The spOrange Box
Could a game that intends to envelop the evolution of a species from a single cell organism into an intergalactic ruler be trying for a bit too much? Yeah, probably. Does that mean they shouldn't have tried? Hell no. Spore is a game that really does do so much, and yet still comes off as incomplete. Instead of trying to talk about this game as a whole, I'm going to talk about its 5 games that it is made up of. We all know them by now, the Cell Stage, the Creature Stage, the Tribal Stage, the Civilization Stage, and the Space Stage.
The cell stage is extremely fun in its simplicity. controllable solely by clicking with your mouse, you navigate your watery home in 2 dimensions, finding food that fits your cell. You gain "DNA points" by eating, and then spend those when you mate in order to upgrade your dude. The amount of parts in this stage is limited, but you can still get a pretty cool little cell that has a lot of functionality. The main drawback of this phase is the length, lasting from as little as 20 minutes to probably a max of an hour. The positives are how nice it all looks (probably the best graphics of all the stages), and just that its simple gameplay is both intuitive and just plain fun.
The creature stage takes what the cell stage did and adds more depth. As a land roaming creature you now navigate in full 3D, and it controls very similar to an MMORPG such as World of Warcraft. There are tons of parts in this stage, found by interacting with other creatures (i.e. killing them or making friends) or by finding them randomly strewn about the world. The gameplay is similar; you have to eat to stay alive, and you get DNA points to upgrade yourself by interacting with other creatures. The parts can give some cool abilities like singing, dancing, spitting, biting, sprinting, and flying. These can all be useful in some way, and it is certainly possible to make a creature that can do it all. You can also make your creature look like pretty much anything you can imagine, if you are willing to put the time into it.
The tribal stage plays like a watered down RTS game. You have a small tribe of your now fully evolved creature, and a small village that they have built. You can fill this village with different buildings, domesticated animals, and food that you gather. The ultimate goal is to either befriend or destroy the tribes of the other creatures around you that have attained the same level of sentience that you have. The controls here are very basic RTS controls, but I found a lack of interesting things to do, and each time I played through this game I found myself hurrying to get past the tribal stage.
The civ stage has been compared to the Civilization games by Sid Meyer, but since its still real time and has more options, I pretty just think of it as the much more capable older brother to the tribal stage. So this stage feels like an RTS should. You start with your city, and the ability to build your land vehicle. You make buildings to increase the functionality of your city, and try to take the spice geysers around you so that you can get more money. Other cities of your own species appear, and you can make war or peace with them, either way the end result being that you take over their city, expanding your civilization. It still controls very much like an RTS, and the main focus is on controlling geysers until you overtake every other city in the world. This stage brings back the level of depth found in the creature stage and takes it even further. The customization applied to your creature way back when is now available for your buildings, and 3 different types of vehicles: land, sea, and air. Up to this point, this is the stage where you can spend the longest, but its award for deepest stage is quickly snatched away when you finally control your planet and enter the...
Its huge. I mean huge. You can just keep scrolling out and out and out until you have a view of the whole galaxy, where you can see each system, and each star, and then each planet. Anyone who has played Mass Effect will have flashbacks of traveling between a hundred planets for boring side quests on equally boring worlds. Fortunately, there is a bit more to this galaxy than Mass Effect's. Your spaceship is extremely upgradeable with all sorts of cool gadgets and gizmos, as well as plenty of weaponry. But these guys make you work for it. You have to make money to buy these parts, and there are a lot of them, and they aren't cheap. So how do you make all that money? If the previous stages are to be any clue, you should say that you have to either kill other people or make friends. And you're right! You can either make war and fund yourself the bloody way, or take on allies and do missions for them, establish trade routes, and sell them the excess spice coming out of your colonies. There are really too many things that you can do in this stage for me to really get into all of them, but aside from the interactions with other empires you can terraform and colonize other planets, abduct random creatures and plants from anywhere, or fight with the evil Grox empire of robot spaceships.
So as a whole package, Spore has enough that anyone can find things that they like, and also so that anyone can find things that they don't like. If you like making weird things from mountains of parts, or want the open-ended nature of the space stage, or even just think the idea of progressing from microscopic to intergalactic is cool, then you should definitely buy Spore. I had a lot of fun with it, and I think that its definitely worth the purchase.