GameOver Feature - A Reviewer's Diary: Black & White

GameOver Feature - A Reviewer's Diary: Black & White

A Reviewer's Diary: Black & White

Published: Tuesday, May 1st, 2001
Written By: Rorschach

Day Seven - Rating the Game

I?m going to spare you the gory details of how each level plays out. I think most of you can guess anyway. You get to go mano a mano with Nemesis. Up close and personal he?s not as powerful as he was, for some reason, and my monkey, more or less ignored by me throughout the entire game, was able to beat his creature. Neener, neener, neener.

The single-player game is very short, possessing only five levels, even counting that first tutorial as a level. Of course in hours, it seemed much longer, which is not a good thing. I think there are people who will probably approach this as a sim game - be a god to your people, fulfill their needs, watch them grow and prosper - Rollercoaster Tycoon with fireballs. If you don?t bug the opposing god, he generally won?t bug you. You could probably play that way forever, but where?s the drama, the conflict? More importantly, what?s the point? This game has been getting a lot of press as a multiplayer game. Maybe it is. I think the gradual buildup of villages and the sort of sluggish, miracle-based combat system will turn most people off.

Black and White is visually stunning with a surprisingly intricate world model. It?s also got a few big old bugs, is very repetitive, and is frequently slow enough that you could easily read a book while playing and miss almost nothing - trust me, while waiting for my mana to charge, I did just that on several occasions. It also has wickedly steep system requirements, sometimes stuttering to just a few frames a second on my P3-500 when I had lots of villages under my control.

Someone is going to read this, probably the game designer, and tell me that I missed the purpose, the magnitude, the epic-ness of his vision. It wouldn?t be the first time. Black and White, they would tell me, creates an amazingly alive world, which is what you make of it. I would reply that by treading the middle ground between Sim and RTS, it succeeds in neither realm. The game is too plodding, too sedate to addict the RTS people, and, despite the fact that each and every villager has a name, you don?t become attached to them as you would a Sim. While you?re definitely doing resource gathering, RTS kinds of stuff, the payoff in a feeling of great victory is lacking. But, they?ll say, you?re not doing the story scrolls, you?re not playing with your monkey. Again, I?ll reply, these things are not exactly fun on their own. If the reward in terms of victory were clearer or more definitive, I would play with my monkey more. They?ll tell me that I?m just a stupid game reviewer and what do I know? I?ll reply that thousands of hours of game playing qualifies me to at least have an educated opinion on what is fun and what isn?t. They?ll reply with something disparaging about my mother. I?ll bring up their poor grooming habits and questionable fashion sense, and the conversation will degenerate from there.

I?ve been to newsgroups all over. I?ve read what other people are saying about Black and White. They rave about its intricacy, about its originality. If originality and complexity were my sole criteria, this baby would be diamonds, but I also look for little things called fun and excitement, a draw to make me want to keep playing it. Going back to Civilization, the draw was that taking a city was a big event, could be the linchpin to turn an entire game. I would sometimes end up in prolonged, pitched battles over a single city, and would stay up all night trying to take just one more city, then one more city, and then one more city after that - frigging addictive. Taking a village, especially against the AI of Black and White, is no big deal. It takes a long time, but it?s not big deal. On the other side of the coin, if you want to treat this as a sim and not an RTS, you can take tiny villages and work to make them into giant villages, but they will never get more advanced. This isn?t a SimCity or a Pharoah - you?ll never end up with a library or marketplace or an advanced trade pact with your neighbors. There are ultimately only seven structure types to build in the entire game. You?ll get a village of hundreds of people still scything grain, chopping trees, and fishing - with you as omnipotent god of the dark ages.

Let people rant and rave about this being the Second Coming. I don?t see it. I loved Populous 3, and the roots for Black and White are clearly evident therein. Populous 3 is still on my hard drive to this day. As for Black and White: this review is done, and it?s off my hard drive.

[ 33/50 ] Gameplay
[ 09/10 ] Graphics
[ 07/10 ] Sound
[ 06/10 ] Controls
[ 06/10 ] Plotline
[ 06/10 ] Bugs


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[ Day One ] [ Day Two ] [ Day Three ] [ Day Four ] [ Day Five ] [ Day Six ] [ Day Seven (Final Rating) ]
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