From the Primordial Ooze to Galactic Conquest, a Review of EA’s Spore

I’m sorry to say that I was not able to beat Spore this weekend, as much as I should have. As a youth I would have kicked this game’s butt in a single day of playing, but as it is, I’m two days into it and only halfway through finishing the final stage, but that’s enough to give an informed review. If this post reads like I’m reviewing five different games, that’s because Spore is five different games.

Spore's Cell Stage

Spore’s Cell Stage
(Click to Enlarge)

Life in Spore has panspermia origins. You arrive on a planet via comet, hatch, and start wiggling around the primordial ooze, avoiding predators and finding food. As pretty as this Cell stage is, with the bubbles, forminifera, and murky visions of larger animals in the deep, it’s a quick play simply to establish you as an herbivore, carnivore, or predator.

Spore's Creature Stage Epic Creature in the Background (Stay away from those)

Spore’s Creature Stage
Epic Creature in the Background
(Stay away from those)

(Click to Enlarge)

A pair, or more, of legs graduates you to the Creature Stage, where you will establish your elementary strategy for interacting with other creatures. I chose a peaceful route, which some other players have criticized as being too difficult. I’m not sure how fighting with everything everywhere you go is easier than singing and dancing with them, as I did, but to each their own.

These first two stages were very reminiscent of Sim Life, which I played on the Apple IIe in high school (like 1992), where you got to design a wide variety of animals with various adaptations and see how they faired in a world you designed. Up to this point, Spore is like that cubed. The options for designing your creature are endless, and every creature you meet in the incredible wealth of biodiversity of its world, you can create to play for yourself.

Spore's Tribe Stage

Spore’s Tribe Stage
(Click to Enlarge)

The Tribe stage takes the Creature stage to a group level, from first-person to real-time strategy. Instead of controlling one creature, you now control up to a dozen. Again, your options are to beat all other tribes into submission, or conduct cultural exchanges with music and gifts. I continued my make-love-not-war strategy here with much success.

Spore's Civilization Stage

Spore’s Civilization Stage
(Click to Enlarge)

The Civilization stage, where you graduate to managing a city with territorial boundaries, plays like very simple version of Sid Meyer’s Civilization, where cities must be kept happy, natural resources harvested, and neighboring civilizations conquered (either militarily or ideologically). Instead of directing tribe members, now you are designing vehicles to conquer the land, sea, and air. As cool as this stage was, it was unfortunate that the only difference between conquering through military means versus ideological was whether your units guns fired bullets or rhetoric.

Spore's Space Stage

Spore’s Space Stage
(Click to Enlarge)

The increasing complexity in gameplay we experience in each stage of Spore becomes almost too much in the Space Stage. Your strategies here can be galactic conquest, terraforming, interplanetary trade, exploration, running missions, or, as will invariably be the case, a combination of strategies.

Spore's Space Stage

Spore’s Space Stage
(Click to Enlarge)

The Space stage plays like a lot like Star Control II meets Elite. The game even acknowledges its many origins, as when the soundtrack to the Commodore 64’s M.U.L.E plays in the background whenever you conduct interplanetary trade. If you don’t get these references, I’m saying Spore takes the best from the best classic games and incorporates them into its scope.

One thing I’ve had difficulty learning in the Space Stage (and in all stages to some degree) is not to worry about every little thing. Are space pirates raiding one of my planets? Let them raid, I’ve got more planets and a whole lot of exploring to do. The Spore universe is way too big to hope to take it all in.

Spore's Galaxy

Spore’s Galaxy
(Click to Enlarge)

My only major let down with this game is that it’s not as educational as I’d like. Too many of its characteristics, such as “Mining Spice” instead of energy or metals, have only a metaphorical connection to our world. When alien fantasy substitutes for real-world examples, teachable moments are lost. I wish the game creators could have put more thought into building a universe that deals with more the issues we deal with here on Earth.

The game does effectively tickle the imagination, and, overall, Spore is a relaxing, inquisitive adventure as delightful as I’d hoped, and much more epic in scope than I had imagined.






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