Review by Souretsu
A solid game, if you like creating and designing.
Spore is one of the biggest games to have Will Wright, creator of The Sims and SimCity, behind it. It was highly anticipated, and unfortunately, one of the most pirated games ever (this is due to a different issue altogether, however).
One of the coolest things about this game is the procedural generation. Almost everything in the game is generated on the spot by the game itself. This includes music, animations, voices, planets, solar systems... Nearly everything in the entire galaxy, down to the textures you choose for your creations. It's unfortunate that this fact goes so completely unnoticed by many people.
Of course, not everyone is impressed at the gameplay. But let's get started with this review.
The editors, for all intents and purposes, are probably the most important, and most well-done part of the game. Each of the editors allow the player to create unique 3-D creatures, buildings, and vehicles with relative ease. These were designed with the intention of allowing players to do what game designers do, without needing that level of skill and precision. Of course, it's a bit superficial in that aspect, but the quality of creations can range from poor to amazing. Editors work by giving you a fairly diverse set of parts which can be stretched, magnified, and rotated any which way. After designing your object, you then get to color and texture it. In the Creature editor, you have several layers of texture that you can overlay on top of eachother for something more unique. These textures are procedurally generated on your creations.
Because you're creating, rather than playing, the editors have been separated from gameplay for the sake of this review.
Let's go ahead and get over this hurdle, shall we? The gameplay, to be frank, varies from slightly shallow to very shallow. Ignoring the editors, the procedural generation, and everything else, you have something that's very simple, and probably not as fun. With these things, however, it's quite a different story. To give you an overview of each part of the game:
Cell- The main objective is to evolve. Eat food (plants if you're an herbivore, meat if you're a carnivore) to regain health, fill the progress bar, and gain DNA Points. DNA is the currency in this phase used to evolve. To edit your cell, simply call a mate to enter the Cell editor. This is how you add, rearrange or remove parts. Overall, it's a tutorial for later editors. As you eat, you get larger and larger, until you're ready to move to the next phase. In my opinion, this is actually one of the best phases.
Creature- Pretty similar to the Cell phase, your objective is to evolve. Rather than gaining DNA, food now serves to keep your hunger meter, located below your health, full. To fill your progress bar, you interact with other species on your planet. Ally with them or extinct them, it's your choice. As your bar fills, you gain the ability to add more and more creatures to your "pack," to increase your chances of success. Unlock parts by finding skeletons on the ground, or socializing/killing "Alpha" creatures -- specimens that are slightly stronger than normal creatures. There are also Rogue creatures, who have no nest and have almost 3 times the max health of other creatures, and Epics, gargantuan Godzilla-esque creatures that wander across the continent. Eventually your species becomes intelligent enough to form a tribe.
Tribe- This phase is very RTS-like. You manage your tribe members, and create huts to provide them with tools. Your currency in this phase is the amount of food your tribe has gathered. This is used both for "purchasing" and for sustaining your tribe. 5 other tribes eventually appear on your continent, and you must either ally them (by impressing them with musical performances in a way very similar to the Creature phase's socializing process) or destroy them (by taking out their main hut). Doing so also unlocks additional tools for your tribe. After dealing with all 5, you progress to the next phase.
Civilization- Another RTS phase. This one is centered around global domination, and this can be achieved through either religious, military, or economic means. To do this, you'll need to take over Spice geysers, and manage your cities' building placements for max profit. 10 other nations initially appear, but several are quickly swallowed up by others depending on your difficulty setting. Sporebucks becomes the currency of the game from this point on, and this is used to purchase vehicles, bribe other nations, and activate special abilities. After taking over the world, you can move to the next phase, Space.
Space- The Space phase has no real end, and a limitless amount of exploration to do. The objective here is to... Do whatever you want, really. You can expand your empire by colonizing, invading, or purchasing star systems. You can terraform planets, toy with lesser beings, or even use monoliths to upbring a civilization to a space-faring empire. You can blow up planets, form alliances with other empires, or simply explore the galaxy. By fulfilling certain requirements, you can earn badges which unlock additional tools and upgrade your ship. The closest thing to "finishing" the game happens when you make your way to the center of the galaxy.
As said before, the music is procedurally generated. The "feel" of the music differs in each stage to better fit the atmosphere. In the Civilization stage, you have the option to create your own little jingle for each city, called the Anthem Editor. Default anthems are, as you can probably guess, generated by the game. I could go into more detail about how user-friendly this little tool is, but it's a little insignificant so I'll spare you the details for now. Suffice it to say, even someone musically illiterate has the potential to make a pretty catchy little tune.
It goes without saying that Spore is no Crysis. It's designed for low-end computers. There's no anti-aliasing. But Spore can actually look pretty amazing for what it is, particularly in the Space stage. They also added a lot of the little touches that can go unnoticed unless you really look for it. For example, you can zoom in close enough on any city and see its citizens walking around. In short, the graphics aren't outstanding, but more than good enough.
Because your behavior in each phase influences the next, if only minimally, there are plenty of different ways to experience the game. Because you'll see so many different things every time you play, you're guaranteed a different visual experience every time. This is because creations are constantly being shared and imported from Sporepedia, the game's online database. While it can get repetitive, you also have to consider the amount of time you'll spend creating things.
For the creative types, you may never put this down. For those willing to spend a lot of money, the game will only get better with every expansion pack that's released. If you only play games for the sake of beating them, then this probably isn't the game for you.
In my own opinion at least, this game is worth having.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Spore (US, 09/07/08)
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