Black and White: Good or Evil?

I recently got in touch with my inner ego and decided to pick up a copy of Black and White to play for a while. Of course, the newer Black and White 2 is long since out but I’ll stick with the original for now. For those of you who don’t know, Black and White is a GOD game. Not in the sense of having godly powers that destroy worlds but in the sense that you are, literally, a new god that has come down to the world and is ready to get some worshiping started towards you. You have some godly powers, such as being go anywhere and pick up almost anything and perform Miracles. These miracles can be one shots found in the environment or generated by mini miracle dispensers or even those that are powered from the worship of your believers at your temple. The other perk with being a god is your Creature, but I’ll talk about this one later.

The real meat of the game though, comes not from just having this godly power (obviously) but from the occasions you use them for. You are, obviously, a newly created god. You need worshipers because any god without believers is dead. So here’s the deal. How do you get these worshipers? That’s where this game gets interesting. Because the whole point of the game is to get worshipers, and therefore influence, you need to awe the people in your land for them to start believing you. You can do good or evil, heal or kill, but either way, the belief in you will increase. Of course, doing either will push you in the direction of one or the other which is shown by a slow but sure change in your appearance as well as in your temple and the sky.

And then there is your Creature. The game developers must have realized that giving you absolute power over everything might be a bad idea. That’s why you can’t pick up rocks that are too big and why you can’t rain fire upon all your enemies outside of your influence. But your Creature is a different story. Your Creature is your immortal pet of awesomeness. At least, when it grows up it is. A large portion of the game is dedicated to making your Creature into something useful. It can learn miracles and do almost everything that you can do (for some reason it doesn’t like to appoint jobs to the villagers apart from “Breeder”) except both inside and OUTSIDE OF YOUR INFLUENCE.

So Black and White is a god game with a mix of village management and creature breeding. The question then, is if it’s a good game. What’s interesting about Black and White is that it’s a game that offers very little direct control in a lot of the environments. The only way to train your Creature, for example, is through communicating by smacking it across the face or rubbing its tummy. You have very little influence over enemy villagers and a bit more, but not nearly enough influence on the efficiency of your own. Enemy Creatures can’t even be touched except with a well placed fireball or lightning bolt and when that happens, your Creature is usually killed by the enemy God.

So how could it be a good game? What makes this game so hard to control and steer is also, in my opinion, what makes it a great game. Through its indirect control of the environment, it forces the player to strategize in novel ways. A smack across your Creature’s cheeks could cause a very big behavior pattern change to be engraved in it, for example. Or you could start planning on how to take over enemy villages by teaching your Creature certain miracles that would especially impress other villages. Another aspect of the indirect control is that the feeling of accomplishment is much more accentuated when something happens the way you want it to. The feeling that you get when you finally take an enemy village or when you lead your creature into battle and taste that sweet first victory. The proud feeling of seeing your creature all grown up and ready to rumble, tall as a mountain and bigger than even the monstrosity that is your temple.

Black and White is a game that takes a million different genres into one. You have the core Real Time Strategy, involving the micro and macro-management of your village, the Role Playing element of being a God, of acting in a certain alignment to make people believe you, and the Creature Breeder aspect, making your very own demigod to engage in battle with the enemy forces. What makes the game amazing though is the lack of direct control involved, the fact that there is no GOD MODE because, well, you’re already a god.

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