Black and White 2 Impressions

Lobstereview Forthcoming! Tagged so I don't get coughed.

Tease.

I want to see screen shots of a giant pet lobster!

OK, I managed to put in about two hours while I waited for my BF2 account to update so I could get my unlocks. Here are my first impressions of Black and White 2. But first, I think it's important to note the system since my computer's starting to, well... age.

3GHz Pentium 4 with Hyperthreading
1GB DDR
Radeon 9800PRO

Those are the important specs, but it's also worth noting that before playing B&W2, I had done a disk cleanup, installed that massive BF2 patch, played BF2 a while, and installed B&W2. Without a reboot. Needless to say, my computer was not running at its optimum. I've completed the third island, the one with the Norse (which is more or less the tutorial island), but have not moved on to the next yet. I cannot yet cast any miracles.

Visuals:
Veterans of B&W will immediately recognize the islands. They're more complex now with lots of impressive mountains and dense forests, and much prettier with weather and water effects, but the idea is still much the same and they don't seem to have much more -content- on them. It's still generally you versus another city. I had my game set on medium and it ran fairly well, keeping above about 25fps at all times, though I think this might have been caused by something funky since reducing my settings to Low didn't seem to help any. And given the tremendous number of polies onscreen, this really wasn't that bad. It looks like you can't toggle or set specific things and are limited to clicking an overall graphical quality (so you can select "medium," but not "anti-aliasing 2x" specifically, for instance). Alphas are looking nice; the trees are believable with good texturing, grass and fields do their jobs of looking grassy and fieldy, and the game just oozes personality in terms of minor details, like fireflies that flit through your town near sunrise and some serious mood lighting. You can zoom WAY WAY WAY out, so far out the game is unplayable, obviously designed just to show off how far you can zoom out. You can also zoom way in, not as far as they originally said (they said you'd be able to watch ants moving on the ground), but still farther than you'd want to get for any practical purposes. Oh, and the lava looks awesome. There are lots of little details you'll notice when playing. For instance, I built a road between two villages and as it gained more foot traffic, little lanterns started appearing along the sides to guide the travellers.

Control:
As has been stated in other reviews, the interface is really nice. You do not need a keyboard for it. However, moving the hand around really wasn't as easy as it was in the first one. Maybe it's due to the fps, but the hand feels a bit jerky and seems to fly around uncontrollably at times, yet is unresponsive at other times. Normally this wouldn't be such a huge deal, but in this game your mouse gestures and precisiou are extremely important. For instance, lift up your mouse to get a little more range of movement with that road you're "drawing" and you might accidentally do the "cancel" gesture, forcing you to start over again (which, in that particular instance, is not a big deal since roads are so easy to make). The draw distance is so far your hand can go shooting across the landscape, only to zoom back when you move it across something in the foreground or click the little menu button. Thankfully, moving around the world and moving the camera are extremely intuitive and easy. All in all it feels like the interface is on the verge of perfection, but by falling short at all it tends to get frustrating from time to time as you struggle to get the game to know what the hell you want it to do. This is at its worst when interacting with the monster (more on that below). City building is wonderfully easy, as long as you want Greek architecture. You can pick buildings off a list, copy and paste buildings, take buildings off a pedestal where the desires of your citizens are shown, and draw roads. You lay the foundations, then you can either build yourself or let your villagers do it. It's painless and makes it very easy to make cool-looking cities. When you conquer another nation you can copy and paste their buildings too but you can't get them off a menu which sucks if you happen to like a different style.

Story:
Not too far along, so not much to say. So far the game has really walked me by the hand and up until the point I'm at right now I haven't had much freedom to simply play. The first thing you do is pick your creature, but you can't even interact with it till the third island which is sort of frustrating. I don't much care for the conscience advisors and I don't give a rat's ass about my people. But, I am trying to be good. This is proving to be difficult since apparently allowing your people to be unhappy will constantly earn you evil points, even if they're only unhappy because you haven't unlocked many happy-producing buildings yet. Also, my villagers seem to love statues of pregnant women. Can't get enough of 'em. But they're still not happy. Also, allowing immigrants to starve while waiting to be accepted into your land is very evil. It doesn't matter if you're too busy to deal with them immediately, and they starve rather quickly. And since you can't drop food outside your area of influence, you'd better hope your economy can support those additional people because anything other than acceptance is an act of evil. In fact, lots of things seem to be evil. Doing tutorials badly is evil, when you throw a rock at a waterfall but miss and instead it rolls over a villager. Uprooting trees is evil, though for all appearances doing ANYTHING with that tree, other than throw it into the ocean will net you an equal number of good points. Replanting it, converting it to resources, etc. As a conservationist I tended to uproot trees from densely forested areas to replant them in plains. They grow and reproduce fairly quickly so after about an hour of play I had a nice healthy forest surrounding my town.

Sound:
The sound is nothing spectacular. Music is so unmemorable I'm not sure if there IS music for parts of the game. I'm constantly hearing this weird heartbeat sound that's getting annoying. And my hand makes buzzy sounds as I move it around, which is certainly annoying. The sounds get their jobs done and the voice acting is great, but other than that, a definite meh.

The Creature:
This thing is either very smart, or very stupid. On the plus side, there's no more guesswork as to punishing and rewarding. In B&W1, you had to guess if your monster was thinking of eating someone, then punish them before they ate them. If you punished them after the consumption, too bad, they won't learn. So you get immediate and visible feedback on what your discipline is doing to the AI, which is nice. However, this is the part where the AI might be wonderful or terrible. Regardless of how you train your monster, at least at first, it will do whatever it wants anyway. I've taught mine to plant trees and workout with trees (I want him to be my city's primary defender), and absolutely love doing both. He has done neither without me directly telling him to. Instead he goes and plays with his toys or knocks trees over, to "play" with them. Occasionally he knocks a tree over onto someone, which is evil. Freakin' teamkills! The AI isn't quite as contextual this time; in the first game you could train a monster to eat only the elderly or throw the dead into the ocean. Now, a villager is a villager, be it a man, woman, child, or corpse. Throwing is throwing, and all directions and locations are equal. Thus, you can teach your monster to throw villagers, but don't be surprised when he's chucking your happy little townspeople all over the place with abandon. The one activity where the monster seems to have a wide array of specific, trainable options is... sh*tting. He wants to sh*t on everything. People, buildings, fields, trees... You can encourage or discourage any and all. He won't necessarily care what you've asked him to do, but whatever. Oh, and also, my tiger loves to eat trees. He always pukes them up, but he loves to eat them. Stupid tiger. I've only tried the tiger so far but that thing BOOKS. When he wants to get somewhere, he's GONE. It's kind of nice when you need him to be somewhere in particular, but when he thinks, "I'm gonna go eat all your villagers!" and then bolts, it's hard to catch him and discipline him, particularly given the aforementioned control problems. Slapping and petting is fairly easy though sometimes you'll think you're petting when you're really just hovering. You also can't beat the crap out of your monster like you could in the first game. I remember beating my tiger till he was bruised and fell over onto a building and crushed it. Now, when you pet or praise the creature will stand still and take it with a little bar showing how encouraged or discouraged he is to do a particular action. Unfortunately they took out things like scarring and tattooing so I can't shape my little tiger in my own image. Feeding him has shown to be a problem, too. I don't have any pastures for livestock yet and there don't seem to be any wild animals, so my tiger can either eat villagers or grain. Or rocks or trees or poop, I guess.

He might be disobedient, but he likes to carry his teddybear around while he kicks his ball, and that's adorable, so I forgive him. For now.

Conclusion:
There are some other things I could get in to, like the tribute system and how you have to unlock some basic actions (such as gesturing to cast miracles), but I want to try those out a little more before I give an impression. So far, I'm enjoying the game much more than I did the original. But I'll be honest, the game takes effort to play and the control problems keep reminding me that I'm playing a game. Maybe I should try tweaking some of my sensitivity settings. The game has a lot of promise and I think people have generally been too hard on it. I'll post continued impressions as I put more time into it.

And sadly, there are no crustacean creatures.

I remember beating my tiger till he was bruised and fell over onto a building and crushed it.

:0

As long as you can make your creature eat poop, I'll play it!

IMAGE(http://img13.imageshack.us/img13/3885/tiger8fp.jpg)

Still building my opinions so I'm not going to add much. This is my Tiger. He's still pretty young, but as you can see he's totally ripped because I trained him to use trees and villagers as free weights. He actually does it on his own now. I've also trained him to be a good little tiger, and as he's gotten further and further on the "good" side, his fur has turned from orange to white. If you make your creature more domestic (entertainer/builder/harvester) they'll get soft and squishy and cute. My guy still looks mean because while I let him do other things I put a priority on physical training and he's the primary defense of my city. No, he's not on fire, that's just something behind him. He's getting healthier now that I can make meadows instead of just fields, meaning he can eat sheep and pigs instead of grain all the time. When some of the Norse emmigrated they brought along their dogs and he ate them. The dogs, not the Norse. I thought that was funny and it didn't count as evil since dogs are considered wild animals (as are livestock apparently).

The little guy over by the pig is a Japanese migrant, which is why he has that straw hat on. The tiger's about to eat the pig.

So far so good and it has some of the most beautiful graphics in certain places. You must have preordered because I didnt get no stinkin lion. I had an ape a cow or a wolf - and I think a lion. I chose the wolf - can you really focus on physical training... My wolf likes to lay around a lot and play with his teddy bear and entertain the villagers. He occaionally kicks the ball around. I have even finished the second island, but it is fun. That being said - it can be slooowww so patience in this game is a virtue... Its nice to have time to just watch your people do things at time. By the way - do they sleep automatically - or do I have to do something special?

Get the leash, have your creature pick up a tree, wait for the "workout" option, and click it. Then as he's pumping iron (wood?), shake off the leash and start petting him until you've maxed out "I'll work out with trees." He'll also sometimes use villagers as weights. The villagers don't seem to like it but it doesn't cause any harm so you can encourage that too. He can probably work out with rocks also, but I always throw those out of my area of influence since they're useless. Then, just discourage him from eating villagers and leave other eating options at medium (maybe pump Grain up a little bit). Then he won't overeat and he'll know that exercise is a good thing. I think their health stays a bit low till they get bigger (like my guy didn't reach 100% fitness till the third island).

I have no idea how you get your villagers to rest more if they want sleep. I THINK it might have something to do with proximity of homes to work areas (for instance, if the guy stops working when he's tired you don't want him to have to walk far to get home). You can make people live in certain homes or work in certain areas; they'll generally work as close to home and live as close to work as possible. The civilian AI seems to be pretty smart that way. The only stupid things I've noticed is some of my builders got themselves locked outside of my walls and weren't too interested in coming home when I opened the gate. However, when we were low on food I build some huge fields outside the walls and left the gate open. People came flocking in. I wouldn't suggest you do that under threat of attack. I'm not too sure my guys would run back inside the walls if attacked.

If you build plant and statue markets, your people will automatically buy items to decorate their homes, which is really cool. You can pick up the stuff they buy if you want to move it elsewhere. Or, y'know, throw it at them.

I preordered the game, where do I get me extra animal?

They should e-mail you a code with instructions, unless you pre-ordered in-store. Then you need to talk to the people at the store. After you've used the TigerUnlocker, the tiger will appear in the background of the animal select screen.

This is entirely off-topic, but i'd like to make clear that, if I should ever meet Lobster, at this point, i'm just about expecting to meet a hyperactive, blue-haired 8-year old boy with a cape.

So I snagged this over the weekend, having nothing better to do, and have played it for about two hours, skipping over the tutorial. My one question is this: Is my graphics card not good enough?

Reason I ask is that I can't really see the people if I'm zoomed out to any significant degree. I have severe popup issues with them and it makes it extremely difficult to play the game. My town has a large number of people, but I can rarely see them. My card is an ATI 9600 Pro. Not top of the line, but I didn't think it would really cause me any problems.

mumford wrote:

Reason I ask is that I can't really see the people if I'm zoomed out to any significant degree. I have severe popup issues with them and it makes it extremely difficult to play the game. My town has a large number of people, but I can rarely see them. My card is an ATI 9600 Pro. Not top of the line, but I didn't think it would really cause me any problems.

How do you define a significant degree? I have mine set on Medium and I can see the people from a useful height. And it's a bit choppy on my 9800 Pro, so I think this game might require a bit more power.

Prederick wrote:
This is entirely off-topic, but i'd like to make clear that, if I should ever meet Lobster, at this point, i'm just about expecting to meet a hyperactive, blue-haired 8-year old boy with a cape.

And just what's wrong with my cape?

Useful degree would be, I'm in the first island after saving some Greeks and the town is rather small. If I zoom out to a point that I can see most of the city, which is just the 3 major buildings a couple of fields and some houses I am unable to see most of the citizens. I guess I could try dropping the quality to see if that helps, but it will make me cry. Either that or try and get a better video card, which would probably hurt more.

How far out do you need to see your people? I've had cities with populations of over 800. If it rendered all of those people at all levels of zoom it'd create a lot of load.

I'll play some more tonight and see if I get used to it. I'm still getting used to the hand being kind of wonky about where it wants to pick stuff up from, it seems a bit inaccurate.

I haven't played long enough to have an opinion yet. I'm mostly looking forward to beating the hell out of my stupid pet and making it the ultimate weapon!!!!!1!1!!!

I treated my pet very kindly but discouraged him from doing silly things like play with toys and encouraged him to lift weights. As a result, when the Japanese attacked me right at the beginning of the 4th land my creature slaughtered their forces without breaking a sweat. Good, since they didn't give me time to build a wall OR raise an army (I think this was fixed in the patch).

Too bad the patch makes your save games useless...

Played some more last night. I'm getting used to the controls now and the issue I was having with the people not showing up where I wanted isn't so bad anymore. I've been teaching my lion to help build my cities and gather supplies, he's also quite good at entertaining the villagers. I'm not sure I like the tribute system for upgrading my animal, I wish he would just get better as he keeps doing the tasks.

Otherwise, pretty good so far.

Your creature does do better as he does tasks. You buy him miracles to give him special powers and you can buy AI sets if you don't want to train him by hand. I have the Advanced Soldier set and the creature Lightning Miracle, but he kicked ass and cast lightning on my enemies without me switching his AI off Free Will or showing him how to use lightning.

I have the Advanced Soldier set and the creature Lightning Miracle, but he kicked ass and cast lightning on my enemies without me switching his AI off Free Will or showing him how to use lightning.
That sounds great, I wonder if players can make their own AI sets and transfer them around?

Haven't gotten to a point where I've needed my creature to kick ass, but I did just start the big Norse island, so I'm thinking I'll be starting him up on that pretty soon. I want him to help out around the city and defend/attack when I need him to. Raising any kind of army is evil, but I don't think I'll be going on any military conquests. Perhaps when I play through a second time and be totally evil I'll do that.

I'm still early in the game, but it definitely seems more engaging than the original. I have not started with the creature yet, since I want to dedicate a few hours to it, and time is short at the moment.

The army stuff definitely helps. It seems like the AI is better now, I'm spending less time worrying about resources and more time playing the "big picture" game. So far, anyway.

I forget, could your civilians gather resources in the first game? I seem to recall picking up a lot of damn trees and watering way too many crops.

mumford wrote:
I forget, could your civilians gather resources in the first game? I seem to recall picking up a lot of damn trees and watering way too many crops.

Yes, but they sucked at it.

mumford wrote:
Haven't gotten to a point where I've needed my creature to kick ass, but I did just start the big Norse island, so I'm thinking I'll be starting him up on that pretty soon. I want him to help out around the city and defend/attack when I need him to. Raising any kind of army is evil, but I don't think I'll be going on any military conquests. Perhaps when I play through a second time and be totally evil I'll do that.

Building a barracks is an act of evil. Attacking hostile forces camped on your border is an act of evil. Attacking hostile forces that are attaching your city is neutral (not good, nor evil). My tiger never fought anything until the second Japanese island, though he'd occasionally kick over trees and break rocks and stuff and I made him lift weights a lot. As I mentioned before, he had no problem stomping my enemies. I had to grab his leash and command him to attack at first of course, but then after he smooshed a catapult I praised him a lot and he started rampaging on his own.

I think I finally taught my animal where to take a dump, now he fertilizes trees instead of buildings and people. I've also been trying to teach him to work out, but it's been goofy trying to praise him for it, the hand keeps taking whatever it is he is holding. I also had him eat poop, then I beat the hell out of him for it, he won't eat it anymore. Did the same with villagers. Seems like it would be confusing for me to tell him to do something then wail on him for it, but he's learning I guess.

The one activity where the monster seems to have a wide array of specific, trainable options is... sh*tting. He wants to sh*t on everything. People, buildings, fields, trees... You can encourage or discourage any and all.

Thank goodness they did not forget the important things in life; everyone needs a poop-tossing monkey.

I'm close to finishing the fourth island (Japanese) and I'm enjoying the game. I'm having some difficulty with influence though. I got migrants from all but three of the villages but I can never seem to finish the other guy off and get his last, main city. It says I have enough influence to capture his populace with my awesomeness and the green arrows show as moving in my direction but they never leave. I'll probably end up frustrated and just kick the crap out of him with my army.

Is there any way to gain direct control of a city without invading it? People just leave and come to my city, but I'd like to run the other towns as well...

Is there any way to gain direct control of a city without invading it? People just leave and come to my city, but I'd like to run the other towns as well...

On the third island it seems that when they leave their villages you can't cap the remaining buildings with troops but you can on the fourth (Japanese) island. After people migrated I could send a small troop to capture the town and dump villagers in there to re-populate it.