Spore Review - Tell me what you think.
Life, both beautiful and haunting all at once. Throughout human existence we have changed, depending on your thoughts on evolution, and been molded to be able to better fit our environment. We have also changed our environment to better suit us. Although spore started it's life several years ago, the process of evolution seemed to completely pass it by but in the end we still have something, that like life, is both beautiful and haunting, both at the same time.
Spore was originally announced a few years ago with the premise of being a life simulator. You would create a creature and watch as it evolves based on the way you created it and have a completely unique experience every play through. It was also supposed to be a way to showcase new procedural generation techniques that would completely change the way games are made. In my mind it succeeded at one and totally failed at the other.
Lets start with the good. The technology behind the game is amazing. Procedural generation has came along with in the past few years. if you search the net you can find a first person shooter,complete with self shadowing and all the next gen staples, in a file the size of only a few kilobytes. For those of you that don't know, procedural generation is when everything in the game is generated on the fly through a set of rules that create whatever you've set it to. This lowers system requirements and keeps the game looking great. With spore they used it to create all of the game worlds and most importantly, the way your creature animates. Depending on how you create your creature it will move and react in a way that only your creature will do. So if you have a very creative mind you can create some very unique things, but the complete opposite can be said for those who are not creative. Which can drastically effect your experience. It's very disappointing though, that the changes are only cosmetic.
There's a constant theme that runes throughout the entire game, and that is that everything you make, no matter how cool or crazy it is, won't actually do anything different than any other person's creature. It may walk differently or dance differently, but that's about it. The buildings that you create may look cool but once you realize that they don't do anything different than the thousands of other factories, you lose interest because your creativity is really getting you nowhere. The reason for that is because everything is based on stats. If your creature has a horn on his head it wont attack "with" the horn, it will attack with it's attack points. It may bump it's head forward but that's pretty much the same animation everyone gets.
After the second stage of the game you don't have any more control over how your creature changes other than the clothes in can wear. It kind of feels like they gave you all of these great toys to play with and now that you know how to use them it's over. Your stuck with the same creature through the rest of the game. For a life simulator it feels kind of dumb to think that the race wouldn't further evolve after this point in their existence. It all turns into an overly simplified rts game that even a two your old can master given enough time. You take some unites to get food, use the other to fight or sing,and your good to go. The AI seems intent on letting you win as well because never, in any stage of the game is it hard to win. It will simply take more or less time depending on your difficulty setting. I understand that this is supposed to be a casual game but casual doesn't always have to mean super easy.
The fourth stage is pretty much the same as the third except now you don't even see your creatures anymore. Now you get to create vehicles and buildings with a similar creator that you use for the creatures. It's cool to create them but they rely on stats just like everything else in the game so now matter where you put the thrusters on your plain or the motor on your boat your always going to come to the same result. If you want you can zoom in on your cities and see your creatures either praising your name in the town square or rallying together the people to get what they want out of you. It's cool to look at but it doesn't really effect game play. You take over the other people on the planet by either religion, war, or economic, but you do the same thing for all of them. Go to the other persons city and click take over. I don't know about you, but all of this sounds, and plays, like a children s game.
The fifth stage is where you get to go into space, which is both the most satisfying and most disappointing of all of the stages. It's cool being able to zoom out and see the whole universe, but getting their is another story. You get to meet other creatures but only through a series of menus. You get them to like you through fetch quests until they will let you trade with them, which is just as tedious as it sounds. I hate that you don't have complete control over your space ship and it's just a point and click affair. After the second stage everything just feels extremely cold. It's like a beautiful girl with a nice body but no brains to speak of. The tools are all their but their not being put to good use.
Spore wasn't the game I, or anyone else, expected. We though this would be a totally 1 on 1 experience evolving your creatures through time. Instead it's all about stats and no matter how cool your creation looks none of it matters in the end. Maybe if your new to gaming and want to try a simplified version of all of these types of game play then I'd recommend it. I'd also recommend just buying an RTS game like command and conquer or a civilization game like Civilizations or an MMO like LOTRO. You'll have a much deeper experience and have a better time then spore leads you to believe you will.