Starts off as fun, and then descends into needless micromanagement and annoyance…
God games are an unusual genre in gaming to me. It mixes quite a lot of different types of games into a congealed mass of code, sort of like putting butter chicken on linguine with tzatziki. And wrapping it in a burrito tortilla. Black and White was the first of the God games I ever played, when it was revolutionary and new. Sadly the splendour wore off quickly.
The game starts off well enough, you are a new god in the world and you have to choose an animal avatar to represent you. Your next task is to start influencing people so that they will worship you, granting you more and more power. As you go on, you’ll also train your animal avatar in how to attack, defend and assist your followers as they seek a better future for themselves by building up their civilization. You can also directly interact with the world to lend a hand, but that takes up mana and energy.
Of course, it’s not just a simple walk in the park (or island, in this case), as there’s an opposing god, ruling its own tribe of people who are out to get you. The game basically pits you and your animal avatar against the powers of this other god, Nemesis. The only way that you can interact with the world is with hand gestures made with the mouse, which sounds cool, until you actually try it. It’s preposterously bad. While the idea of no interface might be appealing aesthetically, it’s about as practicaly as giving a fox the key to your chicken coop.
On the other hand, you have to try to at least credit the creators of the game for trying something different and ambitious. The no-interface interface is bewildering at first, but you quickly get used to it. The tutorial on how to interact with the world is extensive and the actions one uses to do things in it are well constructed, and works well with the basics, but leaves the game difficult to master. Then again, that’s fair enough, the player needs to have some sort of challenge.
Black and White is one of those great thought experiments that probably doesn’t work so well once implemented. However, it’s brave, interesting games like this that moves the industry forward, with new ways of doing things and a different take on how a computer game is supposed to entertain the player. Credit where it’s due, though. It nearly made it.