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Spore (PC) artwork

Spore (PC) review

"The premise behind Spore is simple, really. Take a cell and grow it up until you reach space travel. Sounds simple, don't it? That's because it is. Spore is a very railroaded game until you hit the final stage, then it becomes sandbox. There are multiple paths that you can take in your own race to space, but they all lead to the same objectives in the end; which just so happen to be the game's biggest letdown. "

The premise behind Spore is simple, really. Take a cell and grow it up until you reach space travel. Sounds simple, don't it? That's because it is. Spore is a very railroaded game until you hit the final stage, then it becomes sandbox. There are multiple paths that you can take in your own race to space, but they all lead to the same objectives in the end; which just so happen to be the game's biggest letdown.

Cell life is simple; it's kind of like asteroids with a Darwin twist in there. You choose if you want to be a herbivore (plant eater) or a carnivore (meat eater). From there it's a game of eat little things or plant matter, and stay away from bigger things. As you play you'll collect new parts to put on your cell, either via pieces of meteor rocks (which are how you arrived on the planet in the first place) to eating another cell that has that new part and gaining it from them. To upgrade your cell you call a mate, swim over, spin around a bit, and then lay an egg (yes, you play as a girl). You use DNA points that you gain from eating and put on new parts. You can resell any part for full price and thus, complete redesigns are an option. When you're done, your new cell hatches from the egg and you keep on going, earning more DNA points and growing bigger until you have enough to grow some legs and surface. See the railroading?

The game limits itself by giving you a hard coded goal to reach. A set number of DNA points and then you have to grow legs. Lame. I want to be a race of fish people. I don't want to leave the water because the land sucks. Hm? Ever thought of that one Maxis, and what about asexual breeding? Why can't I just split half? Or, eat another cell like an amoeba does? Mouths suck; I want to hug things to death. So yes, your path is railroaded and your options are not as great as they could be, but, you do get the very enjoyable part of playing how you want to play, within the limitations, and that continues on through the game.

Next, Creature stage. Ok, so you got some legs, maybe some arms, a better mouth, and now you're on land, prowlin' about, lookin' for trouble, or just someone to sing to. Your choice. Your main goal here is, as always, to survive, but to also get enough DNA points to evolve again. To upgrade you do the same thing as last time, call a mate, but, your mates and the rest of your crew all hang out at your nest. In order to gain those said DNA points, your creature has to accomplish goals. These range from hunting other creatures, to befriending them and making them allies. How you play will continue to affect your game. It will set your demeanor and basically how other creatures/races view you, so choose wisely.

Your pack will migrate once or twice as you grow, meaning you move to another spot on the map with tougher neighbors. There are also some very large creatures that come around, named Epics. Don't even bother touching them until later. For now, survive and upgrade. The pieces on your creature determine your ability in the various areas of social actions or combat actions, so upgrade accordingly. The better parts cost more DNA points, and tend to be harder to find, so start picking up those bone piles you see laying around and get your part palette up to snuff. Due note that the levels of each part are not cumulative. One mouth with Level 2 in biting will do more damage than 40 mouths with Level 1 in biting. Lame, I know, because 40 mouths totally own one, but hey, that's how it is.

A common theme is that as you grow your pack gets bigger. And bigger packs make your goals easier. So grow, sonny boy and before you know it you'll be in a tribe.

Tribal stage is fun for a bit. You're finally sentient, which is cool. Also, enjoy the throwback to an iconic movie in between the creature and tribe stage. Hopefully it'll pull a laugh or two. The only problem with tribal stage is that it becomes repetitive really quickly. You have, again, a singular goal and only two paths to take to reach it: Be nice, or be mean. You can win the other tribes over with gifts of food and some songs, or burn their homes to the ground and kill them all. Your choice. Also, your creature is no longer naked, and designing clothes is actually more fun than the creature, in my opinion. As you win them over your tribe grows, and you unlock more stuff for your settlement. They sometimes help, sometimes don't. You can also domesticate a wild animal, or fish for food, which helps keep your food supply up. As you no longer have DNA points as currency, you use food.

After you've taken care of the other tribes, you make a civilization. From here, the game becomes an RTS, and your goal is to beat out the other guys. You still only have three paths to take, that is, win them over by force, by religion or by cash. Your new editors help you do that. Buildings, vehicles and a city planner are useful in your quest for dominance. How you design your buildings doesn't matter, so have fun, but how your design your vehicles and lay out your cities does. Your vehicles have three attributes: health, speed and firepower, adding different parts swings your vehicle more heavily in one direction or the other, and how you lay out your city determines the happiness of its citizens and the ability of it to crank out cash. I won't share any secrets, play your own way.

The RTS aspect of civilization mode is a great refresher after the doldrums of tribal stage. It's as about as open ended as you get in any of the stages before the space stage, and it's wicked fun to have a fleet of 40 or so ships raining death on your misguided enemies. And who doesn't feel like a pimp when you just 'buy' a city. High-roller, comin' through.

When you've won over the rest of the civilization, you enter space. And this is where the game gets fully sandbox. You mostly play the way you want now. Combat is still regular, but to reach galactic dominance, you'll want more than just good twitch skills. Your goal here is to reach the center of the galaxy, unfortunately your technology really sucks when you begin, so ignore that and start working on making your place in the galaxy. You start in one of the arms, with a couple of other races around you, find them out, and make friends. You're not yet bad enough to start talking with your guns. Continue to trade spice and do odd-jobs for the other races until you feel comfortable, then start blasting. Or don't heed my advice at all and do what you want. It's your game.

So, my score? 7.5/10.

The graphics of the game get the job done, so I'm not dinging Spore on them. Why? They achieve what they wanted to achieve. This is not a game where you need uber graphics to enjoy. The cartoonish look of it is awesome and works for the game. And that's all that needs to be said.

The gameplay gets repetitive fast, but that's on Normal mode. My suggestion: Use Normal mode to learn how things work, then jump over to hard for a real challenge. You'll have to think more and play smarter to survive in Hard, and that's where the game shines if you're anything like me. As for the casual gamer, you'll enjoy it as a simplistic break from the heavy hitters. Frankly, running around with my gang and establishing dominance in my 'hood' is wicked fun. Not to mention just creating content is a great time.

All in all, it's a solid game. Don't be fooled by Normal mode. Don't be fooled by its looks. The game is solid, could have stood to deliver more on the 'sandbox' aspect, but after seeing the utter variety of different things that happen in the game, I can see why Maxis was forced to slim it down to actually ever finish the project.

Here's to expansion packs. Cheers.

BLAH_Or_blah's avatar
Community review by BLAH_Or_blah (September 14, 2008)

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