Review by evildude

"Fun, but leaves you feeling underwhelmed"

“Spore”, the latest game from Mr. Will Wright, the mastermind behind hits like “The Sims” and “Simcity” is brilliant in scope, but lacking in depth – but that's not to say it isn't fun. The game is epic in scope: you start out in control of a lonely microbe that is on a quest to survive the vicious feeding ground your puddle of primal ooze contains, to a creature with a peanut sized brain hoping to make it in a big brained world, then onto becoming the chieftain of a tribe that has come to understand that hitting things with sticks makes them die as well as fire makes them taste better, to the leader of a city state that aims to unite all the other like-minded states on the planet and than finally onto exploring the cosmos with nice shiny UFO to take a peek at the thousands, if not millions, of explorable solar systems in your galaxy. Pretty daunting, huh? Well that's only half of it. Every creature, car, boat, plane, building, and spaceship is custom made by millions of users around the planet insuring that you will never see the same thing twice.

The gameplay itself is shallow, perhaps meant to appeal to the casual audience that “The Sims” attracted. Mainly, it consists of “Kill x number of this” or “bring us x number of these” objectives that rarely take any serious planning. Each stage does have its own play style, but once you figure out what needs to be done you won't face many challenges. The microbe stage plays like a borderless game of “Pac-Man” and can be easily beaten in 20- 30 minutes, but it is surprising fun. The next stage, aptly dubbed the creature stage, has the player's creature on a mission to collect DNA points by collecting DNA points and parts by being aggressive or social to other creatures as well as investigate fossils and snack on alien plant life. Your creature must migrate for nest to nest in order to mate, a cute way to entering the creature editor in order to spend DNA points on new parts. The real challenge here is avoiding the Godzilla sized epic creatures that roam the landscape while doing all that, as they will really sour your day. Next is the tribe stage, activated when your creature develops a large enough brain that allows them to figure out how to use tools and fire, which translates into a light RTS game that for the first time takes the player and give them control of up to 12 creatures in with the task of maintaining food supplies, convincing other tribes of your obvious superiority with social skills or weapon skills. Next is the city phase, which is basically the same as tribal phase only now you can go anywhere on your planet – you can also zoom out and see your planet rotate in space for the first time – but now instead of tribesmen you now have vehicles.

The space phase is the final phase, and could be a whole game itself. As the late Douglas Adams said “Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space” .You are tasked with discovering what is in the center of the galaxy, only you're really far away from it, so you must fly around countless planets (all random generated with player content, if they can support life at all) doing odd jobs for others in order to earn badges that will allow you to upgrade your ship with bigger and better tools and engines. You don't have to do missions for other races, but if you don't then they might get made and declare war on you. For some reason, your civilization only gets one spaceship – yours – so any time one of the planets you have colonized in your travels gets attacked, you must race back from where ever you are in defense, and coming over from the other side of the galaxy to save a small mining outpost from the wrath of whatever empire you somehow annoyed isn't exactly easy to do. If one of your colonies isn't being bothered or otherwise requires your attention to deal with a minor problem, you eventually earn the tools to terraform barren rocks into a peaceful Eden, or turn peaceful a Eden into barren rocks, depending on your mood. The ability to sculpt a giant smiling face into the moon you stated at as a creature is definitely worth the climb up the evolutionary ladder.
The most interesting part of “Spore” is the content editors. Seriously, if you can think of it, there is a 99.9% chance you can make it. Always wanted to control a civilization of staplers who fly around the universe in a flying desk, bent on converting the galaxy to their stapling ways or face certain doom? Doable and has been done. If you're feeling uncreative or lazy, you can access the online database, the Sporepedia, which contains everything the players upload to share. It also acts as a sort of social networking site where users can leave comments and rate each other's creations. You don't have to go in and manually bring everything into your game; it's easily accessible from inside the game if you wish to browse and seamlessly and autonomously downloads new content while you play. Creating things in the editors is like molding with clay or play dough. It's incredibly easy to use and use well. Just about anyone can make something that looks like it belongs in Pixar movie.

Overall the game acts more of a playground for incredibly impressive content made in the editors which is what it was designed to be, but it leaves the player feeling a bit underwhelmed. It Is easy to dismiss the game as being a casual gamers' game, but there are countless hours to be had in the creation of anything you can think of.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 12/14/08

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

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