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I played Spore as possibly the first "serious" game in my life as a kid, and it was awesome. The Cell stage introduces you to the concept of creating in a simple 2D environment, you get to collect a few bonuses, but it is really simple and there is little tutorialling needed. The Creature stage introduces you to unit management with your pack members, which then becomes more complex in the following stages, together with more abstract currencies with more uses. The only problem is that once you get into space, there just is not enough content to justify the massive galaxy, and the game gets repetitive fast. Analogously, once you just want to mess around with the editor, the part limits are annoying (and pointless).
The lore, though again not super complex, is charming and has the potential to be a different take on sci-fi, much like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It was also very nicely localised, with part names for buildings and vehicles in Czech being a delight of their own. The art style for each stage is consistent and feels like a living world despite (or maybe thanks to) not being excessively detailed. The "objectives" are not that difficult and there is no grand strategy, but just wandering the world and improvising is fun enough. I even still own the manual for the worldbuilding and nostalgia.
From what I've read in other reviews (on this site and elsewhere), the problem most people have with Spore is excessive hype for something that never happened. But if you are spared the hype, or if you are looking for a good introductory game for a non-gamer, the Spore we got may even be better that the Spore that could have been. And it certainly is better for the image of gaming than your average space military simulator.
Spore isn't actually a game, it's 5 bland-as-stale-cornflakes mini-games tacked on to a creature creator. You build your creature, you play the mini game. Now you understand Spore.
Creature creation, which is the reason most people bothered putting the disc in their hard drive, also feels like a limited mini-game. You'll see the term "evolution" used a lot to describe Spore, but there's actually none to be had. Jaws, snouts, claws, arms, and body shape are determined in a play-doh stage at different times in the level. If you don't like your herbivorous 5" phallus-worm, just check into an evolution stop you can change the thing into a hulking 10' grizzly-wolf.
Your creature does not evolve. You make a creature out of play-doh and run it around to collect more play-doh bits. Nothing else you do matters significantly.
When you're done with this stage and have finally given your creature those +5 mandibles of death, you move on to a couple of RTS stages. There you will realise that those lovely teeth and claws and surrogate urethras you painstakingly saved up for do NOTHING; it's appearance only from here on out.
And it is definitely a rocky road from here on out. The first RTS stage is a loving (sort of) ripoff of Age of Empires. Only with less intelligent villagers, and an extremely limited tech tree, and lower population limits, and fewer buildings, and poor combat, and poor balance, and fewer types of units, and all right; it's nothing like Age of Empires. It's an awful, awful bastardisation of what an RTS should play like and, coming from someone who grew up when Ensemble Studios was in their prime, it makes you want to heave and retch and gouge your eyes out with a brooch.
The stage after is a terrible take on Rise of Nations. After that you get a spaceship and fly around pointlessly colonizing planets in your forsaken, empty universe.
The creator portion in these stages switches from designing creatures to designing buildings and spaceships. It's like Lego, if Lego were a 5-minute exercise in pathetically sticking plasticine spheres and cubes together for no purpose at all.
There's also the DRM issue. You can install Spore three times, and then you're locked out of a game that you've purchased. It's draconian to say the least.
I am filled with regret for buying this game.
Yes, I know this game is now over 5 years old, and that the content has dwindled to a measly 6 automatic content downloads because of the decrease in players. Do I still enjoy Spore to this day? Yes! Other reviews have already delved into what Spore's gameplay is about, so I'll just state my personal opinion of it, with both good and bad parts about it.
Spore is very versatile on what you can create. You can pretty much create whatever creature you want, from a 6-legged bear-shark with quills, to a 1-legged 6-mouthed abomination that flies. Your creative skills determine what you can create, and in later stages, you can create outfits for your species (which is basically taping hats and useless body Armour to your creature) as well as Land, Air and Sea Vehicles, Buildings, and eventually, a controllable spaceship. Each stage is a different (and fun) way of playing the game, Cell stage is like a fish simulator, Creature stage is a 3rd-person walkaround, Tribal and Civilization are a RTS, and Space stage goes back to 3rd person, but you can fly in your own ship and blast stuff. It gets even better in the Creepy and Cute Parts pack and Galactic Adventures, because it adds more stuff and you can make your own adventures, as well as finally being able to add weapons to your creatures!
Unfortunatley, Spore does have major flaws, sometimes even overwhelming the good traits of it. First off, many of the stages feel "Dumbed down" and are very simple, almost every game you play is exactly the same, it can get tiring always seeing a meteor and a Spaceship in creature stage, Non-maxis made Tribes appearing in Tribal stage, and the same buildings and vehicles appearing for each nation in Civilization stage. It is saved by space stage though, although all the empires you ally with seem to become almost useless as they will constantly nag you to help them, their only use is probably a way of getting more systems, or making a fleet. Try your best to befriend the Alien Empire that is way stronger than you are, and has minus attributes to their friendship "Meter". Otherwise, you're going to get curbstomped.
Is Spore a good game? Yes! Even though it is now extremely hard to buy a copy, a second-hand or Ebay is always a good place to get one. I'd recommend playing it, Spore is basically a mindless little creative burst of energy.
Ah, Spore. How I love it. It's a great game, really. But take these into consideration:
The game is awesome. The different stages mean different gameplay. If you're not fond of 2-D exploration, (Cell Stage) just continue onto creature. Dont like FPS-esque gameplay? Tribal stage is just round the corner. Strategy not your thing? There's Civilization...
Did I mention the creators yet? Well, during the game, you can customy almost everything, from houses to your animal to vehicles. Those "editors" are avalible from the start. It's easy to forgrt the game is there when your creating Fluffy the terrible!
The expansion packs are plain awesome. Creepy Cute parts adds more customisability to your cool critters. Mt favorite, however, is Galactic Adventures. You pretty much create your own level. In the form of a planet!
The community is great. Broken base? Spore fandom laughs at your pitiful arguing. I reccomend a site called Spore Wiki. (No, NOT sporepedia. Spore WIKI.) You'll find your truly (Da Lucaray) there, along with a host of others. Everyone is quite nice, and you can write all your cool empires' storys down. There's even a large collaboratin fic!
In conclusion: Spore. just Spore.
The best description of this game came from a critic. I quote, "This isn't just the evolution game, this is the evolution OF games." A comprehensive and easy to use environment make this game easy to use, but to without difficulty. Spore lets you play your way, with choices like, "What will my creature's diet be?" and "What will my Civilization be like?" being answered by YOU through how you play, socializing or killing or both. With Galactic Adventures, the game gets even better, allowing for more comprehensive story and play. And even if you don't like playing so much, it's worth paying $30 just for the Creators, which allow to design your own content. By the Space Stage, you can even terraform planets to you liking. 90% of the content is user made. And with Galactic Adventures you get to make you own adventures with props, cast, building vehicles, all designed by you. Also, there is an awesome online community where you can trade creations and feedback. I bought the game shortly after it's release in September '08, and it has been a constant source of entertainment since then.
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