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Spore Review

publisher: EA
developer: Maxis
genre: Strategy

PIV 2000, 768MB RAM, 6GB HDD, 128MB video card
ESRB rating: E

release date: Sep 07, 08
» All About Spore on ActionTrip

Will Wright and Maxis, responsible for top-selling franchises such as The Sims and Sim City, started working on Spore almost eight years ago. Even in the initial stages of development it seemed like an ambitious project. Just before release, Maxis and EA made an effort to provide gamers with the Spore Creature Creator. This proved to be a smart move. 250,000 creatures were made just in the first day. Not only were people able to experiment with the creature editor, but they could also use their creations later on in the full game. Strengthening the community was clearly EA's chief strategy, one that certainly paid off (the $10 Spore Creature Creator still ranks high in weekly PC sales charts). Reactions from the public were largely positive. EA successfully laid the groundwork for the release of the retail version.

Spore was designed to carry players through various stages of evolution. You are allowed to select and name a home planet, where you may start your journey. Surviving the Cell Stage will be your first challenge. You begin as a microscopic life form, struggling for dear life and scavenging for anything edible. Food differs depending on whether you're playing as carnivore or herbivore. The best part is that both of these are unique and at the same time they won't restrict you much in terms of how you want your organism to evolve in later stages. Of course, herbivores thrive on veggies and fruit, whereas carnivores use both fruit and meat to satisfy hunger.

Completing the Cell Stage means you are ready to leave the watery plains and head out onto land to discover your fortune. Creating even the most ridiculous-looking creature is possible and in some instances it's keenly encouraged. Ultimately I found myself casting aside aesthetics and just focused on the most practical upgrades and parts. Here's how it works: you need to think about improving defensive and offensive aspects of your creature, while enhancing social skills as well. For example, acquiring bigger and sharper claws adds more points to your 'Strike' ability. On the other hand, placing a different types of appendages could alter your jumping, singing and dancing skills - that's right, certain races communicate through ritual dances and will refuse to socialize with you unless you're adequately skilled in that department. Upgrading skills is very basic and easy to learn; which is another great plus.

The Tribal Stage is when the game shifts genres. It's no longer played in 3rd person, but as a real-time strategy. At this point in the game, you may still determine the appearance of your race. Modifying and improving the leader of your tribe is essential to your survival against other tribes and races. In addition, you build various structures to strengthen your camp's defenses, as well as provide additional weaponry such as spears or flaming torches for the tribe. Gathering food is vital (fruit, fish, etc.) to growth and progress. Domesticating specimens from other tribes helps you conquer the world a lot more quickly. Opposing tribes will invade your territory more often than not and you'll need to think about conquering some enemies to gain respect of your neighbors.

From here on, Spore takes you across two more stages. Subsequently, you advance to the so-called Civilization Stage, progressing all the way to the Space Stage. It was during the Civilization Stage when I started to wonder where Maxis is going with this. Now, make no mistake, you'll have plenty of options here like in earlier stages. Each structure can be customized to the tinniest detail. However, as a single-player experience the whole thing just began to feel a bit bland. The fact that you're allowed to assemble and create units from scratch and then use them in real-time is a very rewarding experience. Then again, passing through this stage requires you to complete a set of random tasks and with no plot or specific campaign goals on offer there's simply nothing to tie the threads together.

Fundamentally, it's a God-sim type of experience with emphasis on customization, giving you a chance to get completely carried away with the awesome creature, unit and building editor. Which is fine; let's face it, that's what all the other "Sim" games were about and that's what made them so good. While this may be just the ticket for those who wish to get their mitts on a first-rate editor and then test the results of their work on the fly, it could also be a bit of a letdown for those who want a more in-depth single-player ride.

The Space Stage is just as engaging as earlier stages, only a bit more complex. It represents the pinnacle of civilization progress, allowing you to admire the species, which you watched and nourished from the very first cell organism. Here you are put in control of a single spacecraft (yes, you can modify it any way you like) in order to explore the far regions of the galaxy. This is where things pick up. There's an amazing amount of stuff to do, from colonizing planets that were otherwise uninhabitable to taking part in dogfights against unfriendly spaceships. You can get a variety of rewards and upgrades for your spaceship by completing missions many different missions. Answering distress signals from distant planets, identifying mysterious alien ruins on uncharted worlds, abducting contagious animals for research purposes, attacking fortified enemy positions and so on. Resources are gathered more slowly at this stage and can be pretty scarce, so players are required to strategically invest in what they believe to be necessary for survival. Colonizing is definitely fun. Terraforming many different worlds is another cool segment. Altering planets is also accomplished by shifting the atmosphere and general conditions, on top of influencing plant and animal life. By doing this, you encourage the progress of many unique civilizations. It's quite impressive actually and, again, very rewarding as you behold the results of your work.

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8.1   Very Good

Incredibly detailed life creation sim, intuitive and easy-to-learn, imaginatively showing various stages of evolution of your very own custom-made species, admirable production values, solid replayability, great online potential, very funny at times;

Could disappoint as a single-player experience, some stages are too simple and feel slightly random when compared to others.


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