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    Black and White

    reviewed by shiva

    Publisher: Electronic Arts
    Developer: Lionhead Studios
    Genre: Strategy
    Game Design: Peter Molyneux / Lionhead Studios
    Format: PC
    Release Date:2nd Quarter 2000
    Multiplayer: Direct, network, internet (multiplayer)

    Black & White has become one of the most anticipated products in Peter Molyneux's storied career. From the master of the "god" game comes the ultimate god game.

    Click to EnlargeBlack & White is a strategy game packed with the sort of unique features that PC gamers have come to expect from a Peter Molyneux title. From a spire citadel located in a remote corner of the game-world, you survey the surrounding 3D landscape. In technical terms, the game-world is constructed using Lionhead’s revolutionary landscape engine which gives through-the-eye vision, that's fully scalable, and adds rotating, bump mapping, light sourcing and reflections.

    Click to enlargeIn Black & White, you are basically... a god. And as a god, you would want to increase your sphere of influence over the world. As you gain more influence over the world, the greater becomes your power. The goal of the game is to extend your reach and influence upon the entire world. You can do this supernaturally, or you can rely on your physical agent in the world, your Titan.

    Click to EnlargeTo achieve that goal, you must find worshippers. Dotted about the world are various tribes of human-type creatures. There will be a large number of different tribe types, based on parallels from past and present history: Japanese, Tibetan, Red Indian, Greek, Zulu, Cossack and so forth. Each tribe has its own particular purpose in the game, and will give you different spellcasting abilities. Worship from the citizens of Egyptian tribes gives access to powerful building spells, Tibetan tribes will offer mental magic, and Zulu tribes offers battle spells…

    Click to enlargeThe player starts by ‘converting’ the villagers in an attempt to persuade them to worship you. Once they have become your loyal followers, they can be used to increase your life-force, by summoning them to your Citadel, and having them perform dances and elaborate worship rituals in your honor. These rituals generate the life-force needed to power the awesome spells which would boom and crackle across the dark skies of Eden. Each tribe is capable of producing life-force of a specific type, with a vast amount of different and unique spells for each tribe.

    Click to EnlargeThe tribes will generate a different alignment of spells ranging from pure good to absolute evil and everything in between. As the god, it's your choice on which spells you would want to use, but as the spells reflect the personality of the god, it also reflects the environment of your worshipers. If you tend towards using evil magic (destructive, fear-invoking spells), your homelands will gradually physically alter in appearance, your homeland will darken and become charred, and your followers will worship you out of fear. But if your preference is good magic (protection, healing etc. spells), the opposite happens, land becomes bright, your citadel becomes "Fairytale" like, and your followers will worship you out of love. The way you choose to control your land is reflected in the game by a corresponding evolution of your own territory.

    Click to enlargeHowever, you are not alone. At the start, whilst you expand your territory, a number of other sorcerers are creating their own power base, with their own worshipers. And ultimately, you will encounter the other sorcerers. In these battles, your weapons are your magic spells. When magic battles between sorcerers arise, the game comes to life. Thunderclouds roll across the skies as lightning bolt attacks are directed at opponents’ villages. Armies of skeletons are summoned who stride across the countryside scything everything – and everyone – in their paths. Earthquakes tear the ground apart.

    Click to EnlargeThe way magic is handled in Black & White is revolutionary in two ways. Spells directed against you can be anticipated. You always have time to react to spells. And time to cast an appropriate counter-spell in time. Lionhead has developed a new technology – ‘Gesture Recognition’ technology – which allows spells to be cast, practiced and perfected by mouse movement. To cast a firewall, for example, you must sweep the mouse in a circle. From this gesture, Lionhead’s GR technology can sense the type of spell you wish to cast and (according to how accurately the spell was executed) determine how strong it was.

    Your worshippers are all-important in that they provide the life-force (energy) you need to cast spells. By increasing their worship rituals, you can increase your own energy. But if you demand too much, they may worship too hard,and some may die. And yet, there is one other type of magic you can use in your battle, the magic of your Titan.

    Click to enlargeBy plucking any living beast you might find in the game-world and dropping it into your citadel, this creature goes through a magical transformation. Like a child, it begins to grow and transform. By the time the Titan reaches adulthood, it will have transformed into a gargantuan creature towering above the tribesmen, able to flatten a whole village with a single footstep.

    Click to EnlargeExactly how it conducts itself as it strides across the countryside will depend on how you have raised it. As you may choose to use good or evil magic, you may also choose to raise your titanic familiar to be good or evil. This you must do in training sessions whilst the game progresses. As you might with a growing child, you must punish it when it does anything wrong and reward it when it acts correctly. Gradually the creature will learn what it may and may not do.

    Click to enlargeAnother important aspect in the education of your growing creature is its magical ability. Your creature will learn to perform only those spells you have taught it. In battles between sorcerers, this is all-important. When the spells are coming thick and fast, relying on your exhausted worshippers may not be possible. But your creature casts spells created with its own source of life-force.

    By all appearances, this will be the ultimate "god" game, and should give fans of this genre many, many hours of enjoyment. Careful thought has been made in this game, from the good Vs evil theme, to unique features like the ability to train your creature in the comfort of your own home before taking him off to an Internet game. The game is expected to be released in the second quarter of 2000.

    GameSurge also has a gallery for Black and White. You can view the images and screenshots by clicking here
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