So about a week ago my wonderful wife purchased me the latest video game title to splash onto the market, Spore. Although the game was announced over a year ago as the next big simulation franchise from the creative genius of Will Wright, and seemed to be receiving the praises from many a person I know as well as some good scores from online review sites, I admit I had my reservations.
Nevertheless I acquired it (by legal means this time, which is unusual for me). I was hesitant to just install it on my computers due to some discussions I’ve read concerning its use of nasty, nasty DRM software such as SecuROM. I’ve also read ill-reports of EA’s new method of controlling their software by limiting the number of installations possible from a single product key. This made me curious if there was an alternative.
So I did a little looking around and sure enough there was already a pirated image of the install disk that supposedly came without the DRM and without the install cap. This I downloaded and used to install on my gaming rig and laptop, being sure to include EA’s download manager so that I wouldn’t have go through the pain of manually keeping the game up to date and so that I could fully enjoy the benefits of Spore’s use of online shared content.
After a brief amount of setup and configuration I created a new game and entered the world as a small, single-celled organism equipped with a beak, a flagellum, and a pair of eyes. I admit the eyes were kinda silly, but they served to introduce me to the unique, almost cartoony, universe of spore. I quickly progressed through the cell stage, followed by the creature stage and arrived at the tribal stage with a feeling that I was finally getting the handle on this game; after all I was at the top of the food chain and was able to send any wobbly legged or googly eyed creature Maxis could throw at me running for their lives.
But this is where the game took a very sharp turn. The switch between the creature stage and its comfortable 3rd person interface where all you had to control was the single creature representing yourself, and the birds-eye-view, RTS like gameplay of of the tribal stage almost knocked me off my chair. It seriously took me a couple minutes to re-orient myself with what I was doing, and to seize control of my small band of newly evolved hunters and gatherers.
The tribal stage went by fairly quickly with almost no change in gameplay. I was able to ally with the first opposing tribe to appear and reap the empty benefits of their friendship, while the remaining tribes decided that since I was a social do-gooder I must be a pathetic pushover and more or less instantly declared war on me. So after 30 minutes I mopped up the last of their small wooden huts and moved on to bigger and better things in the civilization stage!
The civilization stage, while being a bit more complex and intriguing than the tribal stage, was still pretty simple. I opted to try all forms of conquest, trading with people so that they would sell themselves into indentured servitude for large mountains of gold, converting whole cities to my cause by endless preachings from a large, blue holograph of one of my creatures, and of course by the traditional blow someone up until they had no choice but to surrender.
So with the civilization stage firmly under my belt I rejoiced at the creation of my very own inter-stellar spaceship! Which turned out looking more like an oversized river raft with an assortment of plastic devices attached to make it look cool.
Oh well, I guess not everyone’s creative genius is as advanced as some of the people in the sporepedia, who have already created such great things as the Enterprise, a Star Destroyer, and even a Winnebago.
Upon arriving at the cosmos Spore took yet another turn in gameplay. It now became more of an Action-RPG on a very grand scale. Creeping out of my own solar system I wasn’t surprised to find another two space-fairing species within a couple systems “drive.” The first species must have originated from some backwards planet where bleeding-heart liberals somehow gained control of the world and managed to acquire space flight. These creatures were very strong social oriented, economic junkies. Or in other words, pushovers. Since I pitied the small round blobs with large lips and googley eyes I decided not to exterminate them on the spot. This was a good move for me since at the time I had still to advance my ship’s weapons past the strength required to pop a balloon, I also was able to set up several trade routes with their planets and work my way towards dominating them financially and purchasing them for 1,000,000 sporebucks.
The second species were aggressive from the beginning, hailing my ship from 3 light-years away just to tell me that I was a doofus! That didn’t go over so well. And when they started attacking my fledgling colonies on other planets I just had to do something. So, with the continent sized pile of cash that I had accrued from the before mentioned lucrative relationship with the pansies, I was able to outfit my tiny scrub boat with an array of ever powerful firearms. This, and the militarily genius tactic of flying around in tight circles as to avoid enemy fire while launching homing missiles at my opponents, made short work of the ever annoying race. I soon added another extinct species to my totem pole and moved on to the conquest of the rest of the galaxy.
Oh. Wait a minute. The rest of the galaxy is HUGE! What was Maxis thinking! Like I’ve got time to repeat the previous patterns over and over again every two star systems until I reach the center. This is mind-boggling.
Thankfully there are lots of goodies left to unlock and prizes yet to discover. While I can’t say Spore is overall the most amazing and addicting game I’ve played in awhile, it’s definitely worth a try. And in the end I have to say I’m actually really impressed that it’s not the simple children’s game I had almost expected it to be. It’s very creative and plays smoothly, much like a good comic book complete with thought bubbles and all.
I’d definitely recommend it to the rest of my friends. If for no other reason than to expand the pool of buddy created content to enjoy in my own little virtual universe. =D
Oh by the way this is my wife’s creature. She’s proud to announce that they’ve just graduated to the Tribal Stage and are on their way to being one of the galaxy’s most feared species.