During my interview with Ocean Quigley, Art Director for Spore, I mentioned to him that I hated calling this a game, cause it's much more like a tool for creativity. And after playing Spore every spare moment I could muster for three days straight, I can attest to that statement as being true. It's more than a game (although some will say it's not really a "game" at all), it's a lesson in evolution and a brand new way to watch something you've created come to life.
Spore is split up into five stages - Cell, Creature, Tribal, Civilization, and Space – evolving you from a tiny cell trying to make it in the muck pool, to a space cowboy who travels to other planets in his space ship. Along the way, you are able to evolve by adding new parts, molding, and upgrading your creature as you make your way up the food chain. It's really quite exciting to see something that you've made go from swimming in a tide pool, to walking on land and making friends (and enemies)!
To see my thoughts on the rest of the stages and check out some pics from the game, just
The Cell stage is by far the shortest, your only task being to eat so you can gain enough DNA points to evolve to land. An interesting aspect you learn right away is that all of your choices from this point forward will affect your species' evolution, right down to the choice of being an herbivore, omnivore, or carnivore. I loved playing around in this stage, and kinda wish it would have went on longer!
If I had to pick one stage to be my favorite, it would have to be the Creature stage! This is where all the magic happens. You get to mold, shape, and upgrade your creature, and I'll warn you now – you might spend longer on designing your creature than you did playing in the Cell stage altogether! Since there are other species in this level to interact with, you can either make friends with neighboring groups, or attempt to destroy them — either choice earns you DNA points so that you can evolve to be a more powerful creature. Eventually, you can add other allies to your pack and travel with them, which is pretty helpful when you do need to take on another species to the death!
The Tribal stage, although engaging, was probably my least favorite. I'm not the biggest fan of real-time strategy games, and this was like a simple version of one. Your creature has evolved, made fire, and can now build huts, hunt and gather food, and communicate with a language. To earn DNA points, your tribe gathers food to support your growing population. Again, you can either make friends with your neighboring tribes by playing instruments, or crush them into oblivion. Customization takes a nose dive in this stage, but you can dress your tribe members, and upgrade your huts.
The Civilization stage brings a grander sense of scale, where you can build cities (this is where all those hours you've invested in playing The Sims will come in handy), and attempt to dominate the planet. You generate a stream of income by collecting spice, so you can purchase more materials to build more buildings, and acquire more soldiers to conquer more land. Additionally, you can build factories and entertainment complexes so that your unhappy workers can unwind at the theater afterwards!
The Space stage was another favorite of mine. You build space ships, vehicles, mold planets, travel to other galaxies and either help a fledgling species, or dominate them. You can even abduct other life forms and transport them to other planets! This is by far the largest stage, and the longest one to complete. What makes this stage cool though, is that it's pretty open ended so you can go where you want, and do just about anything. Designing my space ship was for sure the toughest part — it had to be awesome!
Overall, Spore inspired me, not because of its complex design, cool art, or thought provoking gameplay (I was always worried about what the consequence will be if I exterminate a neighboring species – I'm too nice, I know.), but the fact that this will change the way games are made from here on out. Spore will require other games to have more customization, since it's pretty endless here. Besides, over three million creatures have been made with the Creature Creator, and no two are alike! I loved playing Spore, but I realize it won't be for everyone. There's not a constant stream of action, and there is a whole science class aspect to it, but it really is very fun to play. If you don't have a Mac or PC, you can also get the DS version ($30) of the game! Spore is available this Sunday, September 7 for $50 online or in stores, and guess what, it's worth every penny!