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Black & White 2 is a video game developed by Lionhead Studios and published by Electronic Arts and later by Feral Interactive as a port to Mac OS X. It blends real-time strategy, city building and god game elements. It was released on October 7, 2005 as stated on the official Lionhead website, but to those who preordered it arrived on October 5, 2005 from most sources. The Mac OS X version, however, was not released until January 6, 2009. It is the sequel to 2001's Black & White, also the brainchild of Peter Molyneux. The lead designers are Peter Molyneux and Ron Millar, who previously worked at Blizzard Entertainment on titles such as StarCraft and Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness.
The concept of the game is that the player is a god, called from heaven to help those who invoked them. However, the player is not an omnipotent monotheistic style god, but rather a god who rises and falls with his believers and the player must help develop their nature according to their good or evil desires. The player also has a creature, their physical representation in the world, which takes the form of an anthropomorphic cow, lion, ape or wolf and, with an unlocker, a tiger. It can grow to an immense size, and adopt a
In addition to the god simulation and city-building elements of the original Black & White, Black & White 2 also features elements of Real-Time Strategy gameplay, with the addition of controllable warfare and fighting units.
Black & White 2 also features a more conventional HUD (Heads-Up Display) system than its predecessor. Rather than the experimental HUDless gameplay seen in the original game, Black & White 2 features HUD notifications that inform players of their creature's state of mind, the effects of their actions on their creature, the status of villages, etc.
The only way the player can interact with this world directly is through the player's hand, with which the player can pick up people, trees, food, and influence the ground. The player can also cast miracles. However, a certain amount of "Prayer Power" (in essence, "Mana") from the player's believers is needed to do this.
One of the game's most innovative features is that its user interface is almost buttonless. The HUD is much simpler than other such "creator" games, such as The Sims and RollerCoaster Tycoon, and the player sees little else on the screen but the world, the player's hand, and toolbars which the player can make disappear. To do things such as cast miracles, the player moves the hand in such a way to make a symbol on the ground, which is called a gesture. This activates the miracle, and if the player has enough mana, it appears in the player's hand ready to cast. Miracles have a variety of different uses. There are 6 ordinary miracles: fire, lightning, water, shield, heal, and meteor, (each of which can be thrown or poured), and 4 epic wonders, which are siren, hurricane, earthquake, and volcano.
The player's creature can do most things the player can do, such as cast miracles. They will grow slowly for a long time, and can become very large. Since the player trains him, his personality can become whatever the player makes of it. They may be an aid in supporting the player's kingdom or the ultimate soldier in the player's army.
There are three possible paths to take in this game: Good, Evil, or a more neutral combination of the two, although this decision is not discrete. The typical path of an evil god will be one of fear, torture, conquest and destruction using epic armies and building fearsome places, such as a pit of torture, while that of a good god will be one of benevolence, more positive city building, and lots of looking after the populace, particularly defending it from attack. Both of these require ore and wood, of which there is a limited amount (though some maps have bottomless mines, and water miracles can turn a single tree into a forest if used correctly), making players choose a strategy — but there is plenty of slack in each.
The game features Egypt (in tutorial level), Norse(in demo), Aztec, Japanese, and Greek tribes. The player's tribe is the Greeks.
As in Black & White, players can create disciples to do the player's job in certain areas of the game while the player tends to other business. For example, if the player needs to lead an invasion, they can set villagers, and even their creature to farm for them while they lead an invasion.
The creature choices include the ape, lion, tiger, wolf, and cow. All of these are available to play, except for the tiger which is only included with the pre-ordered or collector's/special edition of the game. The tiger is also available in the Battle of the Gods expansion pack, as well as the new armor-plated turtle. The Tiger (in the collector's/special edition of the game) can be spotted behind the other four creatures during creature selection. Contrary to popular belief, the tiger is always available, provided the player has used the unlocker in the collectors edition.
Each tribe at some stage owns a creature, much like you. As the game progresses, the enemies' creatures increase in strength, and their size correlates with that of your creature. The Norse tribe own a somewhat evil wolf, the Japanese own a tiger and the Aztecs a gorilla. In the expansion, Battle of the Gods, the gorilla is pulled from its resting place albeit with decomposing flesh.
The creature is usually referred to as "he" - not only by fans, but the consciences say it. This may indicate that the creature is a male, despite the presence of a cow with udders, or may be chosen to prevent needing a male/female version of voice recordings referring to the creature. The Lion grows a mane. There was an idea to sculpt the gorilla with a sagital crest and a silverback, as seen in the original Black & White. The reason for dropping the idea is unknown.
Unlike Black & White, in which the creature had to be taught miracles through repetition, this sequel allows the player to 'buy' Creature Miracles with 'Tribute' currency. Along with this, Black & White 2 allows a player to revisit everything they've taught their creature in order to alter and fine-tune it at any time, while the original Black & White simulated a more realistic teaching by only allowing changes to be made as the creature repeated an action.
Also straying from its predecessor, the game greatly upgrades creature teaching. While the first game featured a simple slap-or-stroke system to teach the creature right from wrong, Black & White 2 micro-manages this with a spectrum from 'I will never do this', 'I will rarely do this', 'I might do this', and so on. Many have criticized this new feature as unrealistic, as actual pets wouldn't have the ability to recognize things such human terms as 'rarely' or 'might', but only recognize punishment/reward (slap-or-stroke).
All of these features have been heavily criticized as eliminating a realistically challenging and fun element by downgrading the 'Creature Teaching' feature of the original game. However this has also been lauded by some, as it has made the game much more accessible to the casual player.
The player is called to the world from a "pure prayer" and thus comes upon a scene of a Greek city being devastated by a huge Aztec army. After the player saves a certain number of people, their people are transported to a new land with a handful of refugee worshipers, the player must re-establish a power base from which to eventually defeat the Aztec empire. To do so, the player must conquer the Norse, the Japanese and the Aztecs, either by peace or war.
Throughout the game there is a theme of "The prophecy" which states that a tribe will be destroyed by the mightiest power in the world but will receive a god who will lead them to glory and dominance of the world.
Critic reactions were positive with an average critic score of 76% at GameRankings. However response to Black and White 2 has also been mixed, with powerful feelings on both sides; the supporters cite the obviously improved graphics, the grander scale of city building, the improved method of teaching and guiding the Creature, and the creation of armies. Those opposing the game note the somewhat limited actions of the Creature, the poor pathfinding and enemy AI, the lack of packaged multiplayer and sandbox modes, and the feeling of being less of a god game, and more of a glorified city-management simulator, considering the lack of "divine" opponents, which were prominent features of the first game.
The angle taken by the sequel was vastly different from the original. There is no way to convert a village by impressing the village itself, but rather the other village must come to find yours superior. This can take a considerable amount of time and resources, leading many players to use war to conquer the towns.
The community has also been marked severely by users experiencing problems with playing the game, in the form of various bugs or crashes which practically rendered the game unplayable. The most vulnerable computer setup seems to be an AMD CPU chipset and Nvidia motherboard and graphics card chipset. The most serious of these bugs on the AMD-Nvidia chipset was the inability to save progress of an ongoing game. The result often was a crash-on-save after an extended period of time. Other problems included ghost images that were persistent across game restarts. Another bug made it hard to proceed beyond the tutorial unless the user has a mouse with a scroll wheel (and sometimes not even if they did; the game was only compatible with Microsoft's wheel implementation) or the user went into the interface and changed the options to another button than the mousewheel. There was also discontent with the 1.1 patch, released by Lionhead to resolve some of the bugs as well as balancing, which rendered previous saved games incompatible with the new version, forcing players to start over from the beginning. Lionhead has made two patches so far, however, many users aren't satisfied with them. Mod tools were released in early 2006, and an expansion (Battle of the Gods) was announced soon after.
The only expansion set released to date is Black & White 2: Battle of the Gods, released on April 28, 2006. It featured a brand new creature (the armor plated turtle) and the tiger from the BAW2 Special Edition, three new lands, four new miracles, and an all-new enemy, a god born of death, supposedly hinted to at the end of Black and White 2.
The premise involved the player's return to Eden, where they discover that the Aztecs have raised their own evil deity, which must be confronted head-on for control of the land. The player has the freedom to choose how they will challenge this new god, either by countering the evil deity’s actions with good deeds, or attempting to defeat him with extreme evil. The players will have to watch out for two new enemy armies and the new enemy creature. Six new challenges and other new content are also available for players to explore.
Upon the release of the official modding tools, the Black & White 2 community was reborn. Some existing game modifications exist, most notably player engineered campaigns and maps (using the Lionhead Scripting Language) and the addition of creatures thought to be unobtainable via in-game means (Zombie Ape and Turtle).
- Official Black & White 2 site
- Planet Black & White Official GameSpy fansite
- Black & White 2 at GameSpot
- Official Black & White 2: Battle of the Gods site
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