Review by SwaggeringCuban

"Very shallow once you scratch the surface"

Part of Spore's tag-line reads:

EVOLVE Your Creature through Five Phases - It's survival of the funnest as your choices reverberate through generations and ultimately decide the fate of your civilization.

Does it live up to this? Let's start at the beginning.

Cell Stage
This game is divided into 5 parts, the first part you are a cell, which is probably the best part of the game, your design actually has a large impact on your success, you are offered the chance to become a herbivore, carnivore or omnivore. What they don't tell you is that this choice is the only one which makes any impact on later stages whatsoever.

Creature/Tribal stages
You progress on to become a creature, now you resemble the creature from before, but at any point you can redesign your creature completely, so it makes no difference what you did before, or what you do now, you can always change it later. Now on this stage all you have to do is click to fight, click to move and click to eat. So you could put your eyes on the back of your knees and your mouth in your groin, it wouldn't make a difference to the success or viability of your creation. This is when you start to realize that this game isn't about evolution or life at all, it's about intelligent design, your creatures do not evolve, you just advance a level, then redesign them again.

City Stage
As you progress in time your creatures are now in cities and you merely control vehicles, the personal touch is now gone completely, the only time you see the things you spent hours designing is if you zoom in on a city. You start to wonder what the point of it all was, and why you had to advance to this boring technological phase, surely the essence of the game was life, now all we have are ships, planes, cars.... has this now become an RTS? My other nagging disappointments at this stage were due to the depth or lack thereof of the game. Despite your creatures being sentient they don't do anything, YOU do everything, they do not seem alive at all let alone sentient beings. They do not interact with their environment or other creatures at all, this game just becomes you sending vehicles to conquer cities full of other creatures which are too small for you to see. Your creatures are just puppets, well, your vehicles are just puppets at this point.

Space Stage
The space stage is just baffling. I mean it's obvious there were trying to encompass the entire scope of a life form from start to finish, but somewhere along the line they forgot about the life form. Everything you have done up until now has lumped you into one of 3 general categories. It makes you wonder what the whole point of the painstaking design was, whether to buy the dancing legs or the sprinting legs, how many mouths to have and where to place them, or whether to have stalk eyes or cats eyes, nope none of that matters, you are either warlike, religious or economical. Simply getting to the space age is not satisfying enough because the game is so easy, the satisfaction from games like this is to actually see your designs work and be successful, but the truth is that almost anything works in this game and at city level or beyond, success is purely down to how you play it, with none of the previous designing having the slightest impact. At this point the game is a kind of a bad RTS where you design most of the content, the only problem with that is that the buildings and spacecraft are all the same, you are only designing the appearance. So really it's a bad RTS with the same content for everyone anyway. Speaking of designing things, terra-forming and seeding planets is quite fun, but after a while you realize this is totally shallow too. All creatures require the same atmosphere and climate, all creatures can thrive on any type of terrain. Makes you wonder why they put in so many terrain altering tools. Creating a whole planet can be fun, but not if all you are doing is cosmetically changing it. The same applies to the customizable buildings, why bother? unless you're into design I guess. Making a tiny factory with no doors is not going to affect it's productivity. Making a house with no roof is not going to affect your citizens happiness. Eventually if you want to complete the game you have to grind spice which you sell for money and conquer, seed or buy planets, which are constantly having to be rescued from random ecological disasters such as diseased animals which need destroying, or random invasions which have to be fought off. Random events are always annoying, in a game that took this long and was hyped so much I'd expect better. Why can't we have an ecological disaster of your own making, such as placing an aquatic animal on a dry planet, and you need to create more water or encourage the creature to adapt. This would obviously require the ecosystems to actually be alive in some way, which they just aren't, not even at a very basic level, they are just static representations of what the game should have been. IMO the space stage is totally worthless, it's like a mini-game you would get on your cell-phone, actually nearly all stages are like mini-games, but the space stage is the most shallow and pointless. If the creators had focused on the planet stages, gave them more depth, gave the creatures some AI, made the creatures interact with the planet each other and the environment, this would actually be an interesting game.

What it actually is, is a design tool, with some shallow mini games attached to it.

Ok if you wanted a game about life and evolution, this isn't it.
If you wanted a game where you can design things, this is it.

Overall 3/10

Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 09/16/08

Game Release: Spore (US, 09/07/08)

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