Maxis and Electronic Arts have teamed up to bring us Spore, a game that was considered by many to have the most daring and complex concept ever. And there is no other possible way to describe it, since this game plans to simulate the entire process of genetic evolution, from cell stage to interplanetary navigation (yes, Will Wright and his team can’t really be called God’s messengers). But I’m sure you already know all these. What you don’t know and you’re going to find out by reading through this Spore review is if Maxis managed to bring us all the promised grandeur or it just failed miserably. Do we have a game here or THE GAME?
Spore divides the evolutionary stages into five parts and the first one you’ll start with is a rather unimpressive one: the cell stage. Basically, you’re a unicellular organism that was just brought to live and you have to feed yourself, while making sure you’re avoiding the bigger and meaner organisms (in Spore, there is always a being that’s bigger, stronger and better than you). It’s like a top-down view of a more advanced Pac man game that can last less than the first level in the afore-mentioned game.
However, even though simplified to the bone, you still have a bunch of options available and, willingly or not, you’ll be shaping up already the traits of your future civilization. Your main quest for now, except for the general one of staying alive, is eating to grow in size and defeating the other creatures. These two actions give you DNA points which can be used in the Creature Creator to shape up your cell. According to the type of living form you had chosen (vegan, carnivore or omnivore) you will be able to customize your looks with spikes, eyes, tentacles and so on. All these “accessories” have their own advantages and offer different types of bonuses so, depending on what type of creature you want (slow and aggressive, fast and defensive and so on) you’ll add an extra flagellum or an extra poison bag.
The Cell Stage is by far the most simplistic one in Spore and can be finished in a few minutes if the player wants to. It is perfect for first time plays since it starts to get the player used with the control mechanics, with the visuals and the general concept, while teaching an important aspect in Spore: you are what you do. In other words, if you are a carnivore and keep killing creatures, don’t expect to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize!
I still remember the day when Maxis released that wonderful video with Robbie Williams using the Spore Creature Creator – I had my eyes glued to the screen and I just wanted to play it, nothing more, nothing less! That was the moment I understood that my life will be different after Spore gets released and, generally speaking, the entire gaming industry will be told that the quality standards were up a level. Apparently, real life and movie clips have nothing in common. Let’s find out why.
The Creature Stage kicks off after your cell gets big enough to climb onto dry land. The perspective changes into a full 3D one and you have the impression the real game has just started. You’ll soon be disappointed since it won’t take long for you to realize that it’s mostly the Cell Stage but with a few more options and freedom.
Your main goal will obviously be to evolve: this time you won’t be eating green blurbs, but fighting other creatures or, on the contrary, becoming their ally. Either way you choose to do it, it will get pretty annoying. If you want to be a friendly dude, you’ll have to impress the other creatures by using four types of social interactions (dance, sing, pose or charm). However, the other creatures choose how you have to impress them by randomly performing one of the four social actions – an action you have to mechanically repeat. Having in mind that in order to get a step further with your evolution and earn the needed DNA points you’ll have to impress dozens of creatures using the same repetitive techniques, it gets boring to the bone.