Plot: Become a god as you guide a species from primordial soup to galactic domination.
Genre: God sim – a mix of evolution and creationism. Despite the input of player generated content from around the globe this game is not an MMO, it’s a purely single player experience.
You have the freedom to make your creatures look like anything. There are recreations of all kinds of creatures and objects out there created by very talented players. The creations range from sentient X-box controllers to popular cartoon characters. The creation tool is very easy to use as it uses a simple drag and drop interface. You can throw together a misshapen blob in seconds, but creating a masterpiece will have you tinkering and experimenting for hours.
It’s a very bright and cheery game. It looks cute and the interface is simple to use and has clear icons. Everything is labeled clearly and there’s really nothing complex or intimidating about any stage of the game. Your creatures have cute animations and even the giant monster versions of creatures are adorable. It’s clear that Spore is attempting to be as welcoming as possible to all gamers of age and ability.
You create the look and feel of your technology and architecture. I found building creation a bit dull (I’d never have made a good architect) but vehicle creation can be fun as you try to create the most pimped out tanks and UFOs possible. You can add giant harps, loudspeakers, weapons, mechanical legs and arms and then paint it all puce.
The Sporepedia. When you sign into Spore, you gain access to all other player’s creations. If you’re lazy like me and don’t want to create every single building and vehicle for your civilization, you can browse the Sporepedia and choose from the thousands of weird and wacky inventions. Likewise, your creations can be downloaded and used by other players in their games. There’s a certain amount of peer pressure to make unique creatures with great names, which raises everyone’s game in the creature creation stakes.
Playing as a space hippy is just as effective as playing a war hungry race of yobs. The combat for pacifism becomes religious propaganda. Your vehicles use music to attack other races rather than missiles and sticks. This makes learning to play the game much easier as you don’t have to adopt different strategies for each playthrough. Of course, it’s maybe too simplistic and it does make the tribal and civilization stages a bit of a chore.
The early stages are easy once you know how to play them. The problem is that there’s no real enticement to play the tribal or civilization stages again after completing them the first time. I found those two stages quite dull at times due to the simplistic resource gathering and lack of building and vehicle choices. Thankfully there’s a ‘win the game’ button that you can earn in the civilization stage, which speeds things along a bit. The early cell and evolution stages are fun to repeat though because that’s where you mess about with your creature’s appearance and abilities.
Your creature’s appearance can be compromised by abilities. Certain body parts provide your creature with stats and skills. You need certain levels of social or combat skills to finish the evolutionary stage, which can mean that your creature has to evolve into a different shape than you’d like. It’s something that can be quite annoying but then it’s also a reasonable representation of evolution in action as your creature has to develop new abilities in order to prosper. Still, it can be frustrating if you want your creature to have a certain look. I’ll have to go back and check but I believe you can forego advancing to the next stage after conquering your island to spend some time tweaking your creature before its appearance is forever fixed.
The early stages of the game are repetitive. There are no grand strategies to learn other than progressing through the stages as quickly as possible. There’s a sense of wonder when you first crawl onto land and explore the first island but once your creature gains sentience and forms a tribe, it all gives way to impatience as you speed through to get to the space exploration stage.
You can make your creature look like a penis. Likewise, you may find yourself discovering one eyed monsters roving your planet. EA do have obscenity filters and do seem to ban the nightmarish ‘Sporn’. You can also block content from certain users, so if you know that ‘H0rnyM4n69’ is a purveyor of virtual filth, you can block any of his creations appearing in your game.
There’s no auto save function. This is a hell of an oversight but thankfully not one that’s cost me yet. Just remember to save every now and again. Don’t leave hours between saves, you never know when your PC may decide to be a dick.
Spore is a fun game that becomes a grand strategy/exploration epic in the final space stage. You will eventually wield the powers of a god and memories of Populous (for those older gamers) will come flooding back as you begin to terraform new worlds. Whilst it isn’t the amazing game that everyone was hoping for, it’s certainly a creative, imaginative and ambitious title. This is a game that can pleasantly waste a few hours of your time as you happily tinker with life or lay waste to civilizations with your multi-limbed, multi-fanged, war bastards.
Arbitrary Score Out of Ten: 8/10