Hey everyone, been a few days since my last blog post, times have been hectic financially and mentally. Struggling with the mind is one of the loneliest places to be in the world, and everyone needs a safe outlet. As I’ve said before, two of my main outlets to escape my depression and health problems is writing and gaming, which I feel ties in very nicely with each other. Today I’d like to tie a couple of things together while talking about one of my favourite old PC games, Black and White. The title I thought summed it up well, because nothing is clearly black and white.
What a cute ape, until it reaches 50ft tall and kills everyone.
This game came out in 2001 by Lionhead Studios, maker of Fable and the later disaster known to everyone as Godus, the failure of 22cans. Lionhead Studios sadly has closed down as of April 26th 2016. Despite its problems, I remember this company fondly, mainly for this game.
Ah Peter Molyneux, you over-hyped everything you created, and this game was no exception. He was a brilliant thinker, but has made considerable controversy in the gaming world for over-exaggerating the features in his games, many of which never made it to the final, published release. I have nothing personal against the man, but he made things very hard on himself. Black and White though was overall very well received in the inital stages, before later reviews began to emerge, and overall reception was mixed.
However, I still found deep enjoyment in the game, and hundreds of hours were spent playing this flawed, but mostly enjoyable sandbox-god game. It’s one of my favourite PC games of all time, not so much for its technical prowess (Though during the time of its release, it looked fantastic).
What do you do in this game then? Well, in Black and White, you take the role as a god over a village of people (who demand everything and breed like rabbits, an annoying mix which is frustrating at times to handle, not to mention the bugs which occurred at times), take over other villages while playing quite an extensive campaign which can last dozens of hours, depending on your skill. There are only five lands, but each one is dense and packed with things to do. All of them were immersive, and I never got bored playing them once. (This is in far contrast to its sequel, which despite its bigger range of features, skimped out on in the campaign, I feel. Was kind of a disappointment.)
You feed your villagers, keep them housed, they pray for you and you fund this with Prayer Power at your Temple, which is converted into Miracles. Casting Miracles is always fun and you can do anything from water forests/give food and wood to your people, to torturing and killing them with fire, lightning and storm. You can even pseudo nuke stuff with the Megablast miracle, though its expensive and hard to get, only in Land 5. There are skirmish maps, but always the same and hard to get into, though there are plenty of mods available for it. You also get a creature who you nurture into your own, though this is often buggy, and you can teach it miracles too. Many different creatures await your control and you can swap them throughout the game if you want.
Your creature is the biggest part of the game, and theoretically you can teach it anything you can do. It can dance, learn miracles, gather for your villages, and so on. However, in playing I found this to be buggy at times, with many of the miracle learning exercises to be extremely slow and had a habit of “forgetting” at times. Once, I spent 5 hours teaching my creature (An ugly looking, evil Zebra) the Megablast Extreme miracle. It reached 100%, then tried to cast it, Boom, back to 0%. That was a frustrating bug, though it didn’t happen often.
You can be good or evil in this, whichever you want. You don’t even need to do any missions if you don’t want, and there is no time constraints; the world is your oyster. Of course, you don’t get some of the fancier bits like making buildings (through buggy scaffolds, the game wasn’t fully utilised to use this), or making miracles until Land 2, but the option is there if you want if you want to just hang in the first land.
Overall, Black and White was over-hyped and overrated as a video game, but I still found this a great game even in 2016. Why? It reminds me of more enjoyable times, it’s still good to kick back and relax in the world (old graphics but looked amazing back in 2001) and it sits fondly inside as one of the games which helped me greatly in my childhood. Try it out sometime; it’s one of the most enjoyable games of the 2000s, if you can get past the quirks.