Black & White 2

Black & White wasn't quite the well-defined experience suggested by its title. The wealth of ideas competing for attention throughout the grand endeavour made for a fractious, often confusing game. With the sequel, Lionhead hopes to cure such ills.

The player's role as deity remains focused on ensuring that their chosen tribe, be that Greek, Roman, Viking or otherwise, achieves dominance of the game's 10 lands.

Inevitably, there remain two contrasting means by which to win: the way of peace (constructing a city so resplendent that other tribes flock to it) or of war.

While Blizzard veteran Ron Millar continues work on this latter branch, Peter Molyneux is keen to stress the stunning nature of the townships available to the righteous player.

"I want cities to be absolutely beautiful," he reveals, "with pubs, shops, bath houses, amphitheatres, OAP homes, etc. If you leave the game running, the people, when not getting drunk in taverns, will begin to customise their environment, placing flower pots in windows and decorating the streets."

Those who adopt the opposing RTS route will discover that its mechanics have developed into a powerful, flexible means by which to coordinate a war.

In terms of magic, still split into everyday and epic varieties, we've seen the latter in action and, yes, the ferocity of the volcano, with its lava coursing through city streets and over their inhabitants, is unquestionable, further upheld by the scorched wasteland that remains afterwards.

Governing all, however, is Black & White's innately simple and intuitive interface.

The RTS genre, explains Millar, has become too esoteric. "Lots of games are adding more units and better visuals," he continues, "but that isn't adding to the gameplay."

Accordingly, Lionhead has dealt with the engine's increased versatility by simply extending the logical functionality of the player's ethereal hand.

Though the separate labouring of these two charismatic designers suggests more confusion than we had before, Molyneux and Millar's demo reveals a purposeful and entertaining experience emerging from the dichotomy. They are well aware that the last thing Black & White's sequel can afford to be is grey.