Genre: Strategy Developer: Maxis Games Publisher: EA Classification: PG Consumer Advice: Parental guidance recommended for persons under 15
Release Date: 4th Sep 2008 Platforms:PC
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The Good bits
You develop a real attachment to your creature.
The Space level is deep, involved and fun.
Hours of gameplay.
The Bad stuff
Each stage controls differently, and it takes getting used to.
The other monsters weren’t nice to Gammy.
The hype surrounding Spore makes it sound like five games in one and certainly the game does have very distinctive and separate playing styles between the growth stages. The five stages are quite different, but they don’t equate to five games in one.
The Cell stage is akin to Pacman minus the walls, and you’ll waka waka your way towards food, slowly building in size and features until you evolve enough dna to make your way onto land.
The keyboard and mouse controls make this stage tough to play – if it lasted the length of a full game you’d no doubt find yourself quickly plugging a control pad in to give yourself full 360 degree movement, but just as you’re starting to get annoyed you’re thrust onto land.
Here, in the Creature stage, you’ll face a new control system and a new set of challenges. The game now moves like World of Warcraft – you move the camera with your mouse to look around, select targets with a click of the mouse and press numbered buttons to use abilities.
This stage features the creature creator so many will be familiar with from the Spore Creature Creator demo released earlier this year. You can give you monster arms, legs, scary teeth or – as it was in the case of Gammy, the GameArena monsters, all of these plus some razor claws, spines and wings.
The gameplay again takes some getting used to, and similarly it’s not long after you’ve finally got it down that you will be changing once more. The way the game changes between growth stages isn’t exactly well explained, which is puzzling as it is aimed at such a broad market.
In fact if it weren’t for the early game’s short length I’d expect quite a few players to give up quite early on – a huge mistake. Anyone who gave up on the game early on would miss out on the real meat of the Spore experience – Civilisation and beyond.
Still, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The Tribal stage is next and gameplay resembles a rudimentary RTT – Real Time Tactical game. Squad based combat usually just involves swarming an enemy with as many people as you can until they die – the AI seems smart enough to run away when it is clearly outnumbered but it’s a simple matter to divide and conquer anything in your way.
The idea in Tribal mode is for you to conquer or befriend the other tribes around you using rudimentary tools – maracas to impress them, axes to kill them and fishing spears to make food gathering simpler.
Having annihilated and destroyed every opponent in my path since the beginning of time, Gammy remained the scary monster you would expect. He mastered the arts of maraca shaking and trumpet blowing, but he was a ruthless warrior at heart.
Hitting the Civilization stage I noticed the game was still fairly easy – being a warrior race made killing all those who opposed me simple as well. Playing a balanced creature might prove more challenging early on but seems rewarding later.
Gammy just wants to make friends!
Later in the game being a brute can make things tough – other monsters don’t want to be your friend very much, and it can get to the stage (later on) where you find yourself simply conquering everything as a pre-emptive strike to avoid the inevitable rejection (and subsequent heartache) when you approach another civilisation and fail to win them over through social aspects.
The civilisation game is largely dependant on your creature’s history as a result. It’s the first time that the game not only starts to feel worthwhile but it’s the first time you’ll either relish or rue the decisions you make.
In my case it was rue – it’s tough to become a social creature when you have a history of annihilation. Further, when you spend so much time developing your creature – not just creating him out of nothing, but building every aspect of him – you get to the point where despite his crocodile snout full of jagged teeth, his razor sharp claw arms and scary lizard eyes you actually want him to be able to make friends.
And so it was with Gammy as we conquered all those who opposed us to begin the fifth and final stage – Space. Space is a whole new game in itself, making an accurate description of Spore “Two games in one”. Despite the fact that you’ll launch into the skies in under five hours you’re in a whole new game once you do.
Space is a massive combination of exploration and domination, and it’s the real meat of the game. Much like the Civilization stage before it, you’ll find yourself encountering many other monsters – finding monsters is the actual goal.
The initial difficulty you’ll encounter with each of the other stages is back in the Space stage, and it’s even more frustrating because the stage is so massive, and yet constricted.
You can explore the entire galaxy for new life, but you’ll quickly find new life on other stars nearby – and if you annoy that life, they’re enemies for eternity. You will regularly return to your homeworld to defend it from constant invaders, or eco-crises or other issues, hindering your efforts to shape a universe in your image further. It’s annoying very quickly.
Once you get used to the control system though, you can start to have fun. Setting up trade routes, conquering pesky foes and actually reshaping a barren wasteland planet into an Eden for all types of life forms reinforces what Spore is all about. Controlling life as you see fit.
And while the Space stage is the real bulk of the game and the reason anyone would keep playing, Spore wouldn’t be the game it is without first stages. Sure it’s flawed, and it’s at times but it’s overall an epic game. You won’t feel a connection to any Sim – or any created player in any game for that matter – like you do with your monster in Spore.
If you can ignore the early level frustrations you’ll feel with the controls and develop a creature which is truly yours Spore is an experience like no other game. A perfect game wouldn’t make you combat clunky controls, but imperfect is still great. Gammy - the razor armed, crocodile-mouthed and socially retarded monster - taught me that.
Spore has received much hype through the press and gaming community. Created by the ingenious Will Wright, creator of the Sims and SimCity, Spore is one game currently joyously jumping around the public forum at the moment as the “ultimate God game.” Let me tell you, I have not had this much fun playing a game for ages. Trust me when I say that it is not very often that a game that becomes so infectious that you cannot stop playing until your eyes get so sore and you body becomes so rigid that you’re about to slip into a coma.
Spore not only lets you focus on the creation and evolution of one sentient, but of an entire race, all ready to serve and follow at your command – from the peaceful Cell Stage, all the way to the vast fifth and final stage in your species history – Space!
Utilising the various in-depth and powerful editors enables users to create several different things – from your own creature, to buildings, planes, on-land vehicles and ships. With several MILLION different combinations and mixtures that can be made, this is definitely a one of the biggest achievements in this game – and in any games history.
The user-generated content available for download in your ‘Sporepedia’ is also a great addition to this remarkable game and I find it a godsend to know that even if I cannot even make a passable ship or creature, the massive database is ready for use to give me millions of better-looking objects to use in my game.
Of course, not everything is perfect. This game is not without its drawbacks, and playing through such stages as the Tribal, Civilisation and Space, you really get a sense of déjà vu and you end up redoing the same tasks over and over. I believe this tends to alienate and agitate some of the more hardcore gamers. One major aspect I truly detest about this game is found in the Space age. As you progress through this stage, you make allies as well and enemies. These enemies can be a true pain in the ass. They often attack – as you do – without warning; but the most annoying part is the fact that even though you have constructed the most enhanced defensive system on your planets colony, with over 7 turrets, your colony screams for your help, even if they are only being attacked by ONE fighter. And if you don’t get there in time to stop them, even though your lazy-arse colonists usually defeat the attackers, they get so mad at you they want you to leave. Hear me now as I sigh. Uhhhhh.
Spore does have its downside – but in this truly remarkable game, there is more to praise that there is to criticise. The gameplay, even though repetitive, is smart and intuitive, with five different stages that will keep you hooked for hours on end. I wouldn’t classify this game as a game that would catch everyone’s eye, but the difficulty level (easy) and assorted gameplay elements makes this a truly remarkable game that should be attempted at by everyone.
when i got the game i wasn't expecting much after playing Spore for the iPod/ iPhone. it seemed boring and got old in 5 mins. But Spore for the PC is completely different hours of play.
The Creature, Tribal and Civ. levels could have been a bit thicker but it mean i got to the Space stage quicker which is good in a way. I love flying around in my custom ship that i know is the only one in the world making me feel special. :-D
i would recommend the game to gamers of all ages. but i warn parents to not get it or the kids will be on the PC for hours :-)
I really enjoyed the game and hope this review persuades you into buying it because yo wont regret it.