Review by chibidono32

"On the shallow side, but still some fun"

I remember this game being announced the same E3 year as Twilight Princess, and while I thought it wasn't possible, Spore had me more hyped up than even the next new Zelda game. Fast-forward four years later, Spore is here, and I've got some things to say about it.

Gameplay (broken up to 5 parts):

Cell stage: You choose whether you are a carnivore or an herbivore, and then go swim around eating red or green blobs depending on your diet choice respectively. It's mainly swimming, eating, avoid getting eaten, and repeat. There is a very basic customization creator in this part, where you can add eyes, flagella, and different defensive/offensive parts to your cell. You can collect these body parts but attacking other cells (if you kill an electric organism, you can get the electric ability). Though this section was the shortest and easiest of all the stages, I probably had the most fun here mainly out of the novelty of being able to experience what it is like to swim around basically in a Petri dish. Eventually after you eat enough, you're given the option to evolve into a land creature, moving us into the…

Creature stage: Out of all stages, this was probably the worst stage of the bunch. Your cell now has the ability to walk, bite, sing, dance, charge, and a few other basic abilities. The camera switches from an over head angle to a third-person view, and depending on whether you are a carnivore, omnivore, or herbivore, you can either befriend or eliminate different species. I was an herbivore, but I could still kill off different species but adding claws or fangs and attacking the other species. However the combat is shallow as you only have four main attacks. If you aren't for the killing, you can always go and befriend other species as well. Like the combat though, there are four friendly commands, and you “dance” or “sing” to the other species to ally with them.

I can't complain that it wasn't fun because I simply haven't experienced this type of gameplay before, but it is very repetitive and shallow. If I wanted to, I could have just written for this section that “all the player does is kill or befriend different species and you evolve and players can also customize the creature”, and it wouldn't have been wrong.

I should mention that the creature customization has improved greatly from the cell stage, but you have to locate these hidden bones to collect different parts. Different parts give you different abilities like the ability to dance or glide, jump or run, sing and so on. I was curious to see what I could add on and the customization was fun but it was tedious to find all the bones as they are scattered EVERYWHERE on the map. I spent a good amount of time on the map, trying to collect body part but still ended up missing half or so. I love Will Wright for giving me the option to customize, but it's like he is torturing me by NOT giving me everything instead saying, “Hey, if you want to actually change your character, you gotta work for it now, it's not like the Sims anymore, its SPORE, you have to collect your body!”… Needless to say this part was frustrating. It's important to note that once you pass the Creature stage, you CANNOT change your bodily appearance anymore so you better be sure you like your creature because if you don't, too bad, you're going to be seeing its ugly face for the rest of the game.

Tribal stage: While not much of an improvement from the Creature stage, I felt that at least the Tribal stage had some more gameplay in it. The idea is the same where you have to either befriend or destroy other villages, but there are different options in which you can do so. Before I get into that, let me explain what the Tribal stage has to offer. You now control multiple characters of your species. They can eat, collect food, play music, fish, kill other species, make less evolved species their pets, heal, make babies, and die. You may be reading this and think to yourself, “Hey, that sounds so much better than the Creature stage.” Well trust me, it's not. In order for you to get weapons and tools, you have to buy and build special huts that harbor each tool. And to pay for those huts, you collect food. And to collect food you either collect fruit or other dead animals. It's a very boring system.

What you just read right there is pretty much the ONLY things your species can do. You want to eat? Go kill some animals or collect some fruit. You want to befriend other villages? Well go get yourself some maracas and go play for the other village. You want to conquer the other village instead? Instead of grabbing those maracas, get yourself some torches, spears, and clubs and go knock them out. Want to make babies? Click the baby button! Babies are only worth 10 fruits anyway, it's cheap labor. So even if you DO die in battle, it doesn't even matter because you just have to click on the Baby button again to make another tribe member!

I want to mention in detail that to ally a tribe, all you have to do is give them fruit, don't piss them off, and play music for them twice. It's really that easy. And if you want to conquer them, all you have to do is not die and make sure you take out their main hut. In order for you to get new tools or weapons, you have to conquer the villages. But what's the point when I needed torches to burn down huts BEFORE I had to manually destroy it with my spears. It seems that too often you get the ability to do something, but you don't even need it because how did you manage the first time? That's right you just use the same tactic as before when you DIDN'T have those other options. Oh and there are only five villages anyway, so it wasn't really a challenge.
If I sound angry, I'm not. It's just sad that what if the game developers fleshed out each stage? Each stage would have been really fun. The idea is there, but instead it feels repetitive and limited.

Character customization? Yeah not really because all you can customize is your tribal clothes.

City stage: The City phase essentially feels like the Tribal stage only in modern settings. You build a city; add factories to make cash, houses to connect them to factories to make even more cash, and entertainment buildings to make people happy. You are also given the option to conquer other cities, build alliances, trade routes, convert, build up defenses, and so forth. I found that much like the Tribal stage, the idea is there, it just feels really dumbed down. You can either be a religious, economic, or military city and depending on that, you either convert, buy-out, or conquer different cities. What was really boring about it was the fact that if you conquer one or two cities and concentrate on building those cities up to conquer more cities, I found that there was only one or two cities left to conquer or become allies with because all the other cities wiped each other out. What kind of depth is that? I want to take over cities, not sit back and watch other destroy themselves and then go in for the kill. Not much depth here, similar to the Tribal stage except you can trade and exchange conversations with other cities.

Customization: You can design tanks, boats, airplanes, houses, factories, and “entertainment” places. Too often I felt that it was just a pain to even design these, so I found myself just adding a door to a block or a wheel to a round cone. Honestly I wish the game came with some pre-sets to save me some time.

Space stage: I found this stage to be the interesting stage, mainly because this is the stage where they give you more options. Don't be too happy though. It still gets old fast. You essentially have evolved into a point where you can go to different planets to colonize trade with other civilizations, fly around, abduct and beam animals, sell spices for a profit or loss, and basically the game will give you more missions and objectives to achieve. If the City stage was a modern version of Tribal stage with more options, that's exactly what the Space stage feels like: a glorified version of the City stage. Sure you have more stuff and objectives to do but in the end they grow repetitive and old.

Customization: See City stage section.

Audio: I loved the sounds that different creatures but they too became repetitive as well. There really wasn't much good music with all of it sounding generically like elevator music. There is an option where you can mess around with the audio section of the game but I didn't touch it at all. All in all, audio sounds like it should, I wasn't expecting a full orchestrated version of anything so I'm satisfied here.

Graphics: I hope you aren't expecting awesome graphics. All I can say about the graphics is that I've see better and I've seen worse. I don't think Maxis was going for Crysis-like graphics, instead opting for good animation and fluidity. The creatures, plants, planets, rivers, and anything else are all creative and I found many creatures funny or cute-looking. Spore won't blow you away with its technical aspects, but the sheer content and creature designs make up for that.

Creature Creator: The editors in this game are extremely well organized and people who enjoy creating and making their own creatures and cities will have a joy with the editors. Everything I made worked well and animated correctly. This part is great for those creative souls. I haven't gotten the chance to go online, but apparently there are numerous creatures to share and download so look forward to that.

Replay: While Spore isn't something I want to play continuously, it's a fun game that will have you coming back. It's still a fun game, creating creature, under different settings. While I blazed past the majority of the game because it lacked some depth, Spore still offers much to come back to.

In the end: Buy the game if you are a Sims fan, because despite its flaws, Spore is still a good game. After waiting four years, I was expecting more polish and depth in the game but I cannot deny that Spore has offered me an experience I have never had before, and I recommend getting the game if you can over look past some of its shallow flaws.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 09/11/08

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

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