The perfect world. A lush, unspoiled paradise of small islands in a cobalt sea. Eight tribes live their lives here in harmony. They work the land, fish the sea, build homes and farm animals. They only want for one thing. A god.
And this is where you come in. It’s divine intervention – the villagers, in trouble one day, shouts for help and you swoop from the heavens and save them. From that moment on, everything changes. You are their god and they set about construction a temple in which to worship you. And, as is the way of gods, the more worship you receive, the stronger you get.
The villagers also take you to the most precious things on their island. These are the creatures; animals which frolic in a hidden oasis. You, as a god, may pick one of these and make it yours. There are several to choose from, but what’s important is what you teach your creature. It must learn what to eat, where to sleep, how to help the tribespeople and how to fight. You must also teach it a moral code.
The moral code has nothing to do with what we on Earth regard as right or wrong. As a god, you decide how to treat your people and, of course, your creature. If you decide to be good, your people may be loyal, but they may also lose any zeal and devotion to you. In short, they may take you for granted and, as humans are apt to do, they might take advantage of your kind nature.
If you opt to be evil, you can guarantee that the people will worship hard and toe the line through fear alone. A harsh and brutal regime will reap rewards in terms of productivity, too. But too much discipline can have an adverse effect – the dead and injured soon pile up, and the number of fit and able dwindles.
Whether you are good or evil, or somewhere in between, you are not judged for it. As a god, your way is the only way. Of course, if you wipe out your tribe, you’ll have no-one to worship you and you’ll fade into infinity. But this won’t have been a punishment for your evilness – you’ll just have made a mistake. Black and White is played according to the morals of each person. Good and evil are the two extreme approaches – right and wrong doesn’t enter into it.
To aid you in your decision-making, and to provide information throughout the game you have two advisors. These represent the good and evil sides of your own conscience and they offer comments, hints, advice and clarification as you play. They also have their own agendas, which are diametrically opposed. So it’s not just a case of doing what they say.
Your style of playing has a big effect on the people and the land. You’ll see changes in the very landscape and even the sky which reflect the sort of person you are (at least, the person you are when you’re playing Black and White). Clouds roil and thunder over the evil player’s domain. The trees become twisted and the ground blackens. But rainbows soar over the good player’s island. Bright green fields lie peacefully below clear blue skies and the sun shines.
Your creature, too, is affected by your approach as he learns from you. He has a mind of his own and carries out tasks or actions according to how he feels and what he thinks. As he grows and becomes far bigger and stronger than any human, he can be invaluable in helping your tribe. But he can also be a hugely efficient guardian of law and order, punishing those who he feels deserve it. And of course, he is there to protect your tribe and settlements from attack.
If you’re evil, your creature will be, too. He’ll change in appearance, and people will flee from him. Frankly, he’ll look pretty nasty. But if you’re good, he’ll be as cuddly as he was when he was just a baby. Only he’ll be anything up to 400 metres high.
Presiding over your tribe is a big job – every individual person is unique and has a different look and personality. They all tend to work together and they aren’t stupid, but there are always some who’ll be more wayward than others.
However, there’s more than that for you to do. Everywhere you look you’ll find challenges. These are mini-tests and micro-quests for you to embark upon. For example, how do you deal with thieves taking your tribe’s livestock? Can you find and heal the sick villager lost in the woods? How will you help your fishermen in their boats after the wind turns and blows them towards the lethal reefs? Can you outwit the gambler on the beach?
There are dozens of these challenges and how you solve them, or indeed, whether you want to solve them, is up to you. If you do, you have four tools. One is your brain. Many of the challenges are real puzzlers, requiring some deep, not to say lateral thought. The next tool is your creature. If you’ve taught him well, he may be able to carry out the most amazingly complex actions, such as throwing, carrying, finding, moving and rearranging. When a physical presence is need for a challenge, he’s your man. The third tool is your moral stance. For example, if some of your villagers are cursed with an illness you can heal them, which takes time, effort makes them a burden on the tribe, or you can kill them – quick, simple and ruthless, but it makes practical sense. Only you can decide how to solve the challenges. As so often in Black and White, things are rarely black and white. Killing is not the answer to every problem. Neither is unconfined compassion. We wouldn’t make it that easy.
Finally, as a god you have magic. A range of spells, which grows as the tribes increases in size, and gets more powerful as their worship-levels increase. Of course, you’d expect the heavenly standards of lightning, heal, tornado and shield, but there are plenty more, including some surprises. Wait until you meet the Armageddon spells.
So what’s your aim? Well there are other gods and other tribes. The Tibetans, Aztecs, Japanese and Egyptians are only a few. And they’re all very different from you (and each other). Sooner or later your paths will cross. Just like you, the other gods have their own approaches. Some will be good, others irredeemably evil. But they all want more power than they’ve got. So they’ll use magic against you, send their creatures into battle and even steal or kill your villagers. There’s nothing more ruthless than a holy war.
The stakes get higher and the battles get larger until the whole planet of Eden is embroiled. As you make and break alliances, fight and regroup, kill and shield the tribes, it’s clear than only one god can rule the world. If you’re sharp enough, it might be you.