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Review: Spore 605

Posted by Soulskill
from the evolution-of-games-and-vice-versa dept.
The hype leading up to Spore was excessive. But then, so is the scope of the game; following the growth of a species from the cellular level to galactic domination was an ambitious goal, to say the least. Bringing evolution into the realm of entertainment was something Will Wright hoped and gambled he could do after the success of the Sim franchise. But rather than evolution, Spore became more about creation — creation that allows a single-player game to include the community, as well. It ties the various parts of the game together to make Spore very entertaining as a whole. Read on for my thoughts.
  • Title: Spore
  • Developer: Maxis
  • Publisher: Electronic Arts
  • System: Windows / OS X
  • Reviewer: Soulskill
  • Score: 4/5

The game has five stages: Cell, Creature, Tribal, Civilization, and Space. It's best to think of the first four as mini-games, or as a four-part prologue. Each has its interesting and fun parts, as well as varying degrees of replayability, but the time each of them occupies (from a gameplay perspective) is dwarfed by the amount of time you can spend in the Space age. You can also spend a great deal more time playing around with the content creation system (and you will), but the main plot itself is fairly short in those stages. If you're going in with the expectation of playing around in the Cell stage for hours and hours, you're probably going to be disappointed — but that's not to say it isn't fun. I think each of the stages are appropriately paced for what they involve.

You start out as a cell, hitching a ride on a meteorite that delivers you into a planet's primordial soup. From there you wander around finding morsels of food and other critters who will compete with you for it. The way in which you go about that is up to you. You'll gain access to attributes you can use to customize your microbe, all of which have a "DNA budget." You can make a very efficient killing machine to keep your competitors away from your food, or you can simply make a very efficient eating machine. The editor that allows you to add and remove these attributes also lets you change the size, shape, and coloring of your microbe. It's a combination of very simple components, but the interactions between microbes allow for some cute moments. You'll occasionally run into a big piece of plant life that's swarming with herbivores, and the herbivores will attract a ton of carnivores, making for a frenetic scene of feeding and fighting. You can make your species into what is essentially a tail and a mouth, and have fun zipping around and stealing food out from under fat, slow enemies. You might even see a copy of yourself beating up some bug with way too many mouths. One of the coolest parts about this stage is the background visuals. The focus is on your microbe swimming through the water, but underneath you can see that you're swimming by larger pieces of debris and more advanced life-forms. As you feed, you'll grow into these background layers, so the huge, blurry, tentacled abomination you swam by a minute ago might now be trying to kill you.

Another thing you'll notice is that referring to your species' growth as evolution isn't really accurate. "Stylized evolution" or "not evolution" would have been more precise, so don't go in expecting it to hold up to scrutiny from PZ Myers. It's a decent metaphor for modifying your species, however. The editor is versatile and completely forgiving. Did you put that spike in a useless place for stabbing rival microbes? No worries, you can move it anywhere. Or remove it for a full DNA refund. This may bug you if you want every decision to matter, but as I said earlier, the first four stages are more about setting the table for Space colonization. Also, some decisions do matter. The way in which you interact with the environment determines your initial disposition in the Creature stage. Between stages, you're given a detailed history of your character, including physical revisions and eating habits. Carnivores start the Creature stage with an intimidating roar, while herbivores get a soothing song. Between stages you'll get to see cut scenes; they're short, but they all managed to make me smile. On a related note, I've got to give credit to Maxis for making the most interesting loading screens I've ever waited through. Instead of a progress bar, a series of cards gradually appears at the bottom of the screen. On each card is a different species (or other creation), some of which were made by other players. It's fun to see what they've come up with.

Going into the Creature phase, your microbe is given a set of legs. Your attributes from the Cell stage are mostly useless, and you'll have a chance to completely change how your species looks. You get a nest and a group of compatriots, and you're soon off to seek out new life and new civilizations (and food.) Other species are nearby and easy to find. There are two stances in which you can approach them; social or combat. If you started out as a herbivore, it'll be a bit easier to remain so, but it's not too difficult to change your mind. As you find other species, you're given quests based on the stance you choose. Kill them or impress them. Should you choose to kill them, you mash the attacks available to you until one they die or you do. To impress them, you get their attention and then mimic whatever they do. You'll get some friendly abilities — dance, pose, charm, and sing, each of which has its own animation — and you simply repeat the other species' actions. If they like you enough, they'll ally with you, which progresses you through the stage and allows you to venture out with a group rather than an individual. As you ally with or destroy other species, you gain access to new and more powerful bits of biology — a bigger claw, quicker feet, wings, etc. There's a much greater selection in this phase than in Cell, and it's worth collecting as many as you can. You also get a few cosmetic options. When you exit this stage, your species' physical form does not change for the rest of the game, so make sure you've got what you want. If you go the combat route, you may be annoyed trying to hunt down species that are faster, flightier, or more nervous than you. There were times that I ran so far away to catch Lobstermonkey #4 that I got lost and couldn't find my way back to the nest to kill Lobstermonkey #5 and complete the quest. And this brings me to a gripe...

...The controls. The key-bindings for Spore are fairly simple. They increase a little bit in complexity with each stage, but even the Space controls are straightforward. The trouble is that they aren't alterable, and they aren't what I would pick. They aren't bad choices, and you can do just about everything with the mouse, but if you're the type of player who rebinds WADS to ESDF in every game, or if you like an inverted mouse, or the ability to strafe, it will bother you.

The Tribal stage turns Spore into a miniature RTS game. You won't find Starcraft-level depth or gameplay, but if you've ever played another RTS game, your goals will be intuitively obvious. Your abilities from the Creature stage don't matter anymore, so you're free to design for looks alone. Wandering bands of non-sentient creatures still exist, but they're mainly just food (or pets if you're a herbivore). In addition, though, there are other tribes that you must conquer. You gather resources, pump out peasants, and put up buildings. Rather than creating tribe members for a specific job, you use the buildings to give them a particular task, and you can switch their task at any time. Want this guy to fight? Send him to the axe shop. Need him to impress another tribe instead? Trade in that axe for a horn. Or a Shaman rod to heal others. The focus in this stage is mostly on resource gathering; unfortunately, you have to send tribesmen out each time you want them to kill something, rather than setting them to harvest and forgetting about them. The gathering gets somewhat tedious, but the Tribal stage, like the ones before it, isn't too long. It's fairly easy to win over or beat down your enemies, just keep an eye on your raiding parties around hills. They sometimes get stuck. The AI isn't too hot, but enemies will try to take out your chieftain if they can. The editor in this stage is also less complex. Your species form is set, but you get a variety of hats, clothes, and accessories to outfit your tribe. Not as much room for creativity as in the Creature editor, but there are still myriad ways to customize.

When you reach the Civilization stage, you'll encounter a host of new creation and design tools. You'll be asked to design a city hall, a house, an entertainment facility, and a factory, as well as land, air, and water vehicles. If that sounds a bit overwhelming ... it is. At the start of the stage, I spent perhaps an hour tooling around with designs for a city hall and a land vehicle. You don't need to design the others until you build them, but it doesn't take long for that need to arise. Now, don't get me wrong; designing things is one of the best parts about this game. But after a certain amount of time you'll probably just want to get back to the actual game. Fortunately, there's the Sporepedia, which includes hundreds upon hundreds of designs from Maxis and from other players. Some of them are just phenomenal, and I'm sure the selection will only get better as time passes. Expect to see things out of sci-fi and other games. Expect to see anything Maxis doesn't specifically remove, really. Pick whichever constructions you want out of the Sporepedia to fill out the things you don't want to design, and you're ready to fight for control of the planet. Don't waste your time with the anthem composer. It sucks.

Civilization stage is like another, slightly different RTS. The focus is gone from resource gathering; you point a vehicle at a "spice geyser" and forget about it — once a mine gets built, you even get the vehicle back. It's more focused on vehicle tactics and managing your cities. Other civilizations pop up throughout the world (which is an actual globe now), and you try your best to cajole, scare, or apesmash them into seeing your point of view. You can set yourself up as a religious society to convert the populace of other cities. This stage, like the tribal stage, is straightforward and easy, but entertaining. Your species' history continues to fill out, setting your early disposition for the next stage. Before you think about bumping the difficulty setting up to "high," though, you'll want to give thought to how it will affect the Space stage, since that's where you'll spend most of your time. It has a bit more to throw at you.

Getting to the Space stage is reaching the real meat of the game. You'll be given some starter quests and tutorials to teach you how everything works. Pay attention to them, or you'll regret it later. Really. This stage plays like another RTS, yet is completely different from the previous ones. It isn't about pumping out units to stomp your enemies; you're limited to just one ship to start. As you get promoted, you can add more to your fleet, but not very many. Your colonies will harvest spice for you to sell. How much depends on how well the planet is terraformed. Terraforming a planet is somewhat complicated to learn, but it lets you set up a good financial base, which makes dealing with aliens much, much easier. And believe me, you'll deal with them a lot. Regardless of the way in which you interacted with your foes in previous stages, I'd recommend playing nice at least for the first few encounters of the Space stage. You can run some simple quests for other races to increase your standing with them. You can also bribe them. Once you're in their good graces, you can establish trade routes and alliances, which are much better than the alternative. When you run into a hostile society, you'll see what I mean. They like to raid your planets. A lot. They also like to raid your friends' planets. And your friends will occasionally have crises they need you to deal with. The demands on your attention range from "keeping you busy" to "driving you to distraction." This stage could really use a Leave-Me-Alone slider in addition to the difficulty setting, although cheat codes can accomplish that now. But, if you start out surrounded by friends, it's a lot easier to find time for developing your empire. Again, terraforming is important to learn. It's also the basis for creating custom planets. You get a variety of tools to alter the atmosphere and temperature, and you can bring in flora and fauna to make it more prosperous. But you also get devices that will shape, sculpt, and color the planet to look however you want. Once again, Maxis has provided a huge sandbox to play in. You can control the look and feel of literally hundreds of thousands of star systems.

The combat system is simple, but a bit clunky. Some of your weapons require Diablo-style button clicking, which can be a problem if there are a ton of ships flying around. Battles tend to be lopsided, but the more often you fight, the better weapons you'll have access to. Enemy ships will occasionally beat a hasty retreat when low on health, then stop, heal to full, and turn on you. It doesn't usually change the tide of a battle, but it can be annoying to track them down and finish them off. Other aspects of the game give you more tools the more you participate as well, which is why Spore is so open-ended. Don't want to run around blowing up enemy ships and cities all the time? Do a bunch of terraforming, get good at it, and then cause an enemy homeworld to turn into a burning, hazardous rock incapable of supporting life. Want to explore the galaxy or collect rare artifacts? Feel free, just watch out for the mysterious and powerful Grox. Make sure your borders are secure before straying too far, though, or enemies will pick your empire apart. The Space stage will keep you occupied as long as you're still entertained by it. Building an empire is a job with no end.

Spore isn't about deep, innovative gameplay. If you're looking for a next-generation RTS, look elsewhere. None of the stages, individually, would hold up in today's game market. But all of them combined, in addition to the almost limitless capacity for creativity, make Spore into a good game that will only get better with time and participation. The low learning curve and the ease with which you can pick a point in the game and find something to play around with makes it very appealing to the casual gaming market, while still offering a ton of achievements and ways to squeeze out every last bit of efficiency for the hardcore gamers. Despite the DRM fiasco, it's definitely worth picking up.

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Review: Spore

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  • by BitterOldGUy (1330491) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @01:17PM (#24934737)
    I read the headline as Sore . Thinking is was a first person game to give your opponents herpes.
    • by Moryath (553296) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @01:21PM (#24934779)

      it infects your system with a rootkit.

      That alone is a reason you shouldn't buy it. Just Say No to DRM.

      • by somersault (912633) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @01:49PM (#24935169) Homepage Journal

        I'm interested - do you guys complaining about the DRM (and I don't like it either) have an issue with buying the console versions?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Windows_NT (1353809)
          As much As i like opensource, There is nothing wrong with making people pay for your software. I mean shit, I'm a programmer, I sit at a desk all day and i get paid because people buy my software (SUCKERS!). But, then again, I hate consoles, and their damn controllers so i stick tot he computer FPS (yes, i bought Q4 and CS:S) which both work beautifully on linux
        • by FishWithAHammer (957772) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @01:56PM (#24935245)

          To an extent...you *are* still supporting a company that thinks it's OK to DRM their products.

        • by HAKdragon (193605) <hakdragon.gmail@com> on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @01:57PM (#24935255)

          If there were a port for either the 360 or PS3, I would have no problems picking it up. The only "console" port right now is a DS version which only does the "creature" part of the game.

        • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @02:01PM (#24935297) Homepage

          I'm interested - do you guys complaining about the DRM (and I don't like it either) have an issue with buying the console versions?

          He's the fundamental difference: on a console you put in the CD which is needed to authenticate that you have the disk, but it doesn't actually update the firmware of your system. When you eject the disk, the system is exactly the same as it was before.

          On a PC, if the grandparent is correct, then the DRM appears to be fundamentally altering the way your operating system works, possibly making it more unstable/insecure. Installing rootkits is just plain bad.

          If you can do DRM without breaking the host operating system, fine. But if you can't, then everyone should yell very loudly about why you shouldn't buy this game.

          This is like buying some bling "Type R" headrests for your car and having to pour sand into your engine to make sure you don't also put the headrests into a different car. It's stupid, and shouldn't be tolerated.

          Cheers

        • I'm interested - do you guys complaining about the DRM (and I don't like it either) have an issue with buying the console versions?

          I don't, because it's utterly invisible on every system I've ever owned. Buy a game, pop it into some random console, and it'll work without activations or calling home or even network access. If my Wii breaks, I can buy a new one and use all the same games without calling EA and begging for their kindness.

        • by FrozenFOXX (1048276) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @02:29PM (#24935669)
          Nope, no problem as long as it doesn't run like ass and is a Good Game.

          I'm sure someone will spout off that consoles are "ultimate" in DRM or something similar. It should be noted that so far I haven't encountered any DRM in a console that's restricted my use of the game. It runs on the platform it was compiled for. Even better, if I give the disk to my wife to toss in her own console it does not complain, nothing "bad" happens (ie there's no "number of installs"). I can resell the game if I like and anyone who buys it can play it provided they have the right platform (something many forms of DRM try to prevent). I can even hang onto it for ten years, pull out the console, and still play, just like my old SNES games or Dreamcast games (ie they never "expire" or require activation). If my console is networkable nothing happens to the console or my network just by putting the game in my console (ie SecuROM, Sony's rootkits, and many, many more that brutalize a system or otherwise). Best of all I am guaranteed the same experience as everyone else with the console which is a bonus for me (ie we're all seeing the same presentation...this can sometimes be a problem, like multiplayer Doom 3 was when some people turned off the lighting to gain an unfair advantage).

          Basically no "DRM" on a console has yet stopped me from doing anything that I wish with a game I've purchased, including playing it for as long as I like whenever I like, regardless of whether the company's still in business. If that's really DRM in all of its glory, I say for console games it's not so bad.
          • by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @04:27PM (#24937133)

            Apparently you haven't been paying close enough attention. All those downloadable content packs, and other micropayment things are busily tying your games to your console and/or your account. You can't separate them, or resell them, or lend them to your friends.

            In the case of the Wii for example, if you buy a downloadable and your wii dies and you use N's repair service they'll transfer all your rights and games to the new wii. But if it just dies out of warranty and you've got the games backed up on an SD card, and you buy a used wii cheap from one of those PS3 fanbois who proclaim all theirs does is collect dust, you can't use those games, etc. Console DRM is fast becoming more than just 'dont make copies of our games' to 'you are licensed to use this game, and no one else is, you can't transfer it or sell it, and if your hardware dies you better hope we still care.'

            I'm not entirely sure what the restrictions are on the PS3 or Xbox360, but you can bet your ass they are there too in some form or other.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @01:59PM (#24935273)

        DRM is not the same as a rootkit. *One time*, sony used an _actual_ rootkit as part of their DRM, and now thousands of ill-informed noobs think they are the same thing. If you want a demonstration of the differences, I would be happy to install a real rootkit; please post your IP address and I will begin the lesson.

      • by Kamokazi (1080091) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @02:18PM (#24935511)

        Unfortunately, despite the 'protest', many people are:

        "Amazon.com Sales Rank: #1 in Video Games"

        http://www.amazon.com/Spore-Pc/dp/B000FKBCX4/ref=pd_ts_vg_1?ie=UTF8&s=videogames [amazon.com]

      • by Burning1 (204959) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @02:50PM (#24935885) Homepage

        Seriously, WTF are you talking about?

        A rootkit [wikipedia.org] is a piece of software that modifies your computers behavior to allow back-door access to unauthorized users and hide traces of activity. DRM [wikipedia.org] is designed to prevent you from copying other people's data. I'd take DRM over a root kit any day.

        As far as I know, there has only been one major instance of DRM installing a rootkit [wikipedia.org].

        Do NOT bastardize computer industry terms in order to sensationalize your agenda. It undermines the terms, and makes you look like a tool to anyone who understands their meaning.

        • by Moryath (553296) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @03:03PM (#24936035)

          SecuROM compromises multiple portions of the OS, including insinuating itself into the system to try to prevent you from using other programs (like ISO loaders). It also phones home constantly [wikipedia.org] and has the ability to launch code that it feels like using, invisible to the user.

          I'd say that pretty much fucking defines a rootkit.

          And there are many LEGITIMATE reasons to use an ISO loader - such as having a laptop that uses extra power to run the DVD drive, wasting time and battery power to use the DVD drive as an expensive dongle.

          If you want decent battery life to game on the go, the most common method is a secondary battery pack that replaces your optical media drive - meaning you HAVE to switch to either an ISO loader or else a no-CD crack for games that are trying to use the media drive that way.

          • by Burning1 (204959) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @04:22PM (#24937075) Homepage

            Any application that you run on your computer has the ability to launch code that it feels like using. In your linked article, I see no mention that SecureROM phones home, other than when you are using protected software. And what pretty much fucking defines a rootkit is that the software package intentionally allows non-authorized users to obtain escalated privileges. I've seen no evidence that SecureROM permits that kind of access.

            Again, you should NOT abuse industry terms to promote your agenda. My feelings on DRM are irrelevant on this one.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I'm just baffled by the concept of giving herpes to your opponents...

      What exactly do you typically do to your enemies???
  • by thermian (1267986) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @01:21PM (#24934781)

    The DRM means I will never buy it anyway.

    Shame really, but I'm not putting that DRM crap on my system.

  • by seebs (15766) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @01:21PM (#24934787) Homepage

    How do I pick it up?

    I'm not about to run a Sony rootkit on my machine.

    Please explain how I can legally play Spore without the rootkit. (And no, I will not take anyone's word for it that there is not a rootkit in SecuROM. And no, the Mac port doesn't omit SecuROM.)

    If you could post an explanation of how I could safely play this game without buying a dedicated machine which will never do anything but play this one game, that'd be great.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @01:21PM (#24934791)
    Just gotta make this little plug for work. Don't forget to watch "How to Build a Better Being" [nationalgeographic.com] on the National Geographic Channel tonight at 10.
  • by atari2600 (545988) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @01:22PM (#24934805)

    But I have a major complaint - while you are exploring the deep stretches of the galaxy and traveling to unknown locations using blackholes, you get these fucking annoying alerts

    "Please eradicate diseased stuff on Planet X" - I can totally keep doing that when I am near the planet but on the other side of the galaxy? Fuck you . You get penalized for ignoring those requests/quests.

    Your homeworld gets attached by alien UFOs - I mean what's the point in having your homeworld surrounded by 50 allied alien races if they cannot come to your aid while you are on the other side of the galaxy?

    Those gripes aside, the space age is pretty much as is the rest of the game.

  • by scubamage (727538) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @01:23PM (#24934807)
    No rootkits allowed on my machine, sorry. You can decorate a piece of shit to look like the Venus Di Milo, but that doesn't change the fact that it's a piece of shit at heart.
  • by russlar (1122455) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @01:23PM (#24934815)
    All that summary, and no mention of how well the creature creator ties into the actual game.
    • by Bieeanda (961632) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @02:03PM (#24935321)
      Those zany, wacky creatures you made in the months before Spore was released? You're not going to be using them until after you've finished evolving. You can start over with those old races once you have reached that point, but getting there involves popping into and out of the creator to add new bits that you find on the bloody ground and very occasionally wrest from other species. In the context of Spore as a game, the Creature Creator is more of an Editor.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      It actually ties very poorly since the creature creator doesn't use the same rules for determining stats that the game does. More is better approach no longer being valid for example makes it so that placing 5-10 spikes for charging is no longer the valid equivalent of using a set of antlers. It's really a bit of a shame, the more is better technique really gave you a lot of creative freedom.

  • It's a Family game (Score:5, Informative)

    by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @01:25PM (#24934845)
    I played a bit of Spore and found it somewhat fun, if not greatly gripping. My five and nine year-old kids love it, though. It's been incredibly cute to watch my five year-old talk about all her adventures as a cell, though I admittedly had to correct her use of "flagella".

    I'm withholding judgement until I play each stage, but so far my kids have loved the creature creator aspect as well as exploring to see what's over the next ridge.

    I think they did a great job leveraging the content that everyone is creating and put it back into the game. I'm big into creating Neverwinter Nights modules, so I'm familiar with some of the traditional methods. This new approach is very innovative (if perhaps slightly devious). I love the fact that players create content as part of the game, which then gets shared with everyone else.
  • by SilentChris (452960) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @01:25PM (#24934859) Homepage

    Unless the couple of *nix-based rootkit detectors I've run are totally clueless, they haven't found anything. There *is* a Securom folder under: /Users/Chris/Library/Preferences/SPORE/Creature Creator/Preferences/p_drive/User/Application Data/SecuROM

    but it looks more like a remnant of Cider's emulation than anything.

    If all Securom does on Mac is DRM-ize Cider, I could care less. It's like getting a virus in a VM.

    Oh, and the game rocks. Very enjoyable (as long as you're not looking for Civilization -- if you are I recommend FreeCIV or any number of commercial alternatives).

  • by HerculesMO (693085) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @01:26PM (#24934885)

    It's a toy.

    You just muddle around in the world, you play here and there, and don't accomplish much of anything.

    While it's a neat 'toy', for a *gamer* like myself it's ridiculous. Besides, while I love Will Wright, and I *want* to support him -- he knew what EA would do, I'm sure he was aware of the DRM scheme, and he let it go in. While it might be ignorance on his part, I will not buy this game in an effort to send that message that even a good game developer will not be tolerated if they infuse their brilliance with the stupidity of draconian DRM.

    That said, Pirate Bay is very appealing in this instance and has been for me to determine it's not worth buying anyway, DRM or not.

    • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @02:22PM (#24935563) Homepage Journal

      It's a toy.
      You just muddle around in the world, you play here and there, and don't accomplish much of anything.
      While it's a neat 'toy', for a *gamer* like myself it's ridiculous.

      In Go, you just muddle around and put stones here and there. While it's a neat 'toy', for a *gamer* like myself it's ridiculous.

      I'm not defending the anti-consumer Spore, but can't stand hearing people dismiss fun things like Sim City or Animal Crossing solely because they don't have immediate goals that have to be met. Sometimes playing for the sake of playing is enough for an enjoyable game.

      • by Sentry21 (8183) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @05:22PM (#24937843) Journal

        Ok, how about this then:

        I started playing it yesterday at work (but after work). Ok, started off with a little plant-eating cell. Swam around eating plant bits, got some upgrades, more plant bits, ran away from some things that electrocuted me, and then... whoosh, I've evolved!

        So now I need a creature adapted for land. I throw out literally EVERYTHING I've done to my creature to date, since I no longer need flagella, I need a real mouth and some legs, etc. So now I'm creating a whole new character all over again.

        Great. So now I have a character. I wander over and befriend another tribe, which is a boring game of 'click the button, then when it is available again, click it again'. Sucks. Ok, so let's kill things instead, that's always fun, and there's something ironically wasteful about a race of murderous herbivores that I liked.

        So I went to kill some things. I have four attacks, numbered 1-4 on the keyboard. Bite, charge, swipe, and spit. So what do I do? Spit at a creature to lure it away from the pack, gank it with my posse, then pull another one. Guess what I'm playing? Will Wright's version of World of Warcraft. I spent the next hour grinding a MMO, except offline, with no social aspect or sense of accomplishment.

        So then after that's done, I evolve again into a tribe. Now I get rid of all the things that made my warlike herbivores so great at what they do, and give them things that make them better at walking around and carrying tools. I've basically created a new creature from scratch - again.

        And now I'm playing an RTS, except dumbed down. I send my people to gather food, and use it to make babies and buy huts with maracas so I can go impress another tribe, which lets my hut grow more so I can make more babies and give them more maracas to impress more tribes.

        BORING. I'm sorry, but it's completely fucking boring. I kept waiting for it to 'click', for it to suddenly get interesting and for me to see what all the hype was about. I never did. Now I don't care. I might play with it just to create new creatures and see what kind of death machine I can create, but it's largely (as a sibling poster mentions) just a 'collection of loosely connected mini-games'.

        If the game gets better at the space stage, that's great, but forcing me to go through several largely irrelevant stages just to get to 'the meat' is a waste of my fucking time.

    • It's Worse than That (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bieeanda (961632) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @02:25PM (#24935613)
      The best description that I've found is that Spore is a collection of loosely connected mini games.

      The cell stage plays very much like Flow, with the addition of the stripped-down creature creator (which basically takes the place of traditional 'powerups').

      The creature stage... oh god, fuck me running, it plays like a bad MMO. If you go off exploring, you're fucked-- the complexity, toughness and aggressiveness of creatures increases with the distance you head out from your first nest, and moving to the next nest is thematically identical to the process of binding yourself to a respawn point. Combat and interaction depend on pressing the same four buttons over and over again, waiting for cooldowns, just like you might in WoW or any of its antecedents. Even making friends requires you to literally level your creature up, earning DNA points so that you can add bits that boost your charm rating so you can make tougher friends. Despite all of that customization, there are basically only two tracks you can move down: a fighting carnivore (because meat doesn't grow on trees) or a social herbivore (because buying both charm bits and combat bits is prohibitively expensive).

      I haven't made it past the Creature stage because, like your average MMO, draw distances are terrible and your rate of movement is worse. Even the people that I know who enjoy the game describe the later sections as stripped-down RTS and 4X games, more proof-of-concept demos than anything else.

      Wright's come out and said that Spore will be getting expansion packs, like the Sims, but 'different'. I suspect that we'll be asked to fork over another thirty bucks every few months for some actual depth of gameplay, rather than the biological equivalent to Sims fashions and furniture.

  • Multiplayer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PenguinBob (1208204) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @01:27PM (#24934899)
    I think it could really use a multiplayer where you and friends could be in the same "world" and be able to help/complete with each other.
  • Good review (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GoNINzo (32266) <GoNINzo@@@yahoo...com> on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @01:32PM (#24934959) Homepage Journal
    I think the OP did a solid job with the review. You didn't get caught up in the DRM issue, which is a big one. Good job on it.

    My biggest disappointment so far are the controls, the camera to a degree, and the lag. The lag is particular bad when you land on a planet for the first time. I wouldn't mind a longer wait screen, but when I have 6 minutes to find one particular creature, and it takes 2-4 minutes for the landscape to finishing rendering, it sucks. This particular shortcoming is killing my fun in the later stages of the space game. The 'radar' sucks too, as it doesn't start working properly until the landscape renders. (Imagine the 'pop in' problem on loading textures, but it's not just textures but entire cities.)

    The lack of a randomize button on a lot of different creatures is sad too. Sometimes I don't care how the building or ship works, and I'd rather use something unique. heh
    • Re:Good review (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Lostlander (1219708) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @01:56PM (#24935235)
      So, you don't think that a game that has this bad of DRM on it isn't encumbered or made lesser by the DRM itself? A review without the DRM is in itself an incomplete review.

      To quote the ever popular car analogy it's like a car that you can only ever park in your garage. Park it anywhere else including somewhere in your driveway and your car won't start until you call the manufacturer and have it restarted.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Triv (181010)

      MOD PARENT UP.

      The review was a bit too glowing in my opinion. DRM is never okay, but DRM on top of a nerfed evolution engine and a painful UI is too much for me.

      It goes farther than the controls, too - unless I'm missing something, you can't select a group of attacking units in the tribal, creature or civilization stages and change their attack focus to a new unit without clicking on it, which combined with a camera that slides between HUGELY FAR AWAY and UP YOUR UNITS' NOSES, makes it hard to differen

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @01:34PM (#24934983)

    It is the only way to get the word out there - any reviews should mention the type and invasiveness of the DRM scheme.

    Otherwise the review is a disservice to the potential buyers of the game. Maybe even mention some of the side effects of the rootkits - which they effectively are - such as meddling with the ability to burn cd's on some PC's/drives.

  • by phordicus (1356499) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @01:35PM (#24935003)
    after trying to play for about half an hour, i got bored, gave the game to my wife, and re-installed master of orion 2.
  • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @01:42PM (#24935091) Journal
    Apparently what we have is unintelligent design.
  • My own review (Score:5, Informative)

    by Chemisor (97276) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @01:44PM (#24935125)

    I guess this is a good place to link to my own review [slashdot.org], which isn't as good as this one, and so did not make the front page.

  • by nick_davison (217681) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @01:57PM (#24935259)

    As a pure game... the 4/5, 8/10 ratings are about fair. It's a good but not amazing game that leaves you with a sense you'll have seen pretty much everything within a few days and then be left kind of tweaking around before letting it gather dust.

    But...

    It's also one of those games that just has "landmark experience" stamped all over it. Black And White was a slightly worse game yet, even with a more limited scope, is still discussed as being a key moment in gaming history where people's eyes were opened.

    There has never been a game with this quality level of procedural animation and texturing. There has never been a game with such a stunningly easy to use editor that lets you build incredibly complex vehicles and texture them in a couple of minutes with absolutely zero experience in modelling and texturing. There has never been a game with cross pollenization of content like Spore.

    I've been gaming for way too long. I still count Elite as my greatest game of all time for just how utterly beyond what anyone else even contemplated at the time (3D, huge universes, flight, you name it). I still remember the ultimately kind of boring but amazing for what you could create Disney's Stunt Island. I remember the movie feel of the original Wing Commander and finally having characters that felt like they mattered getting killed off. I remember Dungeon Master finally giving a real feel of being in actual dungeons even if it was 90 degree block movement. I remember Sim City and Sim Earth blowing me away with their depth. I remember the Lemmings taking the 2D everyone thought was dead and slapping it upside the head with its new mechanics. I remember getting blown away by the scope of Ultima Underworld, my first time on a MUD and stepping in to EverQuest for the first time...

    This game is going to be one of those memories. Even if the game itself gets old kind of quickly, the sheer volume of new things it introduces, that are going to be copied and used in differing combinations in games from here on out... For me, it makes it unmissable.

    In several years time, when I pick up Doom V, I'm expecting to see an editor that doesn't take a degree to master but instead lets me quickly throw in corridors, rooms, doors, gun turrets with the ease of Spore's building editor. Instead of dropping in generic creatures or spending weeks building them, my NPCs are going to take me five minutes to drag custom shapes on to, slap on a few cybernetics that already have properties assigned and then drop on a bigger gun that it already knows what to do with. I'll drop a tank that I threw together in five minutes in... then decide I don't like it and quickly change it out with a six legged walker. In two or three hours, I'll have a huge mod, completely different to anyone else's, with all new creatures, weapons, vehicles, buildings, etc.

    At that point, gaming will be take as big a leap forward as it did when Doom first introduced WAD files and modding.

    And I've no desire to have missed that moment's birth because I thought Spore might get boring after a couple of days.

    So...

    Game: 8/10, maybe even 7/10

    Innovation/had to be there: 15/10

    Ultimately: No brainer purchase for people who like being a part of gaming, not just playing the latest flashy shooter.

  • by speedtux (1307149) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @02:00PM (#24935285)

    following the growth of a species from the cellular level to galactic domination was an ambitious goal

    It's a good game, but it's still a fairly traditional combination of elements: a bit arcade style action, a bit of Civilization. You can also think of it as a bunch of different variants of a game all rolled into one.

    However, it's not the artificial life game that it could have been, and it has nothing to do with species or evolution. Furthermore, there isn't a lot of variation in the game play depending on your choices, so in some ways, it's actually worse than many other games.

  • by Prien715 (251944) <agnosticpope@gmai l . c om> on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @02:17PM (#24935493) Journal

    I've got to the space stage and even got to the end of the evolution meter on it, but there doesn't seem to be any end to it other than the shiny medal flashing on the stage. Has anyone managed to get a completion that was rumored for the "hardcore"? Somehow I think it has something to do with the "go to the center of the galaxy and find the grox" -- which I did only the mission never was marked as complete.

  • Ars technica review (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jubal The Stranger (1359501) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @02:39PM (#24935773)
  • Classic (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kenp2002 (545495) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @03:26PM (#24936343) Homepage Journal

    The road to hell is paved in good intentions.

    The road to a crappy game is paved in good intentions.

    The road to DRM is paved in good intentions.

    Good intentions do not equal a good game, let alone a great game. This is hardly a game in a classical sense and I must agree that it is more toy then game.

    Spore is now the poster child in my opinion of how game play has been dumbed down into an over glorified "Simon" game.

    A challenge implies failure and that is what many feel is the core of a game versus a toy. You cannot fail at toys. Games you can fail at because they have some measure of success.

    A comic book isn't a game nor is a book. Proceeding from one page to another, or in short having an objective, doesn't imply there is a measure of challenge or risk of failure.

    Few health people get excited when they check the mail, objective: yes, challenge or risk of failure: 0.

    Now if you had to solve a puzzle to open your mailbox, you've just made checking our mail a game.

    If Spore passes as a video game I'd wager that a superman comic is passing for conteporary literature at the local colleges.

    Like Ewoks, no good can come of this...

  • by guidryp (702488) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @03:38PM (#24936479)

    I am not 12 years old anymore. I don't have to have any game. By accounts of actual reviews this is an OK game, not a must have.

    But in this case it is an ok game with egregious DRM. They are renting you the game with 3 installs for $50. You don't think that is an incredibly steep price for a rental?

    This has to be fought vigorously. Ignore this game, move along. If you are insatiably curious, visit the Torrent networks, it is widely available ,obviously this DRM does nothing to reign that in.

    We have to fight this as this strips everything from the consumer. Make no mistake this is not aimed at "pirates", it is aimed at the honest paying customer.

    It stops the paying customer from selling his game used. The next great evil the game companies are chasing. Honest folks selling their games. Now if you buy a game that you don't like, you can't return it and you can't even sell it.

    It stops the honest paying customer from playing his old games. I have a lot of old games and I still like to play them, part nostalgia, partly because they were great games and still are (Total Annihilation, Baldurs Gate 2). Do you really think game DRM servers will be running in 10 years. How long did yahoo music DRM servers keep going. Not to mention the support to staff for you to convince when your 3 activations are up.

    I am not even getting into what else the DRM installs/does/messes up on your computer, I am just completely offended by this shift to a rental model. Don't take this lying down. Don't give them money for this. You are giving them the right to veto your playing of a game you purchased. Why would you do that.

    • by Datamonstar (845886) on Tuesday September 09, 2008 @04:22PM (#24937065)
      Of course the DRM servers won't be up in 10 years. That's because you're supposed to buy it on the Xbox 720 arcade and get all sorts of cool achievements and icons and character skins!

      I TOLD people that this is the sort of thing that allowing Microsoft into the console gaming market would bring about. Now you can't play your old games without hacking them or happening to still have the original hardware around and in working condition - another feat to perform since today's consoles, while vastly more superior in performance, fail like racecars made out of lead in comparison to old consoles like the NES/SNES. Not to mention that BROADBAND (a great subject for a completely different rant) is now used to support these companies crippling implementations as if everybody has it and has it turned on all the time and doesn't even check to see what's coming in or going out. Let us do what we want with the crap you allow us to buy from you, publishers. We are getting tired of this and this is why there is a desire to pirate your games in the first place. Release good games and play fair and people will want to be able to play their games online with an legal key and experience everything instead of torrenting them and then uninstalling them an hour later because it wasn't worth it in the first place.

The flow chart is a most thoroughly oversold piece of program documentation. -- Frederick Brooks, "The Mythical Man Month"

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