Monday, September 08, 2008

Review: Spore

Gah, finally. The last time a game was this hyped was Daikatana. But at least this game doesn't explode into a million fiery bits of suck.

Spore, as I'm sure you know, is a game that concerns the evolution of an organism you create, nurture and guide from microscopic to interstellar life. It's been highly anticipated ever since its sneak peeks at various E3s and of course the release of its "creature creator."

The graphics are decent. They're nothing cutting edge but a certain amount of simplicity had to be kept to facilitate the fluid and organic nature of reshaping custom polygons in real time for your and all the other lifeforms.

The sound does a good job and is well produced. While I don't expect anybody will be buying up copies of "Spore: the soundtrack" like some other games have in the past, it functions well for its purpose.

Honestly I was expecting a level of complexity, or perhaps autonomy, that was not there. Most of the game involves you ordering your organism around personally, for every single little action (or multiples of them in later stages). As far as the game dynamic goes, I was somewhat reminded of another old Maxis title, SimLife... only this one is infinitely less complicated and you only concern yourself with one organism.

It's like SimLife and Black and White got together and had a baby, which grew up and decided that science (SimLife's area) and theology (Black and White's bag) was not for it, it went to Art School and then decided to become a kindergarten teacher.

And that's one of my two big gripes about Spore.. it's overly simplified. Never has designing life from the ground up been so simple. The interface is simple. Playing is simple. Everything is simple, fast, easy, straightforward, and really takes little planning. The game just needs somebody to click stuff. It would make a good game to play with a kid aged 8 to 11 or so.

My other big gripe is this game is big on the "GOTCHA!" factor. For a game that touts your ability to custom-build your organism just the way you want it, there's too much black-box future-altering stuff going on that you don't know about until its too late. For instance, you want an omnivore, you better very, very carefully count how many plants versus animals you eat, because the game keeps track (but doesn't tell you) until you are done with that phase, at which it tells you that you won't be allowed access to any of the omnivore mouths in the next phase because you ate too many of one and not enough of the other and now your organism is inextricably exclusive in its diet.

Woody, over at also brought up a couple salient points -

First, I'm not okay with the idea that I can only install the game 3 times. You guys know how often I have computer problems and/or upgrade. 3 installs will likely last me all of a year and a half. Then I have to start calling in to explain what I need additional activations. But how long is phone supported activation going to last? What happens when it dries up? Basically, I have to rebuy the game. Thanks EA.

Second, for all intents and purposes it is a single player game. You should never be required to have internet access to play a single player game. Sure there is player generated content to be had online, but if you're like me you'll look at it but probably never download it. The idea is that players will have to authenticate their game online "the first time" and then re-authenticate their game when they "use online features, download new content of a patch for their game". I don't care if this means I won't need the disc in my computer to play the game. I'm okay with tossing in a game disk if it means not putting computer sniffing spyware on my machine.

All in all I found the game could not maintain my interest really, DRM concerns even aside.

Overhyped and online components kind of unnecessary, extremely simplistic and shallow gameplay... all in all it's not a game I'd spend any more time on other than what I've already played to review it. If I had a young child I was trying to introduce to PC Gaming, it would be one of my first picks, however.

Verdict: C- (Minus for the DRM shenannigans. You'd have thought they'd have learned from what Bioshock went through).

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