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Black & White 2: new screenshots

New game, new monkey

Many of you will surely remember the epic that was the original Black & White. The game aimed to break down genre barriers and provide a revolutionary gaming experience.

There was a simple premise - you created an animal that acts as your Godly hand in the real world and gain followers. Train your creature to perform feats, cast spells, and the artificial intelligence in the game would mean it learned how to best serve you. Depending on how you treated your animal, it would either become a good-natured and helpful beast, or a tyrannical demon out to create obedience by fear.

The game was, on the whole, fantastic; but it definitely lacked a little something in the execution. It was too short, lacked direction, and animals didn't always behave as you'd expect them to.

God of War

Lionhead, the developers, are now back with the sequel which they say addresses all the problems of the first game. They've promised that it will be twice as big, for a start, which should address the questions of longevity. Whilst the first game was a little directionless, the new title integrates not only the God-game / sandbox ideas of the first, but RTS features too. As if that wasn't enough, there's also a proper story too, although Lionhead aren't giving anything away about that.

There are now four factions which will wage war against each other - the Norse, Japanese, Aztec and the Greek, controlled by the player. Each has its own distinct buildings with which to create a civilization, reflecting the ethos of the culture. Massive, inspiring cities will garner you more followers as people wish to join in your way of life. Bleak, tough cities are good at churning out cannon-fodder for the war effort.

Buildings aren't just static either. When you see a villager go into a factory, you'll see him hard at work pumping the bellows and fetching and carrying. When he hits the pub, you'll see him knocking back pints and queueing for the toilets.

As well as getting villagers to worship you, you can turn villagers into soldiers and have them march behind your creature on the enemy. The RTS / war element is one of the key new features of the game.

Why does it always rain on me?

Fans of the original will remember that almost anything in the world could be interacted with. In the sequel, that's been taken further, with Lionhead saying that "If you can touch it with your Godly hand, you can use it." Not only that, but there'll be an addition to your powers - the ability to move time by touching the sky. How this new mechanic will work is unknown, but it seems like it could be used to accelerate the progress of actions you've set in motion - and makes us wonder about time-manipulating battles in multiplayer.

There's a realistic physics engine in the game now, making for more inventive gameplay, meaning that fireballs and rainclouds interact with the rest of the game exactly how you'd expect. Indeed, one of our favourite features in the original was the game's ability to connect to a weather server on the net and have the weather in-game mimic the conditions outside your front door. We're not sure if that feature will be back, but Lionhead are promising that the weather in the game will have an integral effect on gameplay - troops will march slower in the wet and the cold, whilst villagers will light fires in the snow to keep warm. The environment will also be crucial - you'll be able to harvest timber from forests, and careful and sustainable forestry will yield the best results in terms of the longevity of the resource. More mature trees will drop seeds and create younger saplings, and the villagers in-game will harvest older trees rather than younger ones.

The game is due out in October, so not too long to wait now. In the meantime, check out the Black & White 2 website and the screenshots below. We love the cow.



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