Black & White: Creature Isle
Three blokes in a ship have only gone and discovered another land, one packed with a group of creatures that live together in a sect called the Brotherhood and without the influence of any god. They know new skills and are willing to let you in on the secrets if you and your creature can perform a series of tasks.
What's The Big Deal?
Like it or loathe it, Black & White was one of the most original titles released in years. This add-on pack, which Lionhead is referring to as a mini-sequel, takes the open-ended model and improves upon it, while adding a more tightly focused gaming experience.
When Black & White was released earlier in the year, a massive wedge was driven into the heart of the gaming community. We haven't had as much feedback about a game since the dreaded QIII/UT debate, and although a load of you loved it, just as many seemed to hate the micro-management and the unfortunate fact that the game was buggy on release. Not one to be deterred, Molyneux and Lionhead have been hard at work creating what is undoubtedly just the first of a whole host of Black & White expansions. Creature Isles is being tagged a mini-sequel, but if you're really nice we'll let you substitute the words add-on pack, or expansion.
Anyhow, do you remember those annoying, singing missionaries from the first land? "Ohhhhhhhh... get us some wood and get us some meat 'cause we're too bloody lazy to get to our feeeeeeeet." You should have squashed them with a rock, but if you had they wouldn't have discovered a new land, populated by a group of creatures who live in a commune known as the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood prove that living together in harmony can bring great rewards and the island holds loads of new miracles for your creature to learn.
The trouble is that before the Brotherhood will disgorge any of its secrets you have to take part in an initiation rite, which demands you suck up to the natives by performing a task for each in turn. After you've succeeded in all of these you're marked with the sign of the Brotherhood and your creature will become more powerful than you could possibly imagine. Or something like that.
But jumping through hoops for the Brotherhood is only half of the game. As well as performing for the crowd, your creature has to raise a pet of its own. And where as in Black & While your actions formed the basis for the actions of your creatures, so the way your creature acts will determine the nature of its new little friend. After hearing about the impending release, we got straight on the phone to Peter Molyneux to quiz him about the new game and whether you can expect to see any advancements beyond the new skills. He was keen to point out that the A1 (one of the high points for the original game) has been taken even further this time around; and the fact that your actions dictate your creature's, which in turn moulds his apprentice, takes the open-ended gameplay into completely new territories. Creature Isles also contains more specific games and puzzles than the original, which has been criticised by some for being nothing more than a glorified sandpit powered by a superb 3D engine. We haven't seen code running yet, but you can rest assured that we'll be motoring down the road to Lionhead Studios as soon as a preview build is up and running.
There's no question about it, Black & White is a game that has provoked enormous passions among gamers the world over, some of whom are totally in love with the concept and spend every waking moment nurturing their creatures, some of whom are still furious at the number of bugs the game shipped with. 'The bugs were totally unforgivable," says Peter Molyneux, clearly upset that his grand vision was blurred for some people by technical problems. "I take the issue really, really seriously and it did colour a lot of people's judgment of the game." We know what he means. Like the people at Lionhead, we experienced no bugs whatsoever when we reviewed the game and subsequently received a backlash of criticism from some of you for failing to mention the problems. It really was a case of the complexity of the game clashing with the diversity of people's computer set-ups. But, as Peter points out, they fixed all those problems with patches and can now look to the future of Black & White.
The immediate future is the add-on Creature Isles, a pseudo-sequel that improves on many areas of the original while concentrating on one specific thing: the creatures. "We really paid attention to the fans of Black & White," says Peter, "and what the clan sites really wanted were either more RTS elements or more creature stuff going on. A lot of the feedback was people telling us they had hoped their creature had been able to do more things, and it soon became clear that was where most of the interest was. As a result, Creature Isles focuses very firmly on the creatures."
While Molyneux has closely supervised the project, the add-on is actually the brainchild of Lionhead's Jonty Barnes, who explains that the ultimate goal of the game is to "have a shag." Let me elaborate.
Remember those missionaries who wanted to sailed to distant lands in Black & White, the ones with the incredibly annoying song, with their notion about the ocean and so on? Well, they've stumbled on to a new island populated by a brotherhood of godless creatures. These creatures will allow you to join their brotherhood and, most importantly, mate with Eve, the only female creature on the island, if you complete a set of trials.
"The main creature you have to convince," says Jonty "is Mercutio the crocodile, the guardian of Eve. We haven't compromised the Black & White game design at all, so you can still achieve this by both good and evil means." Once you've convinced him of your worthiness you can witness the "shagging" taking place, although Peter is a bit sketchy as to what exactly will occur on screen. "You'll have to play the game to find out how explicit the mating is," he says. "But these are animals, so we could do a Richard Attenborough close-up. I'm not saying we will do that, but it's a possibility."
Married With Children
The result of this happy union is a creature sprog, who will then learn from your creature, increase your own powers and give you a lot more spells. This will have immense repercussions in online games, since anyone playing with two creatures will have a definite advantage. First, however, you need to guide your creature through a series of tests. Obviously, you can import the creature you have built up over months in the original game, but if you haven't got one or it isn't advanced enough you can start with one that already has all the basic training.
Jonty showed us some of the trials you'll be facing, essentially loads of fun subgames. There's a fully-working bowling game you have to play against a highly competitive cow (who's a bit like John Turturro's character in 'Tie Big Lehowski), a long race against a cheating turtle and a combat arena where you must defeat a Jedi-like creature, to name just a few.
There is also a running test in the shape of a small chicken you have to look after, to prove you are good enough to be a father to Eve's offspring. He's not just a burden, though, he'll get involved in the tests and help you out.
Although the gameplay is firmly based around the creatures and the trials you have to complete, you can still get villages to join you, and you can gel them to help you with those trials. The mission-based structure doesn't get in the way of total freedom, as you can approach problems from all sorts of angles and create your own strategies. When you do finally manage to get a fruit from your loins, the game is not necessarily over. The trials remain open
and you can improve your offspring by participating in them, there's also a few hidden ones that'll only be available at a later stage of the game. With more than 20 hours of gameplay promised, new tweaks and improved AI, Creature Isles should satisfy the most ardent B&W fans, and maybe a few zoophiles too.
Black & White 2
This is just the beginning
Creature Isles is just the first step in Uonhead's expansion of Black & White, and the company has plans for the future of the series in the shape of sequels and perhaps further add-ons. While it's true Peter Molyneux is already wortdng on his new project, 'Dimitri', he is still involved in the development of B&W 2. Some of the changes planned for the sequel are straightforward: better creature AI and better graphics. But the biggest change planned is to the concept of the game itself with the addition of war. This will give the game a tighter focus on strategy as you guide your chosen tribe in battles against neighbouring villages, while still using your highly intelligent creature at every step of the way.
There are a couple of other features in the pipeline (creature clothing, better lip-sync) but, thanks to its success, Lionhead can take its time and leave ideas for a second sequel rather than trying to fit it all in one game.
Download Black & White: Creature Isle
PC compatible, P-100
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
Black & White: Creature Isle Screenshots and Media
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