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Spore Review

Spore pack shot
Developer:Maxis
Publisher:Electronic Arts
Genre:God / Strategy
Platform:PC
Official Site:http://www.spore.com/
Release Date:September 5th, 2008 (UK)
Reviewer:Grant Wilson (Midnight)
 

Sim City was one of those games I wasted many, many hours of my life on - perfecting the layout, keeping people happy and just sitting back watching things evolve. Now what if you could do the same thing with the evolution of the universe? Welcome to Spore - the game that aims to let you take your creations and play with them on a much larger and more ambitious scale.

When you first start out you are presented with a map of the universe. Picking a planet gives you the choice of whether you wish to become an herbivore or carnivore and once you’ve named your creation it is right into the first stage of evolution.

The 'Cell' stage then starts with a meteor crashing down on your chosen planet and releasing you into the ocean. Depending on which path you’ve chosen you’ll either have to eat some of the plants or attack some of the other creatures that you’ll find swimming around you. As you eat more you’ll gain DNA points which will grow your creature in size but also serves as a sort of XP bar and a money system.

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While exploring your chosen world, you’ll find un-lockable 'body parts' and when you call in a mate you are able to attach these to your creature through a simple drag and drop interface. Each of the parts have different properties such as letting you swim faster, or turn quicker and also extra ways of attacking through attaching spikes to your body. As well as physical properties, you can also attach parts to let you consume both meat and plants and turn your into an omnivore.

While levelling or 'evolving' as it were, you’ll start swimming up from the depths of the ocean until eventually you have evolved enough to take your first steps onto land, and this is where the fun really starts! Your first job is to attach some legs using the editor menu. Here you can drag about your spine and bend yourself into all manner of weird and crazy shapes. This isn’t just for looks though. Everything you change about your creature from the position of the legs, how the knees bend and the shape of your body has an effect on how you walk around on land. It’s quite impressive to see minor changes have such a big impact.

While on land your evolution hasn’t stopped – it’s now your job to interact with the other creatures you’ll find while exploring. This interaction is pretty basic and involves 2 stances, either combat or social. With combat you can attack all the creatures that you come across and try to wipe out their species while the social interaction lets you play a mini-game, dancing with your newly found friends to try and impress them enough to ally with you. Again you can unlock more and more ways to evolve your creature through looting the bones of dead animals over the planet or through destruction of rival species, but with only a few ways to interact with things it soon became more of a chore to complete this stage than I’d first hoped.

The third stage in Spore plays out like a basic RTS game. The resource is food and is used to both increase the population of your town but also in the construction of buildings. Again there are only the 2 basic options to interact with other creatures and you are denied access to the editors until you’ve completed the stage. Thankfully this only took me about 40 minutes as there really isn’t much to do here, but it’s got to be done.

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Next we begin with your single city and have to capture the other cities on your home planet either through force, converting them through religious units or economically. Again there really isn’t all that much depth here for an avid RTS player but you do get to construct buildings using the in game editor which will let you create some insanely weird and detailed structures. In the end it basically comes down to the tried and tested 'tank rush' tactics of sending as many of one unit as you can into the other city to capture it.

And here we are, the final stage in Spore and frankly the icing on the cake; the space stage! This is by far the biggest and most varied part of the game– a whole universe for you to do as you please.

Flying around in your spaceship lets you gain control of cities, mould entire planets to your desired shapes using terrain forming laser beams and abduct species and take them with you to new barren wastelands that you wish to turn into lush environments. See a creature that you don’t like the look of? Send a couple of nuclear missiles it’s way and wipe it out completely. Taking control of a city will also lead you into space battles, dodging and weaving incoming missiles while trying to take them down so you can do as you wish with the city they were protecting. Neighbouring cities also offer missions that you can accept on your travels. This stage is the longest part of Spore, much longer than all the other stages combined and is where you can really see just how clever Spore is.

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As you explore planets new content will be streamed from the internet, introducing you to more and more player created content as you go and with creature designs set at about 30k in size, you really don’t notice it at all and it’s great fun exploring some of the completely insane things people have made.

Graphically Spore is reasonably good but it’s not until the latter stages that you can really see some of the lush environments and details on the objects but throughout the game the expressions and animations on your creature give it a cutesy loveable feel.

You can see scared expressions on weaker animals as you stomp towards them, but no matter how mean and spiky you make your creation look, you can never quite lose that cutesy look. The music follows this, changing to situations that you encounter and getting upbeat in some of the faster paced areas such as the space combat. You can even create your own creature theme songs to go with the buildings and vehicles to really customize your entire evolutionary theme, and of course they can be uploaded just like everything else you make.

The space stage is what really saves the game though, without it things would become pretty boring, pretty quickly. It’s great to see just what they’ve done with the user created content and the clever animation system, but when you strip that away you’re left with bare bones really.

Summary

It was a wise move to release the creature editor as a standalone product before the game – this meant there was literally millions of weird player created objects available the moment you first set out. There’s little depth in the earlier stages though and experienced gamers will become bored quite quickly. Thankfully once you’ve done it the first time you can start from any stage you desire. If you can push yourself through the early stages you’ll find a game with a lot of fun and style, and if nothing else you’ll waste hours of your life just designing things to place in yours or other people’s worlds. If only they’d put in a true multiplayer game to let me destroy some of my friends cities while shouting abuse! Spore 2 maybe?

The bottom line
7.5 / 10

Good stuff

  • Stylish
  • Very easy to play – using only the mouse if you wish!
  • Fantastic user created content
  • Creating things in the editor is great fun

Not so good stuff

  • Basic gameplay with not much depth in the early stages
  • The early stages are a chore
  • No true multiplayer


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