by Ian Harding

What can I say; my first purchased video game in 7 years is (a unanimous decision by all who have played it) a let down.

Coming into the game of Spore, my hopes were that this would be a game that would keep me engrossed for a fair amount of time. Spore does (did) keep me engrossed for a fair amount of time, but when that time was up, all I had to show for it was a building with spikes, horns, some crazy colours, and a feeling of dissatisfaction. However, as satisfying as my first creation was, I very quickly found that designing my own elements was more tedious than enjoyable. It got to the point where I would put a block, a window, and a door, and click save just so that I could move on with the game.

Since each of the five phases of life are almost a different game within themselves, I’ll go through each one and give you my thoughts.

Cell Stage

1. Cell Phase

With this being such a basic stage in the game I was quick to begin devouring other cells. I mean, what else is there to do right? With a minimal amount of flexibility on the creative side, I focused on becoming a well-rounded carnivore by eating whatever I could find without getting eaten myself. For those who chose the herbivore route, the cell phase must have been bloody boring for you. Depth of field in this phase is nice, as is the method of how you grow and each generation zooms out so that a creature that could once eat you early on, is now the food you’re hunting.

Creature Stage

2. Creature Phase

Yay, my creature has arms and legs. The creature creator got really cool in this phase and the level of creativity can definitely be bumped for this. Its actually quite interesting how no matter what you create (1 leg, 2 legs, 10 legs, no legs), the creature you create always seems to be able to function and move around. It’s like a 3D program for children, giving you almost unlimited flexibility with your creation. You’re almost sure to create something original every single time. I found myself creating an Alien-like creature and kept that look throughout the game. Skir is the creature name, so if you’ve seen it, ya that’s mine. Beware! One other thing to note in this phase is that you have the potential to run into something you created previously, or something a buddy has created. That was kind of neat.

Also, new phase = new controls. Still pretty easy to follow and understand what to do. Eat meat or berries. Love or hate. My main issue with this phase was the map. It doesn’t inform you of where you’ve been already, nor could I figure out a larger/full map view. So right from the get-go, I found myself wondering too far from home and getting lost, starving as a result because I needed food and the creatures around me were too strong to take down. All in all, this was a fun phase though. So much so that I found myself staying in this phase to explore more areas before evolving into the Tribal phase when it became available.

Tribal Stage

3. Tribal Phase

OMG, did this phase piss me off when it came to learning new game controls. Apparently you need instruments to befriend another tribe, but I had no idea how to make/steal/obtain them. So for the first hour I was frustrated trying to learn this one. But, once I eliminated another tribe (as my goal was to be as evil as possible), the game progressed and I found it very easy to eliminate every other tribe when the time came. It was more a matter of just waiting and increasing tribe numbers. A couple of stone hammers, some spears, and you could beat any other tribe no problem. I even took down a few of the large 1,000 hit-point creatures just for fun. I snickered the first time I hear the knives and saw my tribe carry plates of food back to camp. Fun.

Civilization Stage

4. Civilization Phase

First thing I did on this phase was spend WAY too much time designing my City Hall structure. “Yay, new creator”, I thought. Next thing I knew an hour had passed and I had to do the same for a vehicle immediately after. Needless to say, my first vehicle was a body with wheels and some guns. Done.

First impression of game civilization game play: very cool global viewing graphics. The way the camera spins and zooms around the planet is pretty neat. Lots to do with this phase with a bunch of different directions you could go. Build too many factories and your citizens get angry, build some entertainment to keep them happy. With each phase of the game getting longer and longer to complete, it can get tiresome trying to get your civilization to a level you want it. But like the tribal phase, once you conquer your first city, the rest is history. Again when it came time to create more vehicles such as boats and planes, I found myself not caring about the looks too much. Yes, what you add to your vehicle affects its strength, health, power, etc… but really, that didn’t matter too much at this point.

Space Stage

5. Space Phase

I am yet to finish this phase and to be honest, and I may not for a while. Yes its long and tedious, but overall, I’m bored. The game needs more excitement. I made the mistake of pissing off another race early, so they never stopped attacking my home planet. The zooming graphics are, again, pretty good. From planet view you can pan out all the way to the edge of the galaxy. And if you look at an individual solar system, you can actually see its planets slowly revolving around the system’s star. But again, I found the mapping of this phase incredibly frustrating. For example, there are hundreds of stars. So when I found a solar system I was interested in, and then left to defend my home planet, it was almost impossible to find that star again. I spent 10 minutes hovering over visited stars searching for a specific name. I eventually gave up.

Overall, the graphics in this phase are pretty damn cool. The innovation is there, but the game play itself is incredibly tedious. Yes, its neat to see your creature evolve from a single-celled organism to an intergalactic being (check out my creations on spore.com), but I found that the road to get from point A to B was a little too slow for my video game liking. Its also a good thing I don’t have more than one computer, because EA won’t allow the game to be installed on multiple machines. Lame… *cough*… lame. Thanks EA, you kept me entertained for a few lazy afternoons after work. Now all I have to show for it is less storage space on my hard drive.

Someday I’ll finish the game. But unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll start a new one anytime soon. As for my next video game purchase, it looks like it may be another 7 years coming unless something really blows my socks off.

  • Spore
  • by Ian Harding
  • Published on September 28th, 2008
EA / Maxis

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