And God ... bore witness to a mighty shower of fire and rocks, which he himself commanded. The oceans bubbled and boiled, stirring the primordial soup, and when all had settled, he brought life. And he said, in a loud booming voice, as he raised his hand to the air “Let there be life!”
He looked down and saw the start, as the tiny single cell amoeba drifted contently. But there was no one around to hear him, and nobody spoke English, so he decided to let life take care of itself. “Damn, the greatest moment of the entire universe. My greatest achievement! And only I witnessed it!" His arms now crossed, and with a tone of slight disappointment, he spoke "Right, I`m off to the pub for a pint!” (Of course he created a pub!)
Deep beneath the waves your little creature is born. Swimming blissfully around collecting food, DNA points, which it will use to grow and evolve. Your little creature, giving it a mouth to eat that will make it a carnivore, herbivore or even omnivore. Your little creature, giving it a method of attack or defense such as stingers, poison, or sharp pointy bits. Your little creature, giving it a method of moving such as fins, water jets, and/or tails. But of all these choices what you ultimately end up doing is giving your little creature love.
Creation is the name of this game, formerly known as "Sim Everything" but glad it was changed to Spore. In the creature editor the variety of things you can design is amazing, limited only by your imagination. Though at this early stage, there are few things that can be done, what you really need to do is to get your little guy out there and explore the vast world you know nothing about.
Your creature spends its first few days, floating around and moving against the current of the ocean. The idea being survival of the fittest, in this game this means, collecting new parts and then finding a mate. Of course the more points and parts, the better your offspring will be. Stronger, faster, better than ever! How your creature will work, the choice is yours; however I suggest you make choices carefully. For example, don`t even consider eating as a secondary need! Finally at the end of this stage your creature has a 2001 Space odyssey moment. Your creatures` brain evolves enough to grant the gift of legs, and you ascend to the surface.
The creature editor really opens up once you become a land dwelling animal. Honestly, but you don`t know this yet, this is one of your favorite parts of the game. The tasks are pretty much the same, but as a simple creature there are many more things to do. You still have to eat, mate, and create the next generation. But there are just more complex tools for doing so. But you don`t even need to keep your creature, and at any point, can completely redesign a bizarre animal from scratch.
The new aspects of the game are concerned with the social side. You have the ability to make friends, enemies, and travel in packs. Making friends involves imitating the actions of the creatures you meet. There are four new impress actions Singing, Dancing, Charming, and Posing. But according to the body parts you have chosen, will get a skill level in the ability. Of course if the other creature does the Riverdance at level 3, impressing him with your tap dance of level 1 has no chance. In the same way, fighting is also graded; you have four different attacks Bite, Charge, Strike, and Spit. Of course the levels in this respect mean the amount of damage you inflict.
My creature was a carnivore, which I later regretted, and yet learned to live with. By choosing, what seems the best choice, I found that I could no longer go back to being a herbivore. To survive, I had to eat, and to eat I had to kill. Soon all the animals I would meet for the first time, would become furious if I got too close to their nest. But I just couldn`t go attacking all the creatures, mainly because most of them were far stronger. But still there is a little trick, traveling in a pack increases your abilities both in attack and impressing creatures. Yet there is still one annoying problem, and yet so very plausible, that a nest will act individually. When impressing a nest member, which can only be done one at a time, others can attack if they feel threatened. What is worse, your pack will break off and fight to the bitter end. Even if you do run away, and sometimes it`s a good idea, your pack will not retreat and you end up alone. But then again, if a snarling dinosaur came for a cup of tea, would you extend your limbs as you passed the biscuits?
The next level is the Tribal stage, and it seemed fitting to have my creature standing upright. The creation side now focuses on modesty, and you start to clothe your creation. Instead of all that primal biting and slashing, it`s all about gathering, speed, combat and social aspects. Just how clothing is supposed to do all this is anyone's guess?
Your village works by collecting food as a resource, and this will be your currency. The creatures in the primal stage are now part of your food source, but there are other means, such as fishing, and gathering. But progressing depends on the other evolving tribes you meet. You can either destroy them or impress them. Similar to the last stage, but it still feels different and not a rehash of the same thing. What was a nice change, was that some villages were nice to me, those that weren`t I destroyed. Either way you treat a village, you still get new abilities, as new clothes, or huts. Huts give your tribe new tools such as weapons (Spears, Axes, and Fire Sticks) or Instruments (Didgeridoos, Wooden Flutes, and Maracas). Each new hut gives you a bonus in that area, and the instruments work the same way as impressing in the Primal stage. Only this time around you have to play musical instruments according to the conductor. Still, for my liking, this stage is over far too quickly, the problem is that you are the first to evolve, so you get the head start advantage. Secondly the other tribes are too few in number, which means there is little to do, and the level can be won quickly.
The personal touch is now dead. This is the last time you will be creating or upgrading your creature. This is a sad moment as you don`t realize how much love you have put into this little guy, and now it`s all over. It`s like taking your child to the first day of school; they run off, screaming with joy, not a care in the world. While you are left so emotionally upset, that you try to fight back the tears. Or so my wife says! Of course you can still edit your tribesman, but any modifications are purely aesthetic.
Next is the Civilization stage, Creation is all about vehicles and buildings. The first you are asked to construct is the Town Hall and Car. The cute little introductory cut scene describes it best, when a tribe evolves to a civilization, what do they want? Well, a Town Hall, Money, Fast Car, and er... pie. Indeed, especially pie! When first designing the car and town hall, you are in the spirit of the game. Soon you discover that there are more things to design, three more buildings and a possibility of 8 more vehicles. However, only the vehicles have stats, a percentage scale divided among three traits, which are speed, health, and one other trait. The last trait depends on the vehicles special function; such as military (Weapons), economic (Commerce), or Religious (Religion). Suddenly a wave of sickness comes over you, as you`re designing something essentially over and over again. Of course you can choose your previous work, or other people`s efforts. But it seems a shame, as half the fun in Spore is all about your designs. Still, even I found it hard trying to think up of half decent designs, and even harder to have the actual will to keep doing it.
This whole stage is simple and really presents little challenge. Your resources are from geysers that produce spices. But again, because you are the first to evolve, means a huge advantage over the others civilizations. The vehicles are your tools for exploring and capturing, of course military is for conquering and economic is for trading. After trading with another city for a while you can buy them out, and they become part of your nation. However this doesn`t take long, by the time that you discover a new town, your resources are so vast that you can snap them up quickly. Rarely do you have to resort to a military tactic, as there is more than enough money to do what you want. But for some mild amount of fun, especially in designing a ludicrously large battle ship/plane/vehicle, you might want to give it a go.
Of all the stages in this game, this one seems the most rushed, and the one rushing you the most. From the many examples, one is the special game abilities “Global Merger”, just after half way through the Civilization stage. You can force the other civilizations to sell themselves in one fell swoop. The biggest anti-climax ever! This was later confirmed when I had to replay the civilization stage, and realized that there was another city especially, beside Military and Economic, which was Religion. What really leaves a nasty taste in my mouth, discovering the creator of this stage is none other than the creator of Civilization 4, Soren Johnson. Finally on this replay of the game, I didn`t use the Global Merger. No this time, the last two remaining civilizations, just gave up, they contacted me and asked to be bought out. Another anti-climax and it leaves you with a sense of betrayal. Something you`d never expect from the creator of the immense classic that is Civilization 4.
So ... the final frontier! I was truly excited, I had heard good things about this stage, but one of those little bugs would force me to replay the Civilization stage. Did it crash? No, I just came across one of those annoying bugs that won`t let you continue or save. Just be careful, if the tutorial asks you to do something, you better! Also of all the stages, this one is fraught with little errors, so saving often is a good idea. However creations you design will always be saved in the index, no matter when you last saved your game. So luckily it wasn`t too bad!
The story starts with you meeting your first alien civilization, only they have been destroyed by someone called the Grox. I won`t spoil the rest, but the Grox, and the center of the universe is the main storyline. But it is the subplots and the other civilizations that will keep you occupied for the most part. Just to let you know, how you play the civilization stage, affects how you are perceived by other space empires. Declaring war all the time will make you a war monger. However, that being said, the Space stage is one of the worse letdowns I`ve ever played, and yet, I can`t tear myself away. There has been many a time that I have come off the computer in the foulest of moods, suffering at the unquestionable odds. The computer AI is the biggest bastard I`ve ever seen, even more so than a human opponent. This is the main flaw, and if this game were an online one, you would probably meet some unfriendly people. But the AI is ten times worse; all of a sudden the terminator quote comes to mind, “Kills without reason or mercy”, and really spoils the whole game.
In my game, every minute or so, I was constantly bombarded with help messages. Pirates are attacking, drop everything and rescue them, or let them plunder or destroy your resources. This is painful, as Spore is a laborious game, exploring and terraforming takes a vast amount of time. On top of this, you might fail a time sensitive mission, which isn`t too bad unless you are completing it for another empire. The outcome of this failure, will more than likely be a declaration of war, seriously they are that unforgiving. Exploring only increases the problem tenfold, expanding your territory is severely slowed down because of your colonies, allies, ecosystems, and other such are under attack. And if you do go to war, good luck to you. Because now, not only will pirates attack, so will the unforgiving empire.
Leading onto fairness, or lack of! If someone attacks my colonies there are several ships in their fleet. But if you attack theirs, you are alone. Of course you can add a maximum of five ships into your own fleet, but you only get one slot at a time, and it`s quite a lengthy period between each slot. Also if you attack an enemy, you`ll notice that they have about five ships defending their planet, but defending yours is nothing. It would be nice to be able to buy some form of planetary defense. It would be nice not having to keep rushing back to destroy an enemy that isn`t hard, but highly annoying and pesky. And of course there is, an “Uber Turret” how nice. Only by the time you get one of these you will have practically destroyed all your enemies the hard way. The Uber Turret costs 600,000, and after using them myself, I am not sure they do anything, as some of my outer colonies were still being attacked. I thought it was just the planets I didn`t have turrets on, but it seems that turrets only activate when you arrive on the planet. The worse thing about this, when you do decide to take your journey to the center of the universe, you`ll end up leaving your empire to fend for itself, either that or you`ll be rushing back every minute. If you are that type of person, my hat's off to you, as you have the patients and determination of a saint being crucified. This level is a constant uphill struggle, in one of the foulest of moods you`ll ever have.
Finally money is hard to come by, really hard; you`ll never have enough, no matter what you do. This means that you`ll never have enough to explore, buy weapons, or even colonize other planets. I hate spore, and yet hate to hate it, because it is so endearing. There is something to really love, a sort of geeky satisfaction sort of love, terraforming. You get a planet, say it`s cold, and can raise and lower both the temperature and density of the atmosphere. This is a fairly novel idea for games, transforming a planet to suit your needs and also moving a whole ecosystem too. As a planet is nothing without plants, animals, and a lot of variety to keep it healthy. At first it seems difficult, because Maxis tells you nothing about how to do this. After a while, a long while, you get the hang of bringing a frozen lifeless barren of a planet to a hot tropical paradise, and let me tell you how rewarding it feels.
With all this unfairness going on in the galaxy, it won`t be long before the temptation of cheating comes along. You`ll have to resort to cheating, and Maxis knows this. As you read the readme file, you notice this:
Cheats ------ To enter cheats in the game, first open the command console by simultaneously pressing ctrl-shift-c. Press the enter button to close the command console. Some of the cheats that can be used here are as follows:
help: lists all the cheats in the game. help [cheatname]: displays specific information about the cheat. quit: quit game.
This is the only thing that will keep you sane, while I don`t suggest you cheat, well not straight away. Having looked through the options in the game cheat menu, there are a few very helpful ones. But if you need more help I suggest the internet, look for a “Spore Trainer”, perhaps a “+33” one by “Kelsat”, and also update it to the next patch of Spore and your graphics card. As I experienced a whole lot of crashes, but the joy came flooding back!
Finally to wrap up, I apologize for the lengthy review, and you should have seen my first attempt. But Spore is one big game, and to be honest I really didn`t go into detail. Especially the Space stage, which is larger than even I care to go on for!
The graphics are bright colorful and undeniably cute. I will say this; the game does run at a fairly good frame rate. However there are some nasty flaws in the game code, which get more frequent as you approach the final stage. One of the major problems, there is no auto-save, and that crashing becomes serious in the space stage game. Let this be a warning, you must save regularly or lose your advancement. Plus it can also happen in other parts of the game too, so be warned!
The brilliance of spore is that a child could play it, with perhaps the exception of the space age. Even more so when you see that all the colors, and even the feel of it looks like it was designed by a child. It`s a game that children will love the most and allow adults to become children. What I love, is that the game captivates me. Perhaps in the same way that God loves his children. It`s about making life and the enjoyment of watching it grow, like the love of watching your child grow.
The creature editor and the other editors can be accessed from the start menu. This allows you to develop a whole range of weird and wonderful things. There is also a bank's worth of Maxis creatures to view, and if you go online, you can share your creature with the world. Needless to say that there are literally billions of creations out there, which at present is more than we can say for this universe.
Still there are some troublesome moments with the editors, notably the vehicle one. It can sometimes be awkward or difficult just placing things where you would like them to go. And with the creature editor, it`s mainly about your statistics, which sometimes in a negative way can define your whole creature. As some parts may not be to your liking, but you have to use them if you want a higher ability. I would have loved the ability to increase stats without altering the shape of my creature. But also in the same breath, not altering the shape means that you are less likely to explore. This is what this whole game is about; exploring, creation, and experimenting.
On the note of your creations, after reading the readme file, it suggests having at least 1GB of free space for your creations. Which seems an awfully high number, as my 27 creations, it only takes up 13.3MB of space. Doing a quick calculation, and some guesstimation, that`s 2030 creations to fill up a 1GB of hard drive space. You might be hard pushed to design that many creatures, vehicles, or buildings, but I'm pretty sure someone somewhere is trying!
Does the universe end? Does this game, no not really! Even after completing the mission, there is plenty to see and do. By the time you have all the badges, power ups, weapons, and a vast empire you will have spent at least 50+ hours. Which is funny, especially when you consider 5 – 6 of those hours, were spent just playing the first four stages. The rest is just exploring the universe; oh and if you do explore, and are wondering, yes there is a solar system called Sol. While it`s a bit of an anti-climax, I really was expecting humans, or at least the Maxis Headquarters. It`s just another thing to see and do in this never ending game that is spore.
Some of the best fun, the worse times, foulest of moods to be had. Yet I still want to tell you more, as Spore is a vast game that will keep you busy for a long time. Yet I still want to play more, it could have been much better, especially the last two stages. But it was all worth it in the end! So quickly race to the center of the universe, to meet God, and buy him a pint! James
System Requirements from the Readme File Spore requires at least the following:
FOR WINDOWS XP * 2.0 GHz P4 processor or equivalent * 512 MB RAM * A 128 MB Video Card, with support for Pixel Shader 2.0 * The latest version of DirectX 9.0c * Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 1 * At least 4 GB of hard drive space, with at least 1 GB additional space for creations
FOR WINDOWS VISTA * 2.0 GHz P4 processor or equivalent * 768 MB RAM * A 128 MB Video Card, with support for Pixel Shader 2.0 * At least 4 GB of hard drive space, with at least 1 GB additional space for creations.
For computers using built-in graphics chipsets under Windows, the game requires at least: * Intel Integrated Chipset, 945GM or above. * 2.6 GHz Pentium D CPU, or 1.8 GHz Core 2 Duo, or equivalent. * 768 MB RAM
FOR MAC OS X This game will not run on PowerPC (G3/G4/G5) based Mac systems, or the GMA 950 class of integrated video cards. * Mac OS X 10.5.3 Leopard or higher * Intel Core Duo Processor * 1024 MB RAM * ATI X1600 or Nvidia 7300 GT with 128 MB of Video RAM, or Intel Integrated GMA X3100. * At least 4 GB of hard drive space, with at least 1 GB additional space for creations.
Supported Video Cards NVIDIA GeForce series: FX 5900, FX 5950, 6200, 6500, 6600, 6800, 7200, 7300, 7600, 7800, 7900, 7950, 8400, 8500, 8600, 8800, 9600, 9800, GTX 260, GTX 280 ATI Radeon(TM) series: 9500, 9600, 9800, X300, X600, X700, X800, X850, X1300, X1600, X1800, X1900, X1950, 2400, 2600, 2900, 3450, 3650, 3850, 3870, 4850 Intel(R) Extreme Graphics Windows: GMA 950, GMA 3x00 series Mac OS X: GMA X3100
Laptop versions of these chipsets may work, but may run comparatively slower. Standalone cards that are installed in vanilla PCI slots (not PCIe or PCIx or AGP), such as some GeForce FX variants, will perform poorly. Intel integrated chipsets featuring underclocked parts, such as the 945GU, GML, and GMS, will not perform adequately. Integrated chipsets such as the ATI Xpress and the NVIDIA TurboCache variants will have low settings selected, but should run satisfactorily. Please note that attempting to play the game using video hardware that isn`t listed above may result in reduced performance, graphical issues or cause the game to not run at all. The NVIDIA GeForce FX series is unsupported under Vista.