Review

Spore Review

Life, The Universe, And Everything
by Joe Juba on Sep 22, 2009 at 01:56 PM
Reviewed on PC
Publisher Electronic Arts
Developer Maxis
Release
Rating Everyone 10+

Capturing the evolution of a civilization in a video game is an ambitious undertaking. The degree to which Spore excels in that endeavor is remarkable, but it isn't even the best part of the game. In my time with Spore, I constantly caught myself thinking back to middle school science class; I remembered looking through a microscope for the first time, and contemplating the difference between 100 years and 100,000 years. Whether you're a microbe or a galactic superpower, a thrill of discovery flows through Spore's every peak and valley. 

At first, the game is fairly simplistic. The first four evolutionary phases (cell, creature, tribal, and civilization) are not particularly challenging or complex, and therein lies Spore's greatest weakness. For a significant portion of the game, the streamlined versions of popular action and real-time strategy mechanics often feel like they exist solely to give players more excuses to play with the creature, vehicle, and city editors. However, the value of exploring those creation tools is not something to dismiss; the editors forge an early connection with the player. Guiding the survival of a civilization you create – right down to the clothes on creatures' backs and the roofs over their heads – provides a level of ownership that no other game can match. It also adds insane replay potential; before I even finished the creature phase, I had ideas for at least three other species that I couldn't wait to bring to life.

While most of the buzz around Spore has surrounded the early phases, the space phase is where Spore strips away its simplistic veneer in favor of true depth. Unlike previous stages, this one is built for the long haul, and is the perfect culmination of your species' years of evolution. Taking inspiration from classic space exploration titles like Space Rogue, you hop between star systems, find allies (and enemies), and form colonies on new planets. I sunk hours into this section, traveling to the farthest corners of space in search of suckers to buy my spice at ludicrously high prices. Even with all of these options, the game's interface remains ingenious in its accessibility. Whether you want to play at politics, manipulate economics, or expand your empire, the final phase of the game delivers Spore's most engaging gameplay.

Even though there's no real multiplayer, Spore implements a unique (and successful) solution to facilitating player interaction. You can browse, download, and subscribe to other users' creations, creating an ever-expanding pool of potential content. It creates an invested community even without traditional multiplayer support; if you want, your world can be populated almost exclusively by the fruits of your friends' imaginations.

Even after years of hype and seemingly impossible promises, Spore is astounding in scope and execution. The creation tools are amazing, the interface is brilliant, and the game's ability to harness player creativity is unparalleled. The mechanics of the individual phases can make the moment-to-moment interaction with the game feel shallow, but the experience as a whole is thought-provoking and – most importantly – genuinely entertaining.

8.75
Concept
Mold a space-faring super race from scratch, or just play with the editors to make creatures, spaceships, and more
Graphics
What you see often depends on what you and other users have made, but the stylized art provides consistency. Unfortunately, frequent pop-up issues detract from the beauty
Sound
Ambient music doing what it does best ? it fills the space, but never grabs your attention
Playability
No matter what you're doing, the controls and interface are excellent
Entertainment
Even at its most simplistic points, it continues to entertain and inspire
Replay
High

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Spore

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