Publisher: EA Games
Release Date: 2007
We're glad we had a chance to get an early look at Spore at E3, because from what we've heard, it was nearly impossible to see the behind-closed-doors demo later on in the show. But we're not surprised. Spore is easily the most innovative game to grace this year's E3, thanks to its combination of an ambitious scope with more or less completely open-ended gameplay that revolves entirely around your choices.
A brief recap--you'll start a new game of Spore as a bacterium. A microscopic germ that has to fight to survive all the other microscopic germs that are gunning for you. But the object of the game is to survive and thrive--and if you can you'll be able to evolve your lowly amoeba into a customized critter swimming in the primordial soup, eating, swimming, and staying away from the bigger critters until you can again evolve into a land-dwelling creature (if you decide to walk on land) with a big brain. Once you've evolved your brain, you'll be able to make your critter the head of a tribe that can research how to build a city, how to build an army, and how to conquer the world. And even after the world is your oyster, your tribe of creatures will eventually research how to travel through space--and the space race will open up the entire galaxy, even an expanded universe, for you to communicate with, travel through, and even conquer.
And yet, the way you'll perform this insanely complex-sounding series of events will apparently be through highly simple, context-sensitive interfaces that you can use to customize just about every aspect of your in-game avatar, from germ to galactic conqueror. Even if you don't care to customize everything, the game will have a powerful engine under the hood that will procedurally determine everything for you. That's a fancy way of saying that any changes you make to your critters will be accounted for by the game and will actually show up in the game, without you having to do anything to add to it. Give your primitive tribe a rack of spears and they'll automatically perform a war dance, but they'll also become a more-warlike race overall. Create a race of super-intelligent dolphins and they'll build water-filled colonies on the moon.
If you missed our E3 coverage of the game, or haven't heard anything about it, you'll probably think the preceding paragraphs are all lies, or that the author is completely insane, or both. Yet what we saw at the show indicates to us that the literal universe of possibilities that Spore will offer actually seem plausible. Designer Will Wright himself demonstrated systems to show how creatures will evolve, be customized, mate, and change over time. While we may have seen hints of this type of gameplay in other previous games, including Wright's own The Sims and SimCity, no other game has attempted to take on this kind of ambitious scope, and no other game seemed to have any chance of actually succeeding as this one actually does. Spore is clearly the most innovative game of this year's E3--and we hope that the game can deliver on its groundbreaking potential.
FinalistsAge of Conan: Hyborian Adventures (PC)
Pursuit Force (PSP)
Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse (Xbox)