Playing Black and White has caused me to become all philosophical recently. What is the sound of one hand clapping? Is there a correlation between the increasing proliferation of serial killers nationwide and the syndication of Bill Keane?s Family Circus in more newspapers? And, more germane to Black and White, if there is a story scroll that will unleash plague upon the land but the god doesn?t choose to activate it, does the plague strike? The first two remain mysteries, but the answer to the last one is a pretty simple ?no.? Activating any given story scroll in Black and White is almost entirely up to you. Perform the task, you get a reward; fail the task, don?t get the reward. The rewards for doing them aren?t truly significant and don?t greatly effect your ability to win, so why do them? Some people will like the idea of these little side-stories and quests in their RTS games; I find them distracting from the overall task of keeping my worshipers happy and luring new ones. Readers are welcome to disagree with me on this, or really any, viewpoint.
Entirely by accident, I discovered that hitting the ?s? key brings up a little status box on each of your villagers. It says their names (each person has a name), what they are doing and how their health is, how old they are, how fatigued they are, and what kind of job they hold. It?s a very useful key because you can find out if you have too many people doing one kind of job and reassign them. I could have also used it to locate the plague victims, if only I had known about it. Yet another useful game facet not covered in that overblown level called a tutorial. I?ve also discovered that this game has no gray area as far as bugs are concerned - every bug I?ve noticed thus far has caused my machine to reboot on me and, while it doesn?t happen really often, it is unarguably the most aggravating bug that you can come across. Other people have reported less fatal but otherwise also annoying bugs. Some people have reported bug-free operation. I think it depends on what operating system you?re on at the time (Win98 for me), but haven?t really taken an official poll or anything to find out.
Whence last I played, I was performing minor miracles to steal worshipers town by town from the evil god who holds sway over this domain, an ally of Nemesis. I pick up pretty much where I left off. A little rain, a little food, a little wood. I?m slowly but surely chipping away at his fan base, and he seems to do very little about it. He threatens once in a while with something menacing such as ?I am Lethys! Leave my domain!? or ?You dare to enter my lands?? Snappy dialogue until the 43rd time I heard it. By winning the popularity contest for a village I gain its people as my worshipers. I?ve got more mana to cast more and bigger miracles. I also pick up the problems of that village - wood shortages, food shortages, what have you. I spend lots of my godly time ferrying food around, and moving trees. These people won?t even so much as build a house unless I get the wood to the workshop, and take the scaffolding that the craftsman makes to some clear ground. As RTS micromanaging stuff goes, this is pretty dreary, and I wish the villages were a little more self sufficient.
Different villages have different miracles, so when I claim a village I get access to new miracles. I?ve got the fireball spell now, and I hit Lethys? wolf with it. He runs around burning, and then sits in the ocean to put himself out. It?s a cute graphic, but it didn?t kill him like Nemesis smoked the bear back in the tutorial. Even more evidence that I?m small potatoes as a god. I can also use fireballs to convert worshipers by instilling fear in them. That?s a more delicate operation as you want to be close to people for maximum impact, but want to avoid burning down people and buildings because anything you burn you?re going to have to replace when you claim the village.
Lethys seems to really hate my creature. Every time my monkey gets in range, a lighting bolt blasts him. Sucks to be my monkey. The little guys shrugs it off, wanders over to my temple and falls asleep, heals up, wakes up, and starts the process all over again. I?m sure I?m not the first guy to say this, but my monkey has caused me nothing but trouble. I suspect the game designers expected me to spend a lot of my time training and playing with my creature. Again, like the scrolls, I feel it doesn?t pay off, so I don?t do it.
And I go along, feeding my people, getting them wood, doing their laundry, and converting villages. It gets very same-y. Then I hit a scripted event. Nemesis shows up, pissed at my ally god (who as near as I can tell hasn?t been doing anything). He wipes out my ally with something that looks like balefire from the sky in less time than it would take me to snuff a match. My ally?s creature (a turtle) likewise gets capped, and leaves a glowing thing in his place. This is a Creed, apparently. Lethys? wolf snatches it up, despite the fact that it is far inside my territory, during the cinematic sequence so I don?t have a shot at it. At least now I know what I?m trying to collect. The game returns control to me, and I?m back to the grind. I find it?s not a good sign when you think of a game as ?the grind.?
I?m claiming villages more or less unopposed, and Lethys is down to just a single village standing between his temple and me. Lethys casts some sort of shield over that last village that prevents me from casting miracles there. But he can?t keep it up forever, and I just wait until it goes down, and then convert people before he gets it back up again. I?ve got this level as good as beaten, when another cinematic sequence comes up and Lethys threatens me a little, opens a vortex, and leaves, taking my creature with him. Should I follow and save him, or let Lethys keep him? What has he done for me lately? Not much, but in the interest of the game review, I follow Lethys down the rabbit hole.
This is apparently the next level. My poor monkey is being tortured and humiliated with bolts of electricity. Ahhhh, you never forget your senior prom. To rescue him, I apparently have to convert the villages in this realm, which are providing Lethys with the mana necessary to keep the juice flowing. And I?m off and, uh, grinding. Get food, get wood, make scaffoldings, convert people, make rain, time to make the donuts. Oh, when will it end?
Closing thoughts and a final rating, take me to Day Seven!