Review by Xys` Tel Unaki
"Spore-Without the SecuROM"
SPORE. Possibly the most anticipated and super-hyped game to ever grace store shelves has finally come and with high marks, minus SecuROM and Electronic Arts' stupidity. Will Wright is a freaking genius, starting with SimCity, then the SIMs, and finally this newest masterpiece. It is a beautiful game that has been trashed by all the reviews that seem to focus on one thing. Electronic Arts' DRM called SecuROM which is labeled as Punishing supporters while helping pirates prosper. While I view it as such, I will not go into any details about SecuROM and will leave it at that, and instead focus on actually reviewing SPORE.
In SPORE, you play as God, much like in Black and White for those who played, and create creatures, spaceships, planes, buildings, tanks, etc., while navigating through a series of different game styles to evolve your creature, which brings me to the first part, and possibly the most informative part of my review, the Gameplay.
SPORE is extremely unique, pulling different game aspects from other popular game genres including point & click games, adventure games, and real-time strategy games.
You start off in what is called the Cell Stage. A meteor crashes on a barren planet, releasing a single tiny organism into the world, or tidepool, to fend for itself. This is where the point and click comes in as you click around the world to move and eat. Depending on whether you chose carnivore or herbivore in the cell creation screen, you will attack other creatures for food or feed off the random molecules of foliage floating around. As you eat, your cell gets a little bigger and you see even more creatures. Some are gigantic and cannot be taken on lest you want to get eaten, and some are the right size to attack if you are a carnivore.
After each stage, you get a timeline of your actions, showing from the beginning of the stage all the way to the end where you leave the stage. After finishing Cell, you move into the Creature Phase. This is the adventure game. After selecting your parts and legs for your creature, you move into land and begin getting used to life outside of the tidepool. This is also where your pack will come into play. As you roam around and befriend or attack other creature tribes, you evolve and find new parts for your creature. You also learn how to attack and do things such as dance and sing. Along with these creatures comes the special Epic monsters which are about twenty times bigger than you and require your whole pack and certain body parts to take down. There are no rewards to taking down an epic creature except bragging rights. As you progress, you can call upon your friends or nest-mates to aid you in your adventure. However, this phase is short lived and you enter the Tribal Phase. This is also the point where you have one chance to make you dream creature with arms and make it your permanent race look.
In tribal, you get into the RTS aspect and must take over or befriend the other tribes in the area. As you conquer or befriend the tribes, you gain their clothing which is used to outfit your race. You do not have that many clothing points at this point so options are quite limited but they do shoot up quite a bit in the next stage. In Tribal, this is where your tribe learns the secrets of fire, song and weapons. When befriending other tribes, you go into this mini-game, provided you have the instruments the tribe has, and do a little show for them to make them happy. There isn't much you can do with befriended tribes so I guess it is kind of pointless. Food is the bread and butter (Gigglesnort) of this phase and is used as the currency to build buildings, hatch new members of the tribe, and to give as offerings to other tribes. Over time, you advance and can call out more members, up to twelve, to help you win the phase.
After Tribal comes the Civilization Phase, which plays out like the game another RTS game, except this time, you have grown so much that your tribe is like the Human species. They are the dominant, and sentient, race of the homeworld and have mastered vehicles and ranged weaponry. You lose ground troops but ground troops are not needed because of the power of the vehicles you can build. You must build your city and take over all the other groups of people either by buying them out, or destroying them completely with weapons. You can run around collecting all the spice derricks, the source of money for the phase, yielding large amounts of Sporebucks. However, as you gain more territory, you lose the need for the spice as the income floods in through the use of factories or trade routes. In the end, this phase is rather dull and every vehicle, minus airplanes, uses a grenade of sorts that tracks the enemy to a certain distance. The planes only shoot a laser and are easily taken out. If you have one group of sea vehicles, you can pretty much clear the entire phase in one go if you are on normal difficulty. After taking over the planet, a celebration takes place and a new vehicle is shot into the air.
Space. The Final Frontier. And the most overwhelming aspect of the game.
The vehicle that is launched is the first-ever spaceship, and seemingly the only one you ever see of your race. In the Space Phase, prepare to be overwhelmed. Don't expect to see the whole galaxy in one play, though. Space is huge, and I mean it. You can visit over 10,000 planets, 1,000 of which are taken by the super-race, the Grox. Space is hard to master at first because you gain access to so many abilities, from molding planets to abducting creatures. At first the phase is a calm and peaceful area but soon, you may find a race that immediately hates you and this will make the game even harder. As you fly through space, conducting business with other races, you will find that your worlds are attacked. A LOT! This is very frustrating especially when you cannot access wormholes (Until you get the right tool) to quickly travel back and forth. As you get into more wars, this will happen a lot more frequently, meaning you may never be able to conduct business with friendly nations ever again because if you lose your homeworld, you lose the game. The tasks you must do, or choose to do, for other races are quite tedious and repetitive, ranging from scanning all the creatures and plants on a planet to finding some item in a system that is vaguely hinted at such as The planet is supposed to be this far from this system leaving you to ponder and find the planet, meaning you have less time to do missions before another attack happens.
There are too many aspects of Space I can comment on and that would result in far too many words so I will just say that Space is the least enjoyable phase of all just because it throws so much at the player in so little time after you just got out of a basic stage that was slow and let you think a little before being attacked 500 times.
One aspect that is kind of cute is the Community. If you registered with EA, you gain access to the spore community and from them, other players' uploaded creations can be downloaded to your game and can be seen all around your own little universe. However, there is lack of multiplayer, thank god, for now. The reason I would dislike multiplayer are mostly power trips. Your planet could be blown up by players in space stage while you were busy evolving your cell to a creature. Enough of the gameplay, let us get into the story.
There is barely a story to this game, except for evolution. However, there is a bit of a story in Space but it is a very simple little aspect that requires a lot of planning and a lot of items. That is to just merely get to the center of the galaxy.
Not much to say but remember those tribes you made friends with in Creature and Tribal? They never evolve and become the animals of the game.
I am sorry but there is hardly anything to score, so this section has a special scoring that will not count towards my overall average. I believe in only giving a story score if there is more than a few bits of text that you must read. Now, let us forget about the story and move on to the sound and graphics.
The music in this game is rather cute and reminiscent of simplicity as you roam around the world.
The actual sounds the creatures make are nice as well. In Creature, your little guy will make noises and squeal, whine, even somewhat stutter as he finds his mate. In Tribal, those noises turn into grunts and faint hints of speech. When your race is modernized in Civilization, they begin to actually speak with one another in their own language that the players themselves cannot understand. The text is there, though, to translate and that is good. Each race in Space also has its own little sounds they make as you interact with them. So many noises, such nice music, this portion of the game is overall great.
Now, onto the graphics!
The graphics of the creatures are beautiful. And so are the graphics of the vehicles and buildings too! The creatures themselves look completely unique and No two creatures are alike is something I would follow in this game since the possibilities for creation are endless. However, the graphics of the non-creation aspects seem a little bland for the richness of the detail in this game. The cities are all in tiny circles, the spaceships are too small for the screen and after creature phase, you cannot actually admire your race as they amble around their towns, the weapons you use are extremely bland and all look basically the same aside from bombs, lasers, and missiles in Space, but you do however get to do many things most games will not let you do like the Creature Creator!
This alone deserves its own section because, well, the creature creation was actually released before the full game to let people sample what the game would be like. However, that is not what I am reviewing. I am reviewing SPORE, the game, not SPORE, the Creature Editor.
Now, let us get to the nitty-gritty, and the most appealing aspect of SPORE. In the Creature portion, you start with a blob and move its spine and change its length. However, you cannot change the width, nor the size of the belly and it is very hard to mold that spine back into a pudgy blob. Once you have molded your blob into the shape you want, you can start putting on arms, legs, hand, feet, eyes, a mouth or twenty, and a lot of other cosmetic pieces. The possibilities are near limitless! However, one huge problem is the fact that you cannot place pieces as a single piece if you don't travel straight down the spine. It always separates the piece into twin symmetrical pieces on the body, on each side. This is visible and annoying in the creature, vehicle, and spaceship creators, while Buildings do not separate at all, meaning you can do whatever on buildings.
In vehicle creation, you choose either a boat, car, or airplane model room and can use any parts from each creator minus the specialty parts for the ones you didn't choose. The possibilities for vehicles are, again, limitless. You can create an overly complex super tank or a dreadnaught or you can make a little Volkswagen-like car with a bubble body and wheels. Weapon choices on vehicles are quite barren and there are very few of them. With each piece you place, your vehicle's speed, military, and health status changes, but the actual weapon fired does not change.
The Spaceship creator is a little different. You can choose any piece from any of the other vehicles to put on your ship but you cannot choose space items for your other vehicles. I kind of find this annoying but then again, I don't want the same vehicle for every class. Now, everything, and I mean everything, you put on your ship is purely cosmetic and does not affect stats at all since that is only affected through the Space stage in the story mode. I like this and I don't like this because it would turn out to be another Soul Calibur IV disaster and it makes the most barren and least enjoyable vehicle out of them all. Sure I can make a space-faring car but I want a bit more. I want it to shoot giant missiles and fire sniper shots from the guns I put on its back.
I definitely recommend this game to anybody who is wanting to try a new and innovative game as a buy. You can buy it either from a retail store in regular and Galactic Edition (Has the most stuff out of any collectors edition ever released) or you can use Direct2Drive and buy it off the internet, downloading it straight to your drive. I hope you enjoyed my review, because I know I enjoyed writing it for you guys to decide on a potential purchase!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/11/08, Updated 09/12/08
Game Release: Spore (US, 09/07/08)
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