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Wednesday | October 17, 2018
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Spore (PC)

Spore (PC)

Maxis are responsible for many addictive PC games, Simcity and the Sims are the first that spring to mind. Spore, however is their most ambitious project so far as you take control of a lifeform as it evolves from a cellular organism to the end result of being capable of intergalactic space travel . Is the game a classic however or just a rather nice diversion?

To be fair, Spore actually comprises 5 separate games and to look at it you need to break it apart into individual sections. The first stage is the cell game which initiates when you see a comet crashing to the planet’s surface, seeding it with bacteria which evolve to grow into cellular organisms, you are one of these organisms. Basically this game is a simple top down view arcade game with bright attractive graphics, you swim around in the primordial waters, eating as a carnivore, omnivore or herbivore. For some reason this stage reminded me of a more complex version of fl0w (which was one of my favourite arcade games from the PSN so that’s not a bad thing). When you eat you earn DNA points which you can use to evolve your creature further by using the cell editor. Within this section you can discover six different body parts and these give you varying abilities. Spikes to attack, a bigger mouth to bite with, or jets to move faster through the water for example. The list goes on and on.

The design of this particular section is very impressive, it is a relaxing and charming introduction to the Spore experience and I can see a wide ranging audience just loving to play this, from young kids to older adults. The graphical detail is also very nice with lovely touches on the creatures eyes as they move and run away from stronger predators. The sound is equally as impressive as you hear munches and gulps as they eat. As this system develops you get larger and evolve (represented by the evolution meter at the bottom of the screen) until you sprout legs and move onto the next section of Spore. I was a little disappointed this section didn’t last longer as you never really get to become one of the bigger lifeforms in this section, some of the creatures you meet are huge and running away is the only logical course of action.

The Creature Stage is the action part of Spore, you have now left the waters and with your new found limbs you are able to walk on land. In this level you interact with your own newly developed species as well as other lifeforms present on the islands. These interactions can be friendly or aggressive and you either end up in a minigame involving fights or motions which try to impress and seduce other creatures. This wasn’t one of my favourite sections as after a while it is a bit of a chore doing the same things over and over again, however it is certainly well developed and polished. Dealing with other species means you earn points and evolve even further. Not only this but you can get new body parts and additions to improve your race via mating.

The Tribal stage is a basic yet entertaining strategy game. You have only one resource to worry about which is food, and this is used to support a large population as well as allowing you to construct buildings that offer a plethora of upgrades. Keeping in tone with the Creature stage there are two options of conduct in this level, either friendly or hostile. To be friendly you play one of four instruments and serenade the tribal leader. Taking the war path means you have to outfit your tribe with weapons such as axes which let you defeat the opposition easier. Every time you eliminate a tribe you get another head on your totem poll. This is not very challenging if you are in anyway adept with strategy games yet it makes it immediately accessible to a younger audience. This is a little limited however and experienced gamers will find it shallow as you can’t create anything in the editor but merely have options to outfit your creatures with various accessories. When you get a total of five heads on your totem then you able to move to the next stage which is called the Civilization Stage.

This is a more complex version of the Tribal stage. You are vying for total domination of the planet and the main goal is to capture all the cities through force, which means there is a lot of combat and underhanded dealings involved. You initially start with a single city and one land unit and you have to control spice nodes (mmm) to generate income and revenue which you use to purchase better defences, more buildings, as well as more units.

The basic mechanic is very similar to a plethora of commonplace RTS games, you build more housing to accommodate more units, this supports a larger military force. Entertainment buildings boost happiness and factories generate income but ruin the overall appeal of the city with smog and unpleasant conditions. It ends up being the eternal balancing act which is so addictive!

When you capture cities you can then have it dedicated to the creation of specific unit types, so as military, economic or religious, all of which have their place in a thriving society. That said, when it comes down to it, like many strategy games, to win you really just have to build as many units as you can and overpower the opposition, there are not really any complex tactical configurations such as you would experience in the Total War series for example.  Once again, if you have RTS experience this is a really simple game section.

Finally we are given the Space Stage, which is massive. This section is treading rather new ground as it works to the same principle as a MMORPG title, except it is offline. You can fly around the galaxy visiting planets and star systems, some of which may hold no life, some of which will. You have to establish colonies on other viable planets and extend the size of your species. You can even terraform barren planets to support life and you can alter them like you would if you were a god. Also to somewhat tame the open ended nature of this section you get missions which you have to complete such as hunting down hostile empires. There are space battles as well as meetings with primitive species, and yes you can crush them if you so wish. If the whim takes you, you can also move creatures across the galaxy onto unknown planets to see how they fare which is extremely satisfying.

The Space Stage is by the far the most appealing and endearing, it plays the way YOU want it to play, if you are a power monger who likes to destroy everything in sight, then you are given the ability to do so, that said if you act like this all the time then other powerful nations will notice and may very well try to put a stop to your actions. That said, when this stage started I expected that your creatures progression would be a closely knit part of the environment however with this section you are more focused on domination and expansion of the whole species. To be fair, this is more realistic in the grand scheme of things, as you basically end up taking the role of a virtual god in your world.

Spore is immediately accessible and it is charming for people of all age groups, right from age 10 to 60. The interface is intuitive and the game runs well with very few bugs I could notice (on my 4870 X2 it ran flawlessly at 1920×1200 at high frame rates). Sporepedia is a wonderful asset as it lets you search the reams of detailed information about the world of Spore, from the creatures to all the various options you have at your disposal. You don’t need to read the detailed manual that comes with the game if you don’t wish, however when you find the time it can enhance your understanding of how everything works and is intrinsically interwoven.

Maxis have once again laden the game with charm, the graphics are beautiful, appealing and well designed, they are also very well animated which gives a sense of flow to the fact you are meant to be controlling and developing a living entity. Obviously even the most evil looking creature looks cuddly and I am certain that for parents, this is a game they won’t mind their kids playing, even late at night. You can actually learn a lot from watching someone play this game, in that you can tell the power hungry aggressive people apart from the friendly, affable ones.

The game runs very well on most modern day hardware in my testing and I never experienced any crashes or hardlocks which is always a good thing to see, after reviewing the new STALKER game it was a welcome relief. Equally so, on both ATI and Nvidia I experienced no problems, so you can rest assured hopefully you would enjoy the same ingame experience as I did.

The audio is equally charming with some funny chirps and burps from the creatures as they fight, talk, dance, and eat. The music is simplistic yet entertaining, and at times of combat you hear drums pound to get the adrenaline pumping.

So far we haven’t mentioned the user generated content, however if you meet another creature, vehicle or building in spore you can click on it and it is added to the Sporepedia catalogue. This keeps a track of everything you have encountered in your current game and it lets you access the online content created by Maxis and all the Spore players from around the globe. Over three million creatures are available and it’s amazing to see how many weird and wonderful (and quite unique) designs are available up there.

Spore is a magnificent technical accomplishment and it will appeal to a huge audience. Parents will feel comfortable leaving their young children playing it and equally so, more mature gamers will love the charm and addictive nature the game has in abundance. An interesting side effect of the game is that many kids will actually start to learn the nature of evolution while not being subjected to boring tuition. The game also pushes user generated content to new levels which I don’t think I have seen before, the creation and content sharing is seamless and intuitive.

Obviously if you are a fan of adult based first person shooters then this might not appeal to you, however for the rest of us there is certainly something enjoyable to be gained from this modern day classic.



A wide variety of styles, sure to attract all ages.


The animations and graphics are first class, it’s very polished and almost bug free.


Endearing and charming soundtrack and creature sound effects.

You can replay and replay the game and take different paths.
(not an average)

A modern day classic which should find its way into your collection.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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