Most games are content to introduce a unique feature or two. Some, though, make huge claims that claim they're going to either change the landscape of gaming or that they'll go down in history as failures. While Spore never quite lived up to the initial promises of the game, it still managed to be something special. Whether that's enough, though,...[read more below]
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Most games are content to introduce a unique feature or two. Some, though, make huge claims that claim they're going to either change the landscape of gaming or that they'll go down in history as failures. While Spore never quite lived up to the initial promises of the game, it still managed to be something special. Whether that's enough, though, depends on how you feel about the game once it's been broken down.
Spore was meant to be the ultimate "god game." Unlike its predecessors, it wouldn't put you in charge of a pre-existing civilization - it wouldn't even allow you to be in charge of a single creature at first. No, the game sought to put you in charge of the whole process of life, from the cellular stage up to conquer the stars. You don't get much more high-concept than that!
It's a shame, then, that Spore never entirely made it to that point.
Instead, Spore is a game about controlling the history of a race of creatures that you'll guide from being single-cell organisms through being a space-faring civilization. To do this, you'll manage them during five distinct phases, each with its type of gameplay. It's not quite as grand as the original vision, but it still deserves points for style.
Spore still looks remarkably good for a 2008 game. It shot for a cartoony art style that was similar to what one would expect from a studio like Pixar during the first decade of the 2000s, and even today, it manages to look reasonably friendly. There are still some ugly bits that you have to push through thanks to the pre-HD design, but it's still a spectacularly good game for one that's over a decade old.
The sound design is also good. It holds up well. There's a sense that there could be a little bit more when it comes to the creature noises and the music. The space sounds are suitably zappy, though, and that same kind of nonsense language that makes up the speech in the Sims franchise feels at home here.
Spore's gameplay is a mixed bag. Some elements of the game are honestly surprising - the single-cell stage, for example, is a triumph of game design that could easily have been its own game. The creature stage, likewise, is also a lot of fun. The game stumbles, though, at the tribal stage, and isn't fun at the civilization stage. Even the interstellar step is something of a letdown after the earlier stages, but it does work reasonably well.
While the mechanics of Spore are rarely great, the creation engine is superb. Putting together creatures, vehicles, and spaceships is a breeze. Terraforming planets is likewise a lot of fun, even if it's repetitious. If you can skip past the boring parts, you'll find that this game does have a lot to offer.
In the end, SPORE is a good game. It's certainly not the world-changer that it was meant to be, but that doesn't mean that it isn't worthwhile. It's a solid universe sim that comes close to being great, but that can safely settle for being right most of the time. Though not all of the ideas pan out, and there will always be a sense that the game never accomplished its goals, it's nonetheless worth your time.
SPORE is a universe sim that takes players from the cellular stage to managing an interstellar empire.
What follows is the official description of SPORE™, from the developers.
Spore is a 2008 life simulation real-time strategy God game developed by Maxis, published by Electronic Arts and designed by Will Wright, and was released for Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. Covering many genres including action, real-time strategy, and role-playing games, Spore allows a player to control the development of a species from its beginnings as a microscopic organism, through development as an intelligent and social creature, to interstellar exploration as a spacefaring culture. It has drawn wide attention for its massive scope, and its use of open-ended gameplay and procedural generation. Throughout each stage, players are able to use various creators to produce content for their games. These are then automatically uploaded to the online Sporepedia and are accessible by other players for download.
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