Spore merges multiple run-of-the-mill building blocks into a big, entertaining game.
Spore then pulls an about-face when you reach the civilization stage. Gone are your creature-controlling days; your beloved brutes, once the jewels of your eye, will now populate the cities, and you will instead create fleets of land, sea, and air vehicles. Now you don't have just a tribe--you have an entire society to handle, though you shouldn't let the name of the stage lead you to think that you'll find the complexity of Sid Meier's classic series here. The creation tools are just as easy to use--and just as comprehensive--as those of the creature creator. Designing a mass of metal may not have the same charm as molding a living being from scratch, but the tools give you more control over patterns and colors, so expect to lose more hours of your life tinkering with the possibilities. You'll also create a town hall, a house, a factory, and an entertainment venue, and placing these in your cities has an effect on the happiness of your residents. However, the happiness mechanic is so simple that most players should be able to beat the stage on even the highest difficulty setting without giving it much thought.
The stage plays out like an even broader version of the tribal stage, though you will be dealing with some light resource gathering. However, the main strategic element comes from the three different ways you can conquer your foes: economic, religious, or military. Each city is limited to one of these three brands based on how you choose to play, though the process plays out remarkably the same, regardless. For example, if you go for military victory, you send your attack units toward your enemy cities in standard RTS fashion. To convert the same city, you send religious vehicles over to broadcast a holographic image that preaches to the citizens. It's neat to watch the transparent creature spouting the word over the opposing city--it's just too bad that the gameplay is so limited. Each city can produce only one type of land vehicle, one type of air vehicle, and one type of sea vehicle. If you go for a pure military victory, for example, you will see only three units in the stage. It's breezy and enjoyable, for sure--it's just not deep or challenging.
And in its final transformation, Spore enters the space stage, where many of the previous gameplay elements coalesce. As a result, this stage feels like an actual destination, and while it's not nearly as complex as the space exploration games it cribs from, it does exhibit the great charms of the early stages that are missing from the civilization stage. This is partially because it harks back to the creature stage, putting you in control of a single spacecraft (one you build using the wonderful creation tools, of course), and sending you off to explore the great black beyond. The scope of this stage is suitably massive. You travel from star to star, exploring newly discovered planets and searching for your galactic neighbors, and you can skim the terrain of a planet--or pull the camera light-years away to see the entire galaxy at a glance.
This stage is somewhat reminiscent of 2002's terrific Space Rangers and its sequel, and even exhibits some of that game's wacky humor. You travel from system to system, grabbing missions from the local civilizations who will crack jokes about everything from cake to umbrellas. Most of these missions are quick and to the point: abduct this creature and bring it back, eliminate a bunch of sick animals on this planet, eliminate all of our enemy's turrets on a neighboring world, and so on. Just as in the creature stage, you will eventually pick up some AI companions, further allowing you to expand across the galactic map.
To expand, you can't just plop down a colony and watch it evolve. The economy moves much more slowly in this stage than in previous ones, so you need to be careful about how you spend funds based on how you wish to play. Nor can you just choose any planet. Some worlds are simply incapable of supporting life, while others need to have the environment altered to allow for expansion and population. This is where the terraforming tools come in. Not only may you need to drop items onto the terrain to increase the density of the atmosphere or make the air hotter, but you'll need to jump-start the ecology by throwing in plants and creatures abducted from other worlds. These tools don't just limit you to gameplay necessities, however. You can terraform entire swaths of land, putting craters and plateaus where you see fit, or even dyeing the water purple. In space stage there is, for the first time in Spore, a lot to do. At times, you are shooting lasers at enemy saucers, like a 3D action game; at others, you're outfitting colonies with turrets; at still others, you're negotiating trade routes with your allies. It's a pleasant and accessible mix.
Unsurprisingly, none of these elements are as deep as you would expect in a deep space strategy game, but the real joys come from swooping onto a planet and skimming its surface to see your own creations--and those of others--populating them, and in various stages of advancement. The stylized, colorful visuals keep your eyes constantly engaged, from big, bulbous trees to herds of tentacled younglings frolicking about. The animations are top-notch, so while it's hard to imagine what a bowlegged, long-necked crane with four toes on each foot would actually look like as it ambled about, Spore makes such sights look goofily authentic. It isn't a technical powerhouse; there is a good bit of geometry pop-in, and the game does not appear to support antialiasing. Its charming, exaggerated look more than makes up for it though, and on three separate machines of various specifications, Spore ran smoothly at the highest settings without a single crash.
Spore's sound design shines from beginning to end. The creatures themselves sound terrific, and are the source of much of the game's overflowing charm. The creature and tribal stages sound enchanting, from the thumping beat of the drums when you order tribal units to the squawks and squeaks of your creations. The subsequent stages are of similarly high quality. Of particular note is the customizable ambient music introduced in the civilization stage, and the hysterical incomprehensible Simlish spoken by the various galactic leaders.
Spore keeps a timeline of events, pinpointing every decision you've made and assigning you into broad categories based on your overall behavior (social, adaptable, and so on), so there's plenty of reason to try a different approach. Not that these varied approaches make for drastically different gameplay, but they do give you a reason to revisit the amusing moments that make Spore unique. Taken on their own, its pieces are nothing special. As parts of a singular ambitious vision, they work far better. Throw in the best customization tools seen in years and an enthusiastic community brimming with creativity, and you have a legitimately great game that will deliver hours of quality entertainment.
You complain that the game is too simple, but that allows for a much broader scope of people to play it. Namely people who have never really played before. Namely, my girlfriend (lol). But seriously, it does allow for a much broader scope. And the early stages may not be too engaging, but they are still quite fun.
@Spartan8907 I understand that this is a good four years late, but... If you word the word below that "8.0" on the top right of this page, it says "great". That's why it got only an 8.0, c'mon man.
gamespot and their strange reviews. MGS4 got a ten but deserved an 8, Uncharted got an 8 but deserved waaaay better, and now spore has fallen victim to the unruly ratong system....
@tlow0678 uncharted 1 deserved a 6, at most. It was terrible. Uncharted 2 was amazaballs, but UC1? God f'ing awful.
@monicker @Leboyo56 That's the spirit. I just love how outrageously difficult it is compared to the other Uncharted's. On Normal, a Brute took six headshots from a shotgun to kill. My friend and I counted. I was only a few feet from him. Also the random zombie-vampire things that pop up halfway through the game has still got to be my favorite 'WTF?!' moment from any game as well.
Spore is going to become the "New Age" of gaming. I hope that soon games like Spore, were you can make almost every aspect of the game, will no longer be the minority of games but the majority.
@Owner34 You're right, and I kind of hate it. There's been a lack of very memorable characters lately.
actually sounds better than it did before. mind you i have been following spore since they first started talking about it. but each thing about it is making me think about getting it.
This is a tad disappointing. I was hoping for at least a 9. Oh well I still going to get this game, and it still a great score.
I think the reviewer is only judgiing the game based upon the mechanics of play. He isn't taking into account the deepth of the the things that are happening and the choices that you make along the way. Still, an 8 is not a bad score but I would not rate it under a 9 myself.
actually, the gameplay elements are rather shallow. but there 's alot of them. if the game was a bit deeper aswel it would probably have been a 10.
Nothing wrong with something looking "childish". Psychonauts, Creatures and the majority of Nintendo games are equally colourful and appealing, that doesn't mean they weren't good.