Guest Author - Lisa Shea
I'm a huge fan of Fable, Populous and Black & White. I got Black & White 2 the moment it came out, and dove into playing it. Was it worth the long wait?
First, make sure you download the 100mb patch before you start playing. Any save games you make will be incompatible with the patch, and the patch fixes a TON of bugs. It sort of makes you wonder about the QC process, if this was released on the same day as the software was. But in any case, at least they fixed the problems quickly.
The game is classic good-bad choices from Peter Molyneux - the creator of fantastic open ended games where you can choose your own destiny. In B&WII this is very much a combination of Creatures and Age of Empires. You are building up your town - placing buildings to please the villagers, tending farms, mining ore. You are also training your creature to be responsible - watering the gardens, entertaining the villagers. That being said you can instead choose to be an evil overlord - starving your villagers, taking over nearby towns, causing destruction.
The first B&W really went overboard on the creature micro-management. You were more of a creature nanny than a God. Some people might have enjoyed that - and there are certainly enough NintenDogs and NeoPet games out there to soothe those people who want to spent 24 hrs a day raising a pet. I really found it quite tedious to sit there slapping and petting an animal, when I was a god with a civilization to build. I'm thrilled that they have the whole creature thing much more reasonable. It still takes your attention to set the creature on its path, but you don't have to spend hours on it. You're a God after all.
By the same token, if you're looking for a high end killer war - strategy game, this just isn't it. This isn't meant to be like a Command & Conquer or other war engine. War is an aspect of the game, yes, but you are encouraged to bring in people by impressing them just as much as by conquering them.
The graphics are of course stellar. There are tons of villagers, each with his or her own name, personality and job, wandering around the village doing tasks. Each tree and flower can be interacted with individually. The sounds are reasonable, with a nice soundtrack that isn't hard to listen to repeatedly as you go through the game using different creatures and aiming for different alignments.
The shining essence of this game is of course the choices you make. As you make evil creatures, the world gets more and more grim through each level - and your creature begins to look really violent and depraved. If you choose to make good creatures, the world reacts to that quite amazingly, and your creature reflects those choices. Even the ground on which he / she walks reflects that nature.
In the end, you could probably play through the game in 1-2 days, on a single pass. But the fun in the game is to replay it with different creatures and different aims, to see how it affects your world. In this sense it's very much like Fable, a game that was amazingly fun to replay. I found this an extremely well balanced game between the town building, creature taming and god-like powers. Enjoy!
Buy Black & WHite II from Amazon.com