On the eve of what will henceforth be known as International Spore Appreciation Day, I have decided to write a fair review of the game. Most of you will say: "But Ter! It's not even out yet, how can you review a game that you haven't played?", and I will respond: I downloaded it five days before release, which was four days after I had purchased the game from EA, and had it fully pre-loaded.
Most of you have at least heard of Spore and it's three year hype.
This game is the brainchild of Will Wright, the genius behind Sim City, the Sims, and pretty much everything starting with the word "Sim".
The sheer scope of the game is impressive in it's own right, and most would call anyone with the goal of creating this game a madman.
You start off as a single-celled organism, eating to survive. You start off with two options, carnivorous, or herbivorous. You then are presented with an innumerable amount of choices which lead you through an epic journey to survive, cooperate, and eventually establish a galactic empire.
The game is a single player game, but often called a "massively single player" game. Everything you create can be sent to the "multiverse", and downloaded by other players in real time. These downloads occur automatically as you play the game, and can be tailored to suit your likes and dislikes. If you like a creature, more will be selected that are similar to that creature to populate your universe.
The really amazing part of this game, is the focus on creativity. At every step you can tweak your creature, clothing, vehicles and buildings, and eventually an interstellar spacecraft. You can even terraform planets using both atmospheric tools and sculpting tools.
The editors are easy to use, and can be learned in minutes. They are moderately flexible, allowing you to use pre-built parts like Legos to construct any number of unique structures, creatures, and vehicles. I have taught my friends, and even my wife to use the editor by simply telling them to "drag and drop".
The amazing creativity of the community is something to be marveled at as well. Already, the day before release, there are five million creations on the Sporepedia. There are one million registered users, and over a million creations uploaded just today. This kind of usage will guarantee a unique experience every time you pick up the game.
The gameplay is simple, controls are usually point, click and drag, and the game itself is learned easily after just a few minutes in each phase. It is still complex enough to remain fresh for any length of time.
The graphics are very well done, and your scenery is literally what you make of it, or rather, what you make. A planet can be barren, ugly, and terrifying, or it can be lush, alive, and growing.
The music leaves a little to be desired, but can be tailored to your liking, but is pretty much just ambiance to keep you from losing your mind as you waste countless days of your life devouring those less adapted then yourself.
The sound is rather well done too, but some of the alien voices can be extremely agitating. I have crushed probably twenty or more peaceful galactic empires merely because they had high-pitched, nerve-smashing voices.
Now, let's talk about where this game fails. I have found a few points here.
The bodyparts you unlock throughout the game do not transfer if you start another game. Meaning, you have to spend a lot of time looking for specific bodyparts if you are quite as particular as I am.
In the Tribal and Civilization phases, there is an extremely limited number of structures, weapons, tools, and strategies you can employ. However, due to the size of the overall game, it would be ludicrous to expect anything more.
In the Space phase, there several notable issues. The first is the Grox. The Grox are a massive intergalactic empire hell-bent on the domination of the Galaxy. They are powerful, numerous, and violent. I dislike the pre-determined empire in an otherwise random and chaotic game. I dislike the fact that they are so large they are nigh indestructible. But most of all, I dislike the fact that they attack my planets with dozens of ships, and I only get one ship.
There is one more problem as well, and this one almost kills the space stage for me. The spaceage currency is most often gained from gathering spice (think Frank Herbert's Dune), which is harvested on most planets, and comes in many varieties. It's value fluctuates from planet to planet, there is no way of telling what a planet will offer for the spice without orbiting their planet. This means you have to manually pick up the spice from your planets, then fly around the galaxy looking for a good price for each colour you gather. This screams for an automated system. It really slows down the almost seamless gameplay.
Now, don't get me wrong, the game overall is great, and I'm certain that all of my complaints will be fixed or expounded upon by EA's no doubt upcoming expansions for Spore (Look at the Sims for my reasoning), but Will Wright really had it on the mark with the "completely procedural galaxy" he envisioned. Adding anything predetermined just seems to violate what makes Spore so attractive to minds like myself.
The bottom line is that if you are a creative player that likes to set their own goal instead of having a game tell you what to do, likes lots of choices, and a wide-open, immersive gameworld, you'll love Spore. Nothing beats the satisfaction of raising an Empire from a single-celled organism.
Also, the first time you use a planet-buster on an enemy planet, you'll thank me for telling you about how great it really is.