The game’s other big moral barometer is your creature. As with Black & White, you can choose from a selection of animal archetypes, but what you end up with as your creature grows from childhood, through adolescence to his adult form, is up to you. Spoil and pamper him, and you end up with a useless lump. Encourage good behaviour and reward his efforts to aid your people, and you’ll soon have everyone’s best friend. Slap him about and send him off on killing sprees and – congratulations – your bonny boy is a blood-drinking psycho.
Now, Lionhead obviously reckoned that creature-raising was a bit too tricky in Black & White, so the sequel has a lot of tools to make it as easy as humanly possible. As well as pulling the creature towards points of importance with a leash, and tickling or slapping to reward and punish, you now get a menu of ideas which you can select and reinforce. In other words, your creature now learns by spoken instruction, not just real example. What’s more, his powers can be upgraded in pretty much the same way. It does make it easier to produce a creature that helps build and defend your city, but it also takes some of the old ‘joy of parenting’ out of the game. It’s a little less like raising a child, and a little more like managing an assistant.
This isn’t the game’s only failing. As I mentioned, the RTS gameplay is fairly basic, with only a few units to play with, and not much in the way of actual strategy beyond go here, defend that, attack them, capture that. It also takes an awful lot of resources – including valuable human ones – to raise a respectable army. As a result, whichever approach you take, the levels can take an awfully long time to play through, and it’s all too easy to find yourself in a stalemate for hours. What’s worse, the AI seems flawed. Your opponent tends to send in small wave after small wave of troops, which are easily mopped up by any defensive forces and your creature; provided a) your defensive forces actually recognise and respond to the threat and b) your creature can be persuaded to help.