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Nov 16, 2000

GW Xbox > Xbox Previews > Preview Page


Black & White

Lionhead Studios




Very High

Peter Molyneux's Black & White is set to appear on Xbox. Find out why this is sure to be one of the greatest titles ever developed.

Game designers have long strived to create a virtual world that behaves as closely as possible to the world we live in. A game that conveys a sense of freedom not unlike the sense of freedom we are accustomed to in our own world; a game that blurs the line between reality and virtual reality to an extent of near unnoticeably.

Peter Molyneux seems to have come the closest to achieving this accolade with Black & White (save for a few 200 foot tall animals), an RPG/Strategy game that casts players into the role of a god who rules over the land of Eden. The general premise of Black & White is to gain the devotion of the inhabitants of Eden. How you go about doing this is completely dependent upon your own decisions and actions in the game.

This is where the true beauty and ingenuity of Black & White is shown. The game seems as if it is created on the fly, with every action and decision having both a positive and negative reaction. For instance, being worshiped out of fear will cause the weather and landscape to change, with the terrain and settings becoming charred and seemingly lifeless, and your citadel (your home base throughout the game) will transform into a structure with a dark and forbidding appearance.

Alternatively, if you're worshiped due to the love and kindness you show toward your people, the land of Eden will become a land full of sparkling bodies of water, beautiful, green rolling hills and other fantastic surroundings with your citadel looking like the Magical Kingdom.

The number of tribes who worship you, along with the vigor with which they worship, determines your powers and abilities as an overlord. Each tribe offers a different, unique set of magical spells and other god-like abilities. These spells act as your main line defense against other gods, who, just as you, will attempt to convert or exterminate your followers in order to further their dominance over the land.

Playing an equally vital role in the game is a creature that acts as a direct connection between you and the inhabitants of Eden. You will select this creature from the common creatures found among your particular tribe. The creature can be anything from a tiger to a cow to a zebra. You will then be responsible for raising and training your creature, who will eventually grow to reflect the way it's treated and the actions it's commanded to perform.

If you spoil your creature by feeding and nurturing it too often, it will become cute and harmless. While this bodes well for local villagers, it will most likely prove problematic when you order it to defend your villagers against opposing gods' creatures. On the other hand, raising your creature to be a ruthless killing machine will see it taking on a mean, merciless demeanor with an attitude fit to destroy even the most powerful threat. However, a creature such as this is much more likely to harm your own followers.

The inhabitants of Eden are based on a number of past and present real-world civilizations, including Greeks, Egyptians, North American Indians, Zulus and Incas, among others. These inhabitants perform common, everyday human tasks, ranging from marriage to playing baseball. In fact, the villagers of Black & White are capable of displaying emotions of love, hate, happiness, jealousy and many others. The AI driving these civilizations is, in the words of Molyneux, "the most sophisticated that I have ever been involved in."

Aside from its intriguing gameplay and plot, Black & White showcases some of the most beautiful and intricate visuals to date. Lionhead Studio's web site credits Black & White's beauty to, "Lionhead's revolutionary new, fully scalable, rotating, environment-mapped, modifiable landscape with an engine giving though-the-eye vision, bump mapping, light sourcing and reflections." As can be seen in the accompanying screenshots of the game, this engine is capable of rendering some of the most realistic environments and characters ever seen in a game.

Exercising its ingenuity even further, Black & White utilizes no in-game interface. There are no life bars or spell meters to clutter the screen. Instead, the entire game is controlled through the disembodied hand made famous in Dungeon Keeper. To cast spells, you pick them up and throw them; to maneuver through the land of Eden, you grab the area of land that you would like to go to. It's devastatingly effective yet incredibly simplistic.

Already one of the most highly anticipated games in history, Black & White will most certainly be an epic title that goes even further to illustrate the brilliance of Peter Molyneux. Being described as a "huge personality test," Black & White could very well be the most interactive game ever created.

Josh White
Wishes he had a 200 foot tall African Swallow.

Black & White Screenshots

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