Review by cheeseball341

"Not very much to do with spores, actually."

Spore

Developed by Electronic Arts and Maxis
Australian Release

Spore is the highly anticipated creature version of the Sims, which has you take control of a creature and command it through evolutionary stages. This game has received a range of feedback, from shining gold to overhyped lackluster. In my opinion, this game has something for everybody. You start out controlling a cell that has been created through meteoric radiation. You gradually become sentient, discover fire, learn to create vehicles and technology, then take the final frontier of space exploration. This game is exceptionally varied. Everyone has a different opinion, but I'll state my opinion below. As an unbiased person who barely even knew about it when it first came out, I think I can speak without the bias against mainstream and without the fanboyism that comes with many reviews of anticipated games.

Gameplay: 7/10

This is a fairly ordinary game in terms of gameplay. There are many, many elements incorporated into this game, some of which seem like a little too much. There are third-person elements, RTS elements, and some innovation, such as the incorporation of design and personality paths. In the end, much of the design is just for show, but is fun all the same.

We'll start with the Cell Stage. In this stage you take a bird's eye view, and control a cell trying to become sentient. You eat your way up the food chain, mutating add-ons like cilia and poison jets as you go on. You grow bigger and bigger, and once you've chomped enough food, you mutate yourself a brain. A novel start, and a decent introduction to the game.

Next, there's what I consider the best part: the Creature stage. Here, you control a creature in third-person, and you either befriend or annihilate other tribes of sentients. You can convince others to join you in your quest, or you can go it alone and boost up your stats to extremes. There are many, many 'skills' you can master. Among them are fighting skills and socialising techniques. You press buttons or click icons accordingly. Being social is like Simon Says, while fighting is frenzied button pumping, where the outcome is largely based on stats or numbers.

The introduction to RTS Spore comes in the Tribal stage. Rather basic, you collect food, build equipment huts, and tame creatures. You can befriend other tribes, or you can burn their villages to the ground. The befriending process is musical Simon Says (which gets boring after a while), while the attacking process is the same as any other RTS. It starts to go a little downhill from here, if you ask me.

The next part is the Civilisation era, where you use vehicles to siege other civilisations. You don't have a choice, really. You're going to get some things destroyed. This is easily the least challenging part of Spore, but is also pretty good graphically. You simply erect a plantation to harvest resources. You can get several of these easily, and enemies won't even try to steal them back unless you're playing Hard Mode, and even then they won't even have backup. If you want to be peaceful, you'll have to convert other cities using giant projectiles and gibberish. You can convince buildings to stop their respective roles using religion. Wow. The main factor here is numbers, greater numbers = win. Same goes for destruction. It's rather lackluster, if you ask me. Of course, plane spam is quite fun.

The Space era makes everything else look underdone. It's so long and enormous that it sort of makes you want to quit immediately. First, the bar at the bottom absolutely cannot be filled in what is classified as a short time. Second, goals are obscure and sidequests are ridiculous in stature. Finally, the fun little effects get tiresome after 3 or 4 showings. It's a nice change, and you get to shoot things with homemade spaceships, but there was so much more that could have been done.

Graphics: 9/10

For a game that lets you create creatures, it sure has smooth graphics. Everything can be modified, and will still run smoothly. There are plenty of parts to choose from. The animation is also exceptional, most notably the social aspects of Creature mode. The environments are lush, filled with secrets, and comprised of lovely little touches. All the inhabitants of these worlds, even Maxis made ones, are great to look at.

Controls: 8/10

Spore was designed for a desktop PC. It is invariably hard to play on a laptop, as I had done. However, if played on a PC, it is smooth, easy to use, and doesn't deviate from the proven stuff, like the WASD and mouse controls. The controls change slightly from era to era, but ultimately proves mouse-based, which is pretty smart thinking on Maxis' part.

Sound: 7/10

There is likeable sound in this game, especially in the Space and Tribal stages, where the music is suited to the game. However, the FX, like geyser spouts or meaningless humming, become little more than annoyances as you progress through. If you're trying your best to have fun, like I was, you'll find that the music suits the game.

Difficulty: 6/10

That's an average score. Everything up to Civilisation is fairly simple, and just requires good customisation and management skills. Of course, there are 3 difficulty levels, but even Hard just means that enemies are more likely to eat/be unfriendly/declare war on you. Other than that, not really that difficult. Space ups the difficulty curve absurdly. As well as requiring crazy amounts of cash and logically impossible memory, it also forces you into situations where the only way to succeed is to have succeeded in similar tasks before (multiple times) to gain access to a tool that you 'must have for the job'. A little silly, but after the initial shock, it too becomes moderated in challenges.

Sidequests: 4/10

There are 'Achievements' everywhere, from stat maxing to socialite breeding, and Space mode has its own system of badges. There aren't really sidequests apart from this, unless you're into hardcore item collection, of which there are several examples. It could have been so much more.

Replayability: 10/10

Recustomise, choose a different social path, make different friends and enemies, or just playing on another level - this is the best part of Spore - even you won't know what you're about to do. Making it up as you go along is all part of the fun.

Online: 5/10

You get to download other players' creations, and then the game randomly inserts them into your game. But seriously, only allowing downloads of other creatures...silly. A PvP arena, or even a mini-museum would have done so much more for the game. Running into your friends' creatures and destroying them is hilarious...for the first few times. After that you'll just continue on, because at least half of the creatures you'll encounter are still Maxis-made.

Total: 8/10

Spore is a game that, while undeservedly mega-hyped, still has charm, wit and finesse, and shouldn't be taken down because it didn't reach the peak of anticipation. It's an ingenious idea, and was put to fairly good use. It could have been better, but hey, so could every other game. A bold idea, and a simple one too. Spore is a good game, and even if you don't buy it, you should try it at least once.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/17/08

Game Release: Spore (AU, 09/01/08)


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