Sadly, neither can be taken for granted. Realistic? Maybe. Annoying? Definitely. And why does it steadily turn your creature evil to defend your city? Maybe it’s a moral point, along the lines of Nietzche’s old stuff about looking into the abyss, but if it is it’s really annoying.
Finally, the godlike tasks are still slightly crap. Maybe it’s just my bungling, but the little miracles you’re asked to perform – tossing barrels, splitting stones – are either so painfully easy that you needn’t have bothered, or so hard to manage with the slightly cludgy hand controls that you wish you hadn’t. After a while, it’s tempting to just ignore them.
Now, given all this the high score seen above is going to sound a little strange. After all, these are some pretty deep flaws for such a high-profile game.
Well, I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but it’s partly becauseI can’t resist the graphics. Black & White 2 is easily the most beautiful strategy game I’ve ever seen. The landscapes are awesome, the towns and cities vibrant and full of incidental detail, the armies stunning when seen en masse, and your creature is so primed with expression and personality that you cannot help but be amazed. In the early stages, you can spend large amounts of time just scrolling around the world, admiring the rolling hills, the breaking waves, the swaying grass. Once you hit later levels and the larger confrontations and impressive, special weapon miracles start coming in, the game reaches an incredibly cinematic level.
Secondly, it’s still down to the creature. You might not have the special relationship you once enjoyed, but it’s still a blast to see him fetching, carrying and building; a wheeze to see him picking up a villager with real interest and delight; a chortle to watch as he squeezes something nasty out beside an appalled crowd. There’s even a fierce pride as he barrels, kicking and roaring, into an enemy platoon. It’s an amazing achievement, and one that, in many respects, is now better integrated into the actual gameplay. No longer a distracting side-issue, the creature now feels central to the action.