Fury's Game Check: Spore

I’ve kept meaning to write this review, but I never really thought I had enough play time.  I always felt like I was missing something.  The game never really came together to make it seem like I was doing it right.  Then I realized that the game was doing it on purpose.  The game didn’t want me to feel like I had accomplished anything.  It wanted me to fell like there was something else.  And I don’t know how to take that.  See more inside.

Spore comes down to being 5 different games in one.  The first is a FL0W style microorganism game.  As a cell, you float around eating small particles of food or even other organisms.  The body parts you put on decide what type of food you eat, which in turn affects how to evolve.   This part is not exactly challenging or particularly fun.  You can easily escape your enemies and prey upon those weaker than you.  And it ends rather quickly.  Very simple.

The next is an Organism stage.  This plays out with two options when meeting other creatures. Hostile or friendly abilities are available, either by dancing or singing to them or killing them.  And how well you do depends almost entirely on your stats.  Each part you put on your creature give you stats towards either and you need to beat their score.  There is almost no skill that goes into this and you repeat yourself many times over.  This was my most annoying stage.

After that is a Tribal stage.  You join up with other creatures like you and have to take other tribes.  Again, either through friendly interaction or war.  You can set some tribesmen to find food and others to make musical instruments.  Others can be set to make war tools.  It is very RTS like, but is so simple its hard to screw this one up.  They drop hints what will let you make friendly with them and it does not change, so two seconds of trial and error make this a very simple mini-game.

Now is Civilization, not surprisingly very Civilization-like.  But again, in a simplistic almost insulting way.  You build production, happiness, or housing building on a few of the available sites in each city.   Each is required in a rock paper scissors kinda way, nut the easiest way to progress is to up production and steamroll your opponents.  This doesn’t make you well liked, but this stage really just got under my skin.  It is the first point where you are forced to setup your creature’s buildings and such, though you can grab others creations from your Sporepedia or Maxis created ones.  But it’s still a jarring point for a stage that I wasn’t all the impressed with.

Lastly comes  a space game, and it is the part you will probably spend the largest percentage of time in.  You can visit other planets in other systems in varying levels of evolution.  You can terraform, build, destroy and abduct a huge array of other creatures.  It was the stage I enjoyed the most and you can spend a lot of time making the universe in your image, but again, this is not a very difficult game.  Beating this unlocks the ability to start at any stage, but you miss out on the connection you get to your little creature that could.

Which brings me to my biggest gripe: that your creature never really feels like its evolving.  You can scrap and remake your creature as you want, so if you know what is coming, you can really metagame and setup your creature for success.  That just really takes me out of the evolution of my creature.  I absolutely can and do keep my creature, but the game really misses a mark to give you a connection, which I believe is an integral part of the Sims.

Spore really tries to be a huge innovation, and it does succeed, but Maxis doesn’t make true games.  They make simulations and Spore really highlights that they can’t make a narrative or goal-based game.   They have to leave their games so open because when they try to hem you in then their shortcomings are very apparent.  This is a game for non-gamers, though I wouldn’t call it a casual game.  It’s stuck with unfinished or simplistic ideas in a good looking well designed body but can’t really do anything with it.   There’s not much here for what I might call real gamers, and just doesn’t have the depth to keep it’s legs going.  I give them points for ambition and style, but ultimately there’s not enough to justify your dollars.

Final verdict: Dodge it.

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