mighty followers to your doorstep! Actually, that's a good point. You can now you can recruit armies from the base population of your towns and cities to send forth in a raging horde against your foes. There are three types of warrior you can train; Simple soldiers, formidable archers and devastating seige machines. Coupled with the ability to encase your settlements in walls and with better a better creature fighting system, Black and White 2 is a fairly competent RTS game as well as a simulation.
Dan: Cool, co-ordinated armies were one thing sorely missing from the original game. What's so good about the new creature system though?
Matt: The new creature A.I is already in the Guinness book of records as the most intelligent computer generated character ever created, with a mind that can reach a size of 500 Kilobytes. It learns by watching you and by your response to its behaiviour; becoming confused when taught to do too much, and gets stuck between buildings every now and again. As mentioned earlier the creature is a far more skilled fighter than before, and will use any miracles you have taught it; as well as any nearby scenery (trees, rocks, etc) to take down its foes. As per the original, your creature's look will depend very much on its alignment to good or evil.
Dan: There are five animal archetypes to choose from here: Lion, Cow, Ape, Wolf and, if you have the collectors edition, Tiger. Personally I love going for an evil cow ... reminds me so much of my old girlfriend.
Matt: And good and evil you will be too. Admittedly though, anything war related, even solely defensive, is regarded as evil and will quickly undo all the work you did to try and maintain positive karma. Now, instead of your temple, your land will change to suit your alignment. Tall grass waving and a balmy breeze and vibrant pink cherry blossoms for good, or thick veins of lava under the feet of your terrified disciples if you choose the path of evil. And that is, essentially why Black and White 2 is so much fun. There are virtually no rules. Naturally some things you have to do in order to progress, but how you do them is up to you. The new tribute system in particular gives a better reason to complete secondary objetives, as each one completed gives you a little cash to spend on new buildings, miracles or creature skills.
Dan: I like to burn things.
Matt: The opening of the game takes you from a calm tutorial island to a chaotic scene of your capital under siege. It looks truly fantastic, and you get your first glimpse of the volcano miracle; when your troops get fried by it. Oh, and you get the oppurtunity to squash some invaders as well. The little characters that embody your concience have also gone under a refit and look either more angelic or more devilishly handsome, depending on who they are. Most aspects of the game have been improved, although I have to say my favourite has to be the drag and drop method of city planning, as well as the ability to build things yourself. Much to my relief the trees now seed and propagate. Sometimes I was overrun with trees and had to use fireball to torch them down. That didn't go well...
Dan: I can imagine. Did you manage to set your creature on fire?
Matt: He was away hunting for a tasty snack at the time. He ate a rock...
Dan: I see he managed to acquire your intelligence as well as your inclination towards evil then.
Matt: This game was the ideal sequel for me; like the original, only better. I thoroughly enjoyed playing it and still do. I give it 7 out of 10 coy looks.
Dan: Only 7/10?
Matt: On acount of the stutter I get from playing it with a Geforce 6 series. Its a pixel shader bug.
Dan: Lovely, but it still sounds like a good game. Shall we say ... 9/10 orangutans enjoyed playing?
Matt: You and your bloody ape fetish ...