Review by Lucavix

"Want an Objective Review?"

Spore was one of the most highly anticipated and perhaps one of the most over-hyped games in gaming history. Originally called Sim Everything Spore was originally intended to incorporate several realistic stages, starting with abiogenesis in the Molecular Stage and ending with the Space Stage. At various points various stages were dumbed down, given graphical overhauls to make them more cute, and some stages were removed entirely. But hopefully you're not reading this review to read about what was advertised yet never delivered, chances are you're here for a detailed review and run down of the game.

Gameplay: Please Note that this part of review will be broken down into the game's various phases, with an overall score at the bottom.

Cell Phase: Cell phase shows to be one of the most popular phases in the game, if forum polls and various other reviews are to be believed. The cell phase starts you out as an unrealistic cell that was brought to the planet by a meteor crashing into the planet's ocean. You will only have a total of 12 parts to use on your cell, 7 of which must be unlocked by collecting them from dead cells or meteor fragments, and 3 of which are eyes that all have the same function. You can choose to eat microscopic plant life or to kill other cells and eat their meat or both depending on your diet. As you eat and gain DNA you will gain advancement on your advancement meter, which will automatically scale up the size of your creature.

The stage is colorful and often considered fun, but there is a limited amount of DNA that you can acquire and after you reach max complexity the only reason to continue is to collect parts or to effect your end stage consequences.

Cell Phase gets a 7 out of 10

Creature Phase: The Creature Phase begins as soon as you end the Cell Phase, with all underwater content removed you are simply given the option to plant a pair of legs on a scaled up version of your cell, tweak it, and set out on land. The creature phase involves either killing creatures at other nests, each of which you can only kill a preset number before the entire species goes extinct, or befriending 3 members of each species. As you befriend or kill other creatures your DNA increases, and that increases your advancement meter until you're ready to move on to the Tribal Phase.

The gameplay in this stage is slightly repetitive, but the editor does allow for some variety. Though most of the free roaming script for the AI has been removed and AI creatures are mostly restricted to their nest, you can travel the land until you decide to move on to the next phase.

Creature Phase gets a 6 out of 10

Tribal Phase: In the Tribal Phase, you gather food and use it to make new members for your tribe. You can access a limited costume editor that can add to the productivity, social value, or combat skill of your villagers, and you can place a total of six out of nine possible buildings. The buildings all serve only to provide tools to your tribe, which either increases their gathering rate, allow them to befriend other tribes, or increases their combat value.

In combat, your tribe must destroy other tribes, to socialize you play music functionally the same way you pose and dance in the creature phase. To make peace with a hostile tribe you only need 10 food and to have your chief deliver it to the enemy by clicking the town hall with the social button selected.

Each time you destroy or befriend another tribe, your progress bar fills, you unlock new clothing options, and you get any of the 7 unlockable building they happened to have. Once you complete the stage, there's nothing else to do but move on to the next stage. The Tribal stage itself would be a fun mini-game from penny arcade, but it's very short and lacking in content.

Tribal Phase gets a 4 out of 10

Civilization Phase: As soon as you end the tribal phase, your species automatically has access to mechanized vehicles and automatic weapons. You start by constructing your town hall, or simply selecting a pre-made one, then constructing your vehicle or selecting a pre-made one.

You start the Civilization phase with a Religious, Military, or Economic city as your capital, depending on how you dealt with other tribes in the tribal phase. Religious and Military vehicles work exactly the same way, only with different animations and different effects on any remaining epic creatures. Economic vehicles simply travel back and forth between cities generating income until you can but the city you trade with.

As a Military or Religious civilization, you simply mass an army and attack enemy cities and spice nodes. Economic civilizations instead need to bribe hostile or unfriendly neutral cities so that they can trade with them, and eventually buy them out. If you start out as a military civilization and want to end as a religious one, you need to conquer a religious city and from then on use religious vehicles to win, and vice versa.

The Civilization phase has an expanded clothing editor which is entirely cosmetic in this stage. It also has various vehicle and building editors. There's not much there in the way of gameplay, but many find the Civilization phase one of the most enjoyable phases of the game.

Civilization Phase gets a 6 out of 10

Space Phase: Space Stage is a real mixed bag. In many ways it's the most open phase of the game, but in many ways it's very limited and very very repetitive. Space Stage allows you to pilot a single spaceship, accompanied by small and easily destroyed ships from allied empires, and cruise the many stars to explore and colonize new world. There are a few missions for your empire and other empires that you can do but they are very repetitive and unrewarding. You can also terraform planets, but it's a slow and boring process.

Colonies produce spice, which you can pick up and sell for money. You may have to travel from planet to planet manually checking their prices before you get a good deal however, which can make spice trading frustrating and tedious. Each time you colonize a new world you have to manually place buildings, which will likely be the exact same buildings placed in the exact same order for every colony, which combined with terraforming makes the Space Stage very repetitive.

Unfortunately your worlds can't defend themselves or solve their own eco-problems, so the more planets you colonize the more you'll have to stop whatever you're doing and go back to baby-sit them. This makes it more advantageous to have a small empire made up of only a dozen or so colonized systems than to have a spanning galactic empire. There are a variety of nifty tools you can buy in the Space Stage, often they are neither practical nor particularly useful but they add for a few interesting possibilities and can increase the game's fun factor a little.

Unfortunately a key part of the Space Stage involves fighting or trying to appease a powerful military empire that circles the galactic core, spanning over 2000 systems, and by default they already hate you. To make matters worse, as you near the core of the galaxy your travel distance is greatly reduced, and there is no way to overcome this without cheating. This makes reaching the galactic core a nearly impossible task, and adds to the repetitive nature of the space stage as a huge amount of time will be wasted simply trying to find a path to the center of the galaxy that you can actually travel.

Space Phase gets a 6 out of 10

Overall Gameplay: I truly wish I could give the gameplay a higher score, but the game has some serious faults which I can not objectively ignore simply because I personally enjoyed the game.

Overall Gameplay gets a 6 out of 10

Sound/Music: The sound and music in this game are pretty standard. There's nothing impressive about the music nor the sound effects, but they're not typically bad either. Sometimes there are annoying sound effects that loop during colony planning (sounding like panicking citizens) and annoying ambiance during the music.

Sound/Music gets a 5 out of 10

Graphics: While the Graphics aren't impressive, there is some interesting and promising technology behind them and they're often colorful and charming. The game will run smoothly on a lot of old PCs, and look about as good as anyone could reasonably expect.

Graphics gets an 8 out of 10

Replayability: Spore is great in small doses and for casual gamers, and it's replayability may well depend on how you play and how many hours a day you play videogames. The game offers around 40-80 hours of gameplay if you raise multiple creatures from the Cell to the Space stage. Most stages are fairly short and uninteresting, but chances are you will feel compelled to play them anyway just to fulfill whatever vision of a creature/empire you scheme up.

If you're a casual gamer, the replayability factor of this game will be very high. If you're a hardcore gamer, you may get frustrated too quickly with it's extreme repetitiveness and shelf it until future expansions come out. Still, nostalgia will always kick in at some point and you'll want to play the game again, and luckily there will be expansions released to increase the gameplay value of the game.

Replayability gets an 8 out of 10

Final Score: This is the most difficult part of the entire review process. Spore has many flaws, and they should not simply be ignored because the game is fun. On the other hand, Spore is a fun game, and most people will truly enjoy playing it in spite of it's many flaws. I've tried to be as objective as possible in this review, and I know in addressing many of the games flaws I may have painted a picture of a very bad game. However the game is not truly a bad game, it's just a flawed one.

My final word of advice before I deliver my Final Score will be to two separate audiences. If you consider yourself a casual gamer you should definitely consider buying this game as is. If you consider yourself a hardcore gamer you should definitely consider waiting until the first expansion bundle pack.

It is with a heavy heart that I give the Final Score...
The Game gets a Final Score of 6 out of 10

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 10/27/08

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

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