Review by Bkstunt_31
"How can you resist wanting to play god?"
Spore is the latest brainchild of Sims creator Will Wright, and admittedly one of the most anticipated titles of 2008. I really didn't pay any attention to it until it came out, to be honest, so here's my unbiased review of Spore:
The concept behind Spore is nothing short of re-creating millions of years of evolution in your living room (which EVO did on the Super Nintendo years earlier than Spore). The game presents this fairly well by showing a meteor crashing into your planet and miraculously creating life. You start out as a microscopic organism in this stage of the game and control your creature as you lead your species through evolution. The game is divided into five distinct chapters in your species timeline: cellular, creature, tribal, civilization, and finally space-faring. There really isn't too much of a story, per se, but the concept is pretty cool. Along the way you will meet other creatures who are doing the same thing as you, so it's up to you to lead your species to sentience and beyond!
Gameplay Overall: 8/10
Now, being divided into five chapters, I am going to go through each one, briefly summarizing it's perks and flaws before I rate it. The number above is the overall combination of all of the sections, but let me get something out of the way first: Spore is all about customization, especially in the first three sections of the game. The amount of customization in Spore is pretty impressive, giving you control over how your creature not only looks, but plays as well. I'll also note here that you will never lose in Spore, so go nuts!
This stage is your start at life. You emerge from the crater with one big decision: what should I eat? This is where you need to decide whether you are going to be a carnivore, herbivore, or an omnivore. This not only affects what you can and cannot eat, but also gives your creature certain traits and abilities throughout the rest of the game (I won't spoil these). Eating is as simple as swimming over your food, but you must also avoid creatures that are bigger than you (kind of like a free-floating pacman game). With every bite you earn DNA points that you can use to customize your creature. After you've eaten enough and grow bigger you will move onto the next stage. Pretty simple, so far, this part is fun but gets tiring fast.
Ah, my favorite stage by far. This is where your creature emerges from the waters and begins to learn to live with lungs. You will still search for food, but as you do you will have to learn how to socialize with other creatures, whether it be trying to impress them with your singing or dancing, or trying to hunt them to extinction. This part of the game is where I see the most fun, since along the way you will still be customizing your creature, trying to make it more adaptable, and here the customization options have been multiplied ten-fold. As you interact with your creature and species, you will come to love them on a personal level, they are your creation after all, doing exactly what you tell them to do. So enjoy the limitless customization options that you will uncover as you evolve into a sentient being.
This is where your creature's brain develops and they learn how to work together as a species. Similar to a man's beginnings, your creatures will learn how to hunt for food, make weapons of war, and even make instruments to impress the other tribes. This stage plays like a much simpler RTS (real-time strategy, akin to Starcraft) game. The whole goal here is to either conquer or ally with rival tribes, learning their unique skills until you have conquered or allied with all of them. After this your creatures will decide that it's time to conquer the planet and learn how to build ships and vehicles.
In this stage you will get to do some more customization by designing your own vehicles and boats as your creatures take over the planet. This is pretty much a continuation of the tribal phase, except that you no longer interact with your creatures, taking away the bond that you used to carry for them back in the creature phase. Instead, you will build your vehicles to gather spice and attack other civilization's. The same goes for your boats. You also get to develop your towns by building houses, entertainment buildings, and work buildings. The placement of these buildings effect how happy and industrious your people are, so be sure to make your cities layout count! Halfway through this phase you also learn how to build and use airplanes, letting you attack overseas enemies. Once you take over your planet, your creature will have another brilliant idea: how to build a spaceship!
The space stage will, by far, take up most of your Spore playing time once you reach it. To start, you design your own space ship. From there you go out to discover other sentient beings on other planets. As you can guess, once you discover them you can either be friendly or aggressive towards them, though there are much bigger consequences now. For example, the aggressive will be at war with the other species, meaning that they will send their spaceships to attack your planets until you get around to going to their planet and destroying their cities. And, if you are friendly, you can make allies with a species and trade between each other, until they ask if you want to buy their planet from them.
This stage is truly massive, as you can visit each and every planet in the universe (thousands of them). You will eventually earn "badges" for accomplishing certain feats, and be able to buy upgrades for your ship (the only thing you really control anymore..). You'll also learn how to colonize other planets and make them livable by terra-forming the planet. You will also have to introduce new animals and plants to the planet before you make a new colony there and start harvesting more spice. As you continue to earn badges and buy upgrades, space life will become more and more easier until you are elected the supreme leader. After that Spore turns into a sandbox game, one that never ends (technically you could "beat" it, but that would require an ungodly amount of time). While taking over new planets and gathering and selling spice is fun, you will soon find yourself doing the same thing over and over.
Whew, there it is, a brief glimpse at each stage in Spore life. The big thing to take away is the great customization, and the fact that things get monotonous after awhile. Now, if the space stage was multiplayer, where you had to defend yourself and trade amongst others in real time, than the gameplay would really be exciting, but as it is, with their "we won't let you die" theme, monotony sets in once you obtain all of the worth-while badges.
"Crisp, clean, and beautiful", would describe the first three stage's graphics while "average" would describe the rest. I absolutely adored the first three stages graphics, they were so sharp and clear, and your creatures animations were so good, but once you take on a bigger picture of life, they turn more towards the average side. In other words, when you are zoomed in to your cell and creature, things look a lot better. The entire game has a cartoonish look to it, really. Not that it's wacky or anything (although many things end up looking that way), but all of the object's textures look that way. Pretty similar to Sim's take on graphics, really. The amount of customization you can do in Spore doesn't stop with your creature, either, since you can paint it and make it look like whatever you want. You can do this yourself or choose a number of pre-made patterns. This goes for all your vehicles and building as well.
The animations are pretty quirky and really good looking too, though the quirkiness is only really prominent in the creature stage. Everywhere is fairly average, but holds up well, so overall thing is Spore look pretty good!
Music/Sound Effects: 7/10
The music behind Spore was pretty toned down, the main tunes play every once in a while but there was always an ambiance noise in the background. Really nothing too spectacular here. Once you reach the civilization age you could also make your own background music, but the controls for this are left wanting. You could choose your own ambiance noise and beat, but the real treat was supposed to be being able to make a tune by sliding notes up and down a scale. This scale was too hard to use, though, not really giving you the desired result.
The sound effects are pretty entertaining, but any Sims player has heard them before. I guess your creature eventually learns simlish, and starts speaking it to you. Other than that, you'll get cute creature songs, war sound effects, and everything else you would normally expect. Fairly average overall.
Well, seeing as how Spore is a sand-box game (one that you'll never truly finish), and that you can have around a dozen planets and species going at the same time, I'd say the re-playability of Spore is pretty high. On the other hand, you are doing the same thing over and over, with only a limited amount of things you can change, so keep that in mind. I remember reading somewhere that Spore felt more like a toy than a game, and I think I'd have to agree.
I see one of the most clinging parts of Spore being the ability to share your creatures with friends online, but sharing just doesn't cut it for me, as I mentioned before, I would want some multiplayer options somehow. We can only hope for some in the future.
Spore isn't the greatest thing to grace the earth, but it is a fun distraction that will last a couple of weeks. Since I really don't know how much it costs (I'm guessing too much for a game that you can "beat" that fast), I would say try and see if any friends have Spore and give it a go before you decide on getting it. If you do try it out, be prepared to be wowed by the in-depth customization, but disappointed by the monotony later on. Have fun and keep playing!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/06/08
Game Release: Spore (US, 09/07/08)
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