January 11, 2000
Peter Molyneux. When this name is mentioned people sit up and take notice. He is one of the most talented game developers and has produced some of the most amazing games ever seen. Peter actually started a small company called Bullfrog, and helped develop hit titles such as Syndicate, Theme Park, Magic Carpet and Dungeon Keeper. But after Bullfrog was bought out by Electronic Arts it became too corporate. It was time for Peter to form a new company, and Lionhead was born. Black & White is the first game from the studio, and it looks like another winner.
Black & White can be described as a strategy/nurturing game with god like elements. In the game you are given a creature which you must bring up from a baby to a full size adult. Along the way your creature can evolve into a monster of good, or evil which has a dramatic difference in gameplay terms. As you grow up you have the power to destroy villages, build empires and destroy foes. One of the most amazing things about this title is the villagers. These people are split up into tribes and mimic real life perfectly. The villagers hunt, fish, visit friends, fall in love, get married, have children and do anything else you would expect in real-life.
The 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 perform a vital function. By summoning them to your Citadel, you can have them perform strange and elaborate worship rituals in your honour. And as they dance around the Citadel praising your name, they are generating life-force; the essential ingredient for the magic spells you will soon be able to cast.
The alignment of spells vary from pure good to pure evil and everything in between. The choice of which spells you want to use is entirely yours to make. However, your choices are monitored carefully throughout the game. The more magic of any particular alignment you choose to use, the more your environment will gradually alter to reflect this fact. If you tend towards using evil magic (destructive, fear-invoking spells), your homelands will physically alter in accordance with this. Your citadel will become dark, angular and foreboding; the surrounding green fields will become black and charred. Your followers worship you out of fear. But if your preference is good magic (protection, healing etc. spells), your citadel will gradually come to resemble a fairytale palace, with the surrounding lands bright and colourful, and your loving followers will dutifully obey your every command.
Lionhead have obviously worked hard on the graphics in this title. While Black & White may not appear to be as impressive as the latest First Person Shooters or racing games, it is definitely the best looking simulation title ever. The creatures are varied and the landscapes are suitably detailed with some great special effects and explosions during the magic spells.
While Black & White has been delayed until early next year there can be no denying that this game will be a hit. Wherever this title is shown it attracts a crowd and the press have treated the game with a lot of enthusiasm. With the promise of online elements Black & White will attract fans of online games as well. No word yet on cross-platform playability, but it is not impossible.