Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Spore Review

Spore's finally out... That just sounds wrong doesn't it? It's been so long, theirs been so much talk and speculation and hype, and it's finally here. That's right, our review for Spore is up over at Classic VFH. You thought this day would never come didn't you? Well shame on you non-believer, for it has, and it is a wonderful day at that.
Spore Review at Classic VFH

Note, Spore is both a PC and Mac title, so even though the review is listed as PC, it's pretty much exactly the same for Mac.
UPDATE (3/22/10) VFH Classic is dead:

One of the most anticipated releases in quite a while, Will Wrights' newest game, Spore, is all about blending user-created material and multiple game genres. Some, including myself where skeptical of how well they could do this. Such varied types of gameplay all stuck into one game. There's bound to be issues with the quality... right?

Gameplay: 8.5
The gameplay in Spore is kind of difficult to score. You see, the game is broken up into 5 segments, each with a different type of gameplay. In my opinion they where all very enjoyable. While some outdid the others, it was all very fun stuff. One factor that really helps here is the fact that once done, you can go back and play on one gameplay portion as long as you'd like. In fact, you can do that in the first place if you feel like it, never advancing to the next gameplay type, sticking to the one you like the best. But I would recommend beating the game first, some ones you have no interest in may surprise you.

The first bit of gameplay starts you off as a tiny organism in the ocean. You have to upgrade your creature with DNA and parts by killing the other species surrounding you. The ability to make your creature whatever you want as you go along really makes this part much more entertaining than I expected it to be. I played through the game as a carnivore, so I was hunting other creatures and eating the meat left behind by them. One thing to mention is the scope here is brilliant, creatures 100 times your size in the beginning shrink to ¼th your size very quickly and it does a lot to keep you interested.

Next you go into the third-person adventure type of gameplay. This one was one of my favorites. You scavenge the land for fossils containing new parts to add to your creature, or other animal packs to befriend or destroy. The combat mechanics where simple yet effective, and most importantly, fun. You have a quick-bar of 3 skills which are used by using the 1-3 keys. The better parts you attach to your creature the better skills he will have, including gliding, jumping, and any other non battle oriented action as well. The freedom of this mode and direct control over your creature made it stand out to me. Also, it was kind of neat to see the traits you gave your little sea creature fleshed out and under your direct control. Actually having an effect on gameplay now.

The third gameplay segment was where the game moved into a RTS format. This was by far my least favorite. You can pretty much just collect food until you have enough to create a unstoppable force of warriors. You could always go for the peaceful route and buy some musical instruments to make friends as well. Personally I went as a mix of both, destroying those that didn't like me, and befriending those that where neutral. It's just an extremely simplified RTS and while by no means is horrible, it's just not all that fun compared to the rest of the game. It's the first to truly lack a sense of immense scale, since there are no giant monsters or fishes waiting to destroy you. Where's the fun in that?

After that comes what turned out to be one of the most entertaining portions. The civilization stage. It's what I would explain as a mix between Defcon, Risk, and SimCity. Once again being a RTS, with the only controllable units being vehicles. It's noteworthy that you build all of your cities and vehicles from scratch, for those of you that haven't gotten the gist of things yet. I found creating buildings to be quite boring, but vehicles where entertaining enough. The real entertainment here comes from the opposing civilizations. You'll have to compete for spice, towns, and overall land.

Getting a giant fleet of your home-made ships and some nukes then going out to storm the other towns was pretty damn fun. The one downfall of this game is the “instant win” option. Once you get enough towns you will have the option to instantly destroy all of the remaining towns with a massive missile strike for $48,000. I made the mistake of doing this in my play through and I'm sure it cut the time that portion would have taken considerably. So just a warning, by destroy all civilizations, it does indeed mean all of them.

Finally comes the “Space Faring” stage. This is the deepest stage and seems to be the one that will last you the longest. Travel from planet to planet, creating new civilizations, atmospheres, basically just inhabiting worlds so you can collect its spice. You will encounters enemy planets on the way, and other ships to battle with. This stage gives the game the epic scale that I had missed so much back in a big way. The ability to fly from space down to the planets surface in almost an instant is just astounding. A seemingly endless amount of planets and possible places to explore make this a perfectionists nightmare. You'll never see it all.

On the topic of exploring, once in space you don't directly control your UFO like in a planets atmosphere, you merely click on a planet to travel there. This was disappointing, but not a big deal, as I can see free exploration getting extremely confusing. You'll be too distracted by the massive amount of equipment your UFO is able to use to think about that anyways. Because man, that thing can do a lot. It's really more of a tool than anything, and its one hell of a fun tool. This was a great final stage to the game and it actually met my high expectations.

Sound: 8
The sound in Spore is nothing to write home about. Their was atmospheric music, but nothing memorable. The creatures sounds where very entertaining. It was interesting to hear all of the different cries from the different species and builds, although quite a few end up being pretty similar. Overall the sound presentation was very nice, if nothing else the unique sounds of the creatures added to the experience.

Controls: 7
The interface of spore is pretty simple and very easy to use. Yet occasionally I would do things that I didn't mean to because of the lack of information on what mode you're in. Mainly in the second stage. Besides that, the RTS controls where spot on, no complaints there. The first stages controls where either responsive or not depending on how you built your creature, which was a nice touch, yet get annoying in certain instances. Then the 4th stage had the very similar RTS controls of the 3rd. Then finally, the last stage controlled a little sloppily, yet its nothing that you wont get used to. To sum it up, it overall has a very neat interface with easy to use commands, it's just not always perfect. Sometimes the camera would get annoying, but it was a minor annoyance. Overall it was good.

Graphics: 8
One of the biggest parts of the game is seeing your creatures interact with the world around them. Which is why it's a good thing that everything looks so nice. The style is interesting, the graphics are crisp, the scale is very impressive, and the animations of your creature are way more fascinating to watch then some would think. I played the game on all medium settings and was still happy with the presentation.

Spore surprised me and actually lived up to most of my expectations. The gameplay stayed fun and fresh throughout the entire game, and it was perpetually entertaining to see my creature do all these crazy new things. The game is just pure and simple fun for the first 4/5ths of the game, but it's the creation aspect and the last stage of the game that will keep you coming back. Spore has been built up to incredibly high proportions, and while its not exactly what everyone was expecting, it came damn close, and
it's definitely a worthy purchase.

Overall: 9/10

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