RealGamer

SPORE Review

We play god on an all new level with this offering from EA.


Review by Darren Cartledge
Published 10th October 2008

SPORE

  • Developer: EA Games
  • Publisher: EA Games
  • Release Date: 5th September 2008

Coming from the creator of The Sims, SPORE is probably one of the most anticipated PC games in recent years, allowing you to play God on an all new level as you guide a life form from a simple cell to a space faring race. However, with all games that are hyped up to galactic proportions can SPORE deliver what it promised?

The premise of SPORE is simple, guide a simple ocean dwelling cell organism through years of evolution and help them become a complex space faring race! Obviously the jumps not that drastic and SPORE features several stages of the evolutionary ladder before your life form is ready for the leap into space.

To set you on the path of travelling the stars, SPORE has been split into 5 distinct stages, each offering a different playing experience. The first stage for your life form is the Cell Stage. This stage is set in the ocean and you must guide your creature to land, this is done fairly simply by evolving your creature though the games creature editor adding new parts that have been unlocked by hunting other creatures and found in pieces of meteorite. The games creature editor allows extensive customisation of your creature, everything from body shape to the colour of its skin can be altered. You can also easily change your creature’s diet making them an herbivore, carnivore or omnivore.

Progress through the creature stage is relatively simple, all you have to do is make sure your creature eats enough and stays alive long enough in the monster filled seas until it is ready to make the transition to land. Progress is tracked by a bar at the bottom of the screen which fills up each time your creature eats. DNA points are also gained when your creature is eating and these are spent on new parts in the games creature editor.

Once your cell based creation has eating enough, it will be time for it to leave the murky depths of the ocean, grow legs and head for land. Once you have reached this level the game moves to what is my favourite part of the game, the creature stage.

In the creature stage your aim is to guide your creature to sentience, enough so that they are capable of forming a tribe. Progress is tracked in the same way as the cell stage as it is in all the games stages however, DNA and progress are gained by completing missions such as impressing or hunting other creatures in the game world. The creature stage brings a whole new set of features with it there are many more parts for your creature to find by digging up skeletons, hunting other creatures and so on. New abilities are also unlocked when you add certain parts such as sneaking, charging into attacks, charming other creatures and even gliding. The creature stage also introduces user created content into your game from the spore network meaning that there’s always a massive new selection of creatures to interact with.

One of the best things about the creature stage is the level of control you have over your creatures development, you can change the shape of your creatures spine, its build, height and so on. You can also manipulate the appearance of the various parts for your creature allowing you to create some truly unique looking creatures.

One slight annoyance I encountered with the creature stage was that the games controls can be a bit fidgety if you don’t get the camera angle quite right, this can also result in you losing control of your creature for a few moments usually when in a fight with another creature.

Once your creature achieves sentience, it’s time to form a tribe and move onto the next stage of the game and try to become the dominant species on the planet. From the tribal stages onwards SPORE becomes more of a strategy game as you no longer have direct control over your creature. For instance in the tribal stage you control up to twelve of your creatures, send them on hunting trips and attack or ally with other tribes in a bid to become the dominant race. Instructions are given to your creatures very much in the same way as a strategy game, with new abilities being unlocked once you conquer or ally with another tribe. New abilities come from building specific huts within your tribe’s village and gives you access to new technologies such as fishing spears, stone axes, flaming torches and healing rods. New members can be added to your tribes each time it grows which costs food, just like in a strategy game in which new unit’s cost resources.

Once you have become the dominant species on your planet then SPORE’s Civilisation stage beckons, this follows very much in the same vein as the tribal stage except you no longer control units of your creature, you now command land air and sea vehicles. All of which you can design yourself or download those created by other players around the world via the in-game interface. You also have to design buildings for your cities or again can download them from the internet. The aim of the game in civilisation stage is to conquer the cities different civilisations of your species until you unite the entire planet. This is easier said then done, on anything other then the easiest setting as you come under constant attack from various factions so building up your defences quickly before your rivals can strike is of vital importance.

As you would expect the game contains various tools and pieces to design and customise your various vehicles and buildings. You can even mould parts together to generate your desired shape and are only really limited by your imagination in what you can create.

The resource within the civilisation stage is sporebucks which are gained from taking control of spice geysers around the game map, Capturing them is a simple case of commanding a land unit to move to its location on the map, however once captured you will have to guard it as rival civilisations will try and take it from you and without them you can’t earn money or generate new units.

Battles in the civilisation stage can be pretty intense and offer a pretty good challenge it’s easy to find yourself outnumbered if you fail to build up your units and defences quickly enough. Another thing to take into consideration is to keep an eye on your vehicles speed, power and health which are indicated on a meter when designing your vehicles as getting the balance wrong could end in disaster for your civilisation.

The final stage of development for your creations in SPORE is the Space Stage. In this stage you have to create a spaceship and travel the stars building an interplanetary empire.

The Space stage plays pretty much in the same way as the Civilisation stage except all you control is a Space craft, once again designed by you within SPORE’s vehicle editor. The Space Stage allows for pretty extensive communication and introduces several new aspects such as diplomacy, trade and colonisations of worlds through terra-forming and environment tweaking by abducting creatures from other worlds and setting up an eco-system on your new planet.

The space stage is fairly complex in comparison to the other stages and once again introduces several elements more accustomed to the strategy genre. It’s also more difficult to get to grips with, requiring you to play through the introductory missions whilst resisting the temptation to explore so you can get the most out of the stage.

Visually SPORE looks pretty impressive throughout all the stages, the cell and creature stages obviously have a slightly different look to the other three stages giving you a third person perspective of the highly detailed game world. The game has been done in a cartoon style with brightly coloured landscapes, a day night cycle and changing weather. From the tribal stage onwards the game sports a look you would expect to find in a strategy game, but yet it still features some nice effects. Especially in the space stage when you enter the atmosphere of a planet.

Sound in the game has also been done well, with all the effects you would expect to find in a game filled with strange looking creatures. The later stage even pay homage to The Sims as your creature evolve language the gibberish we’ve come accustomed to spills out of the mouths of the various creatures in SPORE.

I can’t remember the last time I felt a game offered so much value, with its multiple different stages of gameplay and user created content, SPORE offers a lot of variety as well as an enormous amount of replay value. If you enjoy playing life simulations, then SPORE is a must have.

Review Score: 8.6/10

Please note, this review was scored using our old system. For more information please see our review policy.

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