Two evenings with Spore

Frankly it is somewhat irresponsible of me to say very much about Spore right now, since I’ve yet to get my first species into space. But I’ve been playing the game exclusively for the past two evenings and wanted to capture thoughts while they’re still fresh.

I’m going to sidestep the DRM question, even though it is a fairly important one. I don’t like it, and wasn’t going to get Spore because of it, but some people whose opinions I respect were really enjoying the game so I opted out of the battle. Hey, I did nukes and the draft, I’ll leave DRM for another generation.

So on to the game, phase by phase.

Cellular phase: This has often been compared to fl0w and rightly so. You swim around eating other cells and critters to collect “DNA” that you use to buy parts for yourself. These parts make you faster, more maneuverable, more deadly, etc. This part of the game is 2-D. Creature creation is pretty simple and so is the gameplay. It isn’t all that compelling, but nor is it all that long. It’s like a warmup (it’s worth noting that once you’ve played all the phases once, you can start a new game at any phase, so you could skip the cellular level in subsequent games).

Creature phase: Here’s where you use the Creature Creator that Maxis released as a stand alone. When you start, there aren’t many parts to buy. You have to discover parts by rooting through piles of bones or by dealing with other creatures. You’re once again earning DNA which you spend on the parts you’ve found. The Creature Creator is a ton of fun to mess with, and you can jump back into it any time by ‘mating’ with another of your species. This is a sure thing; no flowers, dinner or wine required.

This phase played like a single-player MMO. To attack, you initiate combat then fire off special skills, each of which has a cool-down timer. Buying new parts lets you ‘level up’ your special skills; each part has ratings that impact skills. I was playing a carnivore which meant I got to eat everything I killed. Quite handy and no waste! You can also befriend other species by singing and dancing for them in a kind of Simon-esque mini-game. They sing, you sing. If they dance, you dance. You need to be as good as, or better, at whatever they’re doing in order to impress them. Impress a few and they become allies.

As you proceed through this level, you get to build a group of helpers from your species and/or allied species. In this way you could, in theory, make up for weaknesses in your own species. If your dudes can’t dance, you could in theory get allies who could, though how you’d win them over in the first place isn’t yet clear. Perhaps you’d evolve yourself to be a good dancer long enough to get the allies, then evolve back into a combat-heavy form?

Anyway, I found the Creature Phase to be an awful lot of fun. I can’t wait to try it as an herbivore. Oh and just for grins, swim out to sea for a while and see what happens.

Next is the Tribal Phase. Once you enter the tribal phase you can no longer change your body, but you can change outfits. Outfits, once again, increase various skills. You can also start to buy buildings here, if you find the technology in the world.

You’re still competing with other species in this phase, but on a larger scale. Your tribal hut becomes the focus of your attention, as if it gets destroyed, its game over for you. Also babies are hatched there. Sharing the world with you are other ‘sentient tribes’ as well as groups of ‘animals.’ You can domesticate the animals and keep them in your village, where they’ll lay eggs which you can eat. Or you can kill and eat them during lean times if you like. They don’t seem to procreate, though.

Once again, as you advance, you get more followers. If you’re a pacifist you can try to make friends with other tribes, which wins you points and gets you gifts from your new friends. Or you can use your military might to exterminate other tribes (via destroying their tribal hut).

In my game, this phase went on for a while because I wound up in a stalemate with another tribe. I had my tribe maxed for my level and couldn’t take out the enemy, but they couldn’t take me out either. And we’d become sworn enemies so I couldn’t try to turn things around. Eventually the enemy made a half-assed attack on my people, weakening himself enough (without doing much damage to me) that I could counter attack and tip the scales.

I’m not sure how I feel about the Tribal Stage yet. I think I would’ve liked it more if I hadn’t been so anxious to get to the next stage. As it was, it felt too long to me. More games are required before I decide, though. It was definitely the most difficult phase so far.

And now I’m in the Civilization phase, which is very accurately named. It plays very much like a simple version of the Civ games, at least so far. I haven’t completed it yet so can’t comment too much on it yet.

That said, you have to create a City Center, House, Factory and Entertainment Center as well as land, sea and air vehicles all in fairly short order. I found this a bit disruptive, to be honest. I had this map of the world in my head and a plan of who to try to ally with and who to attack and suddenly I get shunted off to the Building Creator to design a factory. You can, optionally, just pick a vehicle or building from the Sporeopedia and in the end I just did that with some of my buildings. I think for the next game I’ll “pre-build” these things so I have them ready when I hit this phase. As far as I can tell, they’re all just decorative; at least, you have all the parts at hand from the start.

I should note that I started my game on “Easy” just to get the lay of the land. Easy so far has been very easy, aside from the Tribal Phase stalemate. The Cellular phase was just OK. The Creature phase was lots of fun. Opinion still reserved on the Tribal Phase and the Civ Phase, but I think they’ll both be more fun at a higher difficulty level and once I have all the controls down to second nature.

So far I’m having fun. Angela got a copy and she’s just been happily creating creatures; I’m trying to get her to start doing buildings and vehicles. 🙂

Feel free to add us as buddies. Here’s my profile page. And here is hers. She likes ponies, apparently:

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