Spore, PC/MAC - Review

Spore, PC/MAC - £26.98 delivered

Review by LewieP

Spore is life, the universe and everything, packaged up in a charming, albeit sometimes infuriating, user friendly click-a-thon. It is one of the most important PC games released in a long time, and it wouldn't surprise me if in 10 years time we are feeling it's impact. That said, it is far from perfect.

The tech Will Wright and his team have put together is pretty astounding. The game design geek in my head is excited at the prospects of what is in store for this kind of procedural user generated content stuff, and the creature creator is both robust and simple.

The community integration is superb, and should be the model for how to nurture a creative community around a game. Maxis have made it incredibly easy to share, and enjoy creations of your friends directly in the game. The Sporepedia, a database of all the Spore creations, if just fantastic, and the Sporecasts, targeted discrete packets of content, are a brilliant way of sifting through the huge body of content to find what you want.

The scale and scope are fantastic. You really do start off on a cellular level, and it scopes all the way up to intergalactic colonisation. You genuinely feel like the other species you encounter are living and breathing in their environment. The level and creature design feels natural because it is natural. There is something I can't quite put my finger on about Spore where it has nailed the feeling of exploration.

Each stage has it's own shortcomings though, in particular, the space stage is a bit disappointing. Somehow it manages to reduce adventuring over huge galaxies filled with unique and excited species and civilisations to playing intergalactic janitor, having to keep a watchful eye on your home planet is no fun when you want to be off adventuring. There is still a lot of fun to be had, but I wish some of the micromanagement wasn't so fiddly.

This is a really easy criticism to make, but that doesn't make it any less valid - No doubt EA have been looking at the astronomical sales of the entirety of The Sims franchise, and want to target a similar market segment with Spore. There have been a bunch of design concessions made to make Spore more accessible. For the most part these are harmless, but every now and again something pops up that just irks me.

There are also obvious gaps which future expansion packs are going to fill. The flora editor has been held back for an expansion pack, and I can see scope for expansion upon combat, the creature stage, and definitely the whole 'ecosystem' aspect of the Space stage.

I couldn't review Spore without mentioning the DRM. Quite simply, I would not have bought Spore with the current DRM it has. The SecuROM DRM requires you to connect to the internet to install the game, and you will only ever be allowed to install it 3 times without having to contact EA, where on a case-by-case basis they will decide if you are allowed to install it again. This is in my opinion unacceptable, I have reinstalled Halflife, Deus Ex, Alpha Centauri, upwards of twenty times, and it's not unreasonable to want to install, uninstall and reinstall a game as many times as you want if you have paid for it.

Whilst I am at it. Please EA, continue to put your games on Steam. All your games, not just Crysis. I got it from the EA Store, where it costs £40, £13 more than a physical copy. You also only have access to the download for 6 months, after then, unless you have backed up the installer (or paid the £3 for "Extended Download Service" to let you download it for up to 2 years), you are out of luck.

The launch was plagued by technical issues too. Authentication servers went down, Spore.com went down, and my EA store download corrupted.

Honestly, it is a fantastic game, and unlike anything before it, and it should be played by everyone. But the whole experience is surrounded by some easily avoidable nuisances.

Spore, PC/MAC - £26.98 delivered


Anonymous said...

I loved Spore up until the space stage. The game is too unfair and complex at that point with it being all too easy to get stuck in a war you can't win and so then you can't explore the galaxy as you have to babysit your planets.

Joe said...

People complain about the space stage, but I didn't see why... until now. Ish.

I am, admittedly, now finding the space stage a bit boring. It was great fun at first, but now I'm making $30 million every 10 minutes it's gotten kindof dull. I haven't yet "completed" the game, and am spending my time attempting to get all of the badges... but the badges should be something that you naturally get while progressing through the stage, not something you actively have to decide to go for for the sake of completion, imho.

Anonymous said...