Spore Reader Review

The game is a children's toy. Think of it as being like a little yellow plastic truck you give to a little boy, or a little pink dolls house you give to a little girl. As that of object, it is successful, I suppose. If you are buying this for an older kid or adult though, or if you are an adult yourself, then proceed with some caution caution.

It's not a bad or broken game, it's just that it is so incredibly shallow and simple, that it will only appeal to children, and that is a real let down for me, as I hoped this might be a something that appeals to a much wider audience.

Technically, it's pretty much a masterpiece, bar a few minor imperfections. The problem is the gameplay itself. Spore can easily be summarised, as being a collection of 5 mini games. The problem is that, although each one is a tried and tested type of game, they have to fit 5 of them into this one game, and each one comes across as being watered down to a ridiculous degree.

The 5 mini-games that make up Spore:

1) The cell stage - This is basically just a 2D Flash game. You have a little creature swimming amongst dozens of other creatures in some primordial goo. You hold the left mouse button and creature swims towards the cursor, so you just move your cursor around the screen and make your creature swim, and all you really have to do is steer it into smaller creatures to eat them, and at the same time avoid larger creatures. It is beautifully presented, but so is the Teletubbies. At various points you get to upgrade your creature, and you personally get to add little things on to it. Spikes to attack with or for defence, fins to make it swim faster, etc. They all cost points so you have to choose what kind of creature you want to be etc. It is all extremely simple and shallow though, and unfortunately the whole thing goes by very fast and then it's all over. I would guess it lasted about 20 minutes, and then you evolve into a larger creature and it loads the next level of the game. The problem is that in the short time you have, it isn't enough time to let the gameplay evolve into something interesting. It's not like the billion other 2D games where you have a little space ship or something, and you upgrade with various weapons etc, because there are only a few boring upgrades, and just before it starts getting a bit more interesting at the end (with upgrades like giving off poison clouds etc..) that is when it ends. If only this went on another half hour with many more upgrades it could have been good. There are some huge creatures that are just to keep you scared, and like they said in the IGN review, it would have been MUCH better if they let you evolve up to that kind of size and give you some more skills/abilities on your creature, so you could take on the bigger creatures.

2) The creature stage- This suffers from the exact same problem as the first stage, and then so do all the remaining stages in the game. This stage is basically a VERY watered down MMORPG newbie experience. You start by your little tribe, and you are on land now, with lots of little camps of monsters standing around. You now have to go over to them and fight them with your creature, ideally by picking them off one at a time as they wander. (In EverQuest, this was called "Pulling"). Admittedly, the tool to modify your creature is fantastic because it lets you build almost anything you can imagine, and then the clever technology of the game animates it all for you. But the problem is that your hotbar (Think WoW or EverQuest or whatever), includes just a few actions. For the most part I just had "Charge" and "Bite", bite being the default action anyway... and charge just being something you can do to start the fight off with a slight stun on the mob, I mean creature... Again, it is presented beautifully and this was actually my favourite stage in the entire game. But again, the massive flaw is that it is all over before it gets anywhere. You evolve up to the point where you can have maybe 3 or 4 abilities instead of just 1 or 2 at the start, but it's still no way near enough, and then it ends... So basically it's like playing WoW, but it's restricted to level 4 max, and then the game ends...

3) Tribes stage - this stage was bad. It turns into a VERY VERY watered down RTS now. The camera just zooms out a bit and instead of controlling one creature, you can drag a box around several of them, and all you really do is send them at a nearby camp of bad guys and have them fight. So again, imagine something like say Command & Conquer, but you only have about 3 unit types... The whole thing is tedious and dull, far too simplistic, far too easy, and it's all over in no time. The only unit that has any abilities, is your tribe leader, and mine had a grand total... of two abilities. A crappy trap, and an area effect damage thing. Both have a LONG reuse timer. Basically, it is the worst RTS in the history of the world.

4) City stage - This basically opens up the crappy tribal stage, and makes it into more of a real RTS. You have a bigger map and there are a bunch of cities pre-placed on it, and basically you just have to capture the cities with your units. Again, it is massively watered down, and it's a complete joke. You have one type of aircraft, one type of ship, and one land unit. So a grand total of 3 unit types... It's ridiculous. The cities themselves are pathetic too. It is a tiny little circular city, with several little glowing spots where you can place one of 4 buildings... A housing thing for population, a factory for cash, etc.. There is barely any thought or strategy and tactics involved at all, and with just a few clicks your city is complete and you never need to return to it. So all you do is click click click to spam out a bunch of units and then you charge over to the enemy cities and take them all over and that's that.. Pathetic.

5) Space stage - So you have grown from a little cell, made a city, and now you make a space ship and fly off into space. The game now changes completely and it abandons most of what you have done so far, and it now turns into a massively watered down version of Elite. (Or X2:Threat, Etc..etc..). You basically have a galactic map where you fly from planet to planet and you do chores for the aliens. You can buy stuff cheap in one place, then fly to another planet and sell it (trading - omgwtfbbq boring), or you can do missions which are basically, "We demand that you bring us some creatures for examination" and you fly over the planets clicking on creatures to beam them up to your craft. So basically FedEx chores. This stage has slightly more depth than the others, and this is the stage the game basically ends on, so you are stuck doing this for the rest of eternity or until you get bored, which was about an hour for me. If you like this open ended kind of thing where you make virtual accomplishments like ship upgrades and stuff, and earn virtual money, and do trades and stuff, then you are FAR better off skipping this game entirely and buying Elite, X2, X3, Space Rangers2, Whatever... They are all a thousand times more satisfying and have a thousand times more depth.

For most of these stages, they have given a peaceful solution, which is incredibly childish and cutesy. For example on the creature stage, instead of killing all the other camps of creatures, you can run over to them and press a green button, and instead of your 1,2,3,4 hotbar being "Charge", "Bite", it changes to "Dance", "Sing". So the other creature sings and you press sing, then the other creature dances, so you press dance, and bingo, that is now a friendly camp and you can move on to do it again and again.

Conclusions

So it is all presented well with nice graphics and sounds, and it is technically very good, but the game itself is just incredibly simplistic and shallow, and that made it very boring for me. I am not sure if that means that the creators made a huge mistake, or if they just aimed it at a very specific audience. Either way, it seems that Spore is a children's game, for ages 3-10. It is so cutesy with fluffy giggling little dancing creatures, and it requires barely any skill at all, there is really no way I can imagine any older person really enjoying this for long. If you have played any RTS game in your life, you will be shocked at Spore because it's literally like an RTS for babies. I think if they wanted to make a cute game that would introduce young children to the RTS genre, and then later the space trading game genre, then they succeeded very well! They even included a few learning elements about evolution and biology. For everyone else though, you will likely be very disappointed if you were expecting a real game. There are some older people out there who like The Sims, which is basically a virtual dolls house simulator, so I suspect there may be some older people who will disagree with me and will like this. The same could be said about the SimCity games.

The difference with them though, is that they had a bit more depth. I used to play SimCity2000 as a kid, and I know that it had a bit more depth than Spore, and yet I still got tired of it after a while and I craved for more challenge and more depth. Well Spore is simpler than SimCity, so that should tell you something. I think I loved SimCity2000 when I was about 14, but I quickly figured it all out and craved more, so I moved on, and at the back of my mind wished that some day there would be a sequel that expanded on it. There never was, as the sequels only gave the original concept a lick of paint. So it served it's purpose and was fun for a while for someone in their mid-late teens, but then starts feeling shallow. I think Spore has achieved the exact same thing, but for a slightly younger age bracket. I would guess it would be a lot of fun for some 10/11/12 year olds, and then they will get tired of it.

If I had kids that age though, I may get it for them, but if they were in to games, I would be more tempted to just get them a real RTS or something, and even if it would be a bit bewildering at first, at least it would be something they could grow into. Spore is something I suspect kids will almost instantly start growing out of. I mention all this stuff about age because Spore isn't a bad game. It is just so simplistic and so shallow, they have cut out a massive part of the potential audience, and I really think the only people who could get any enjoyment out of it, would be children. That is all my opinion.

8/10 - if you are ages

5 / 10

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