Reviewer: James Collins
Genre: God game
UK Release: 15th Aug 2003
Article Date: 06th Aug 2003
Overall Score: 68%
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# Nice Graphics
# Decent Sound Cons
# Pretty much everything else Screenshots
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When Bullfrog and Peter Molyneux sat down and started work on Populous, the first real god game as we know it, or even ID Software when they created Wolfenstein 3D, the first real FPS, this reviewer wonders if they really knew the impact that their games would have on the gaming community, to actually invent a genre is something special, and must be what every budding \"Molyneux\" secretly strives to produce.
So what exactly do you do when you run out of ideas or you hit a brick wall? On one side you have your pride, and on the other side you have developers screaming for you to release something, anything, and quick! Now that’s not to say that all copy-cat ideas are un-successful, if that was the case we would only have a handful of classic games, its just that under these circumstances it’s hard to be revolutionary, and sadly this seems to be an all too familiar tale. After all It’s not mana that runs this world remember, its hard cash.
The solution however is always easy, you take a genre that is already out there and try and mould it into something un-recognisable adding new elements that brings new life into a tired genre, sometimes it works, sometimes it all goes horribly wrong. On trial we have CDV and their latest release, this time a god game, enter Heaven and Hell – and let the trial commence.
Heaven and Hell starts off with the typical premise that will be familiar with any follower of this type of game, you have a city full of potential supporters and its your job to woo them to your way of thinking, these villagers will go about their daily lives unless you intervene and show them who’s boss. (Or God) Once that’s done, and they are aware of your powers, you can assign preachers to warp their minds (assist them to your way of thinking). If you succeed, they devote their whole lives to you (and more importantly their houses and village).
Just walking in shouting your mouth off will not work however, your preacher needs of course to perform miracles before anyone believes anything you have to say, The team from Heaven can produce magnificent rainbows and can call Angels from the skies while the naughtier boys from Hell can spew forth daemons and fire tricks to impress the neutrals. Whatever or whoever you choose the desired effect will hopefully be lots of people in awe of your skills, only then can the real preaching begin.
So you have followers, you have their houses, where does the mana come into it? The mana always comes into god games somewhere! No deviation from the well trodden path for heaven and hell either, miracles and troops cost “mana” and only this can be produced from the houses that you gain from your followers, changing their houses into a mana farm will give you a steady supply of miracle juices. However, the spin is that being greedy with mana farms will not leave you with enough houses for faith keepers, these are people assigned to make your followers happy in their believe – obviously you can cast a rainbow or unleash some locusts to cheer them up, depending on what side you are on, but as you will be doing that 95% of the time anyway, and any let up from that is a welcome relief.
As this goes on, obviously you will be against a nemesis trying to achieve exactly the same goal, to conquer the whole map, to own all the villages – sadly this boils down to nothing more than having your soldiers in the right place at the right time – clicking the miracles faster and at times just being plain luckier than your rival. The only difference to this is during the day and night periods, as you would expect, the good favours daylight and the evil prefers lurking in the dark so attacking during your own preferred cycle is always preferred for maximum effect.
As the game goes on, you’ll be able to pick up a few specialised characters such as soldiery who specialises in creating troops to attack infidels making them even more susceptible to the powers of the preachers or the devils minions. Road builder’s clear paths to other villages and obtaining other characters unlock more godly powers like the ability to suck life from your enemies. Some of the special characters do add a level of fun to the game at times.
And Heaven and Hell almost got away with it, almost. It had a great premise, good comical characters, nice graphical effects, atmospheric music and at times was even humorous, unfortunately the people didn’t just sacrifice the lambs, they slaughtered the game play as well, Heaven and Hell fails in completely the opposite way that Black And White did, with Black and White “micro-management” spoilt what was otherwise a classic game, and even with that flaw, many people still swore by that game as the definitive god game.
The same cannot be said for Heaven And Hell unfortunately, Heaven and Hell’s weakest point is not “micro-management” but “zero-management” at times there is simply nothing worthwhile to do apart from hammering the same miracles over and over again, you build very little, houses are won or lost to the good or bad gods, not built. Levels at times are horribly restricted even with this hybrid RTS, you cannot always attack what you want, when you want, and at times your scratching your head as to why.
In conclusion when Black and White was released many complained it offered too much detail, now I fear the same people will say this game offers too little, getting the balance just right in a game is no mean feat but unfortunately this time they failed. Being a games programmer these days is not a job I would relish, nowadays people want much so more for their money, and sadly this game doesn’t quite deliver enough.
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