This isn’t what you were expecting. I don’t know what you were expecting,Guest Posting but it certainly wasn’t this. Spore, Will Wright’s true follow-up to The Sims, is a singularly strange game. It’s slick and messy by turns, as ambitious as it is compromised, as hardcore as it is casual. It’s both a tribute to gaming and the future of gaming. Most of all, it’s really bloody weird.
Yes, its essential promise is met: you evolve a creature from cell stage to sentience, to civilization and finally space-faring. Along the way, you’re designing and redesigning the beast, its world and eventually its universe. As expected, much of this takes the form of mini-games. Those two factors – the customization and the mini-games – are going to fix a certain image of Spore in people’s minds, and to some extent already have. It’s one of a game aimed at a casual audience, but blessed with perhaps the most powerful content-creation tool of all time. What that doesn’t encompass is how massive and complicated it eventually comes.
The mini-games aren’t initially convincing and two of the four are possibly outright failures, but once you hit the space stage, everything changes. It becomes a complete game, an enormous, elaborate epic of exploration and creation that encompasses and justifies elements of the prior, more finite stages whilst advancing you to an incredible new level of godhood, and creating a vast open universe you could potentially play in forever. It becomes Elite by way of The Sims, Carry’s Mod by way of Galactic Civilizations, an RPG, an RTS, a shmup, a management game, an offline MMO, a toy, a tool. It’s a masterpiece, but it’s also quite a mess.
It’s hard to fight off negativity during your initial hours with it. While each section is engaging, and each offers additional ways to customize your creatures – their nature as well as their appearance – the sense of disassociation is strong. Those first four stages are too self-contained, too separate from those that follow, and it starts to feel like it’s a notepad full of jotted-down short-story ideas rather than the hoped-for novel.
Spore falls down the most during its Tribal and Civilization stages, where you’ve already made your creatures but now you’re establishing their behavior and decor. Both are RTS variants, and both are a little tokenistiq; a matter of turning every rival tribe/civ on the map to your side via might or diplomacy. How you get there is fairly binary, and after the first time it’s a repetitious grind of resource-gathering and gradual expansion. Fortunately, you can start a new creature at any stage you so desire, so this stuff can be skipped.