Mini-Review: Spore First Impressions – Double Updated

Geek Culture


So, the game of the season is out.  I got my download link and serial number mid-morning, but the download took about three hours, so I didn’t get to start playing until the afternoon.  But when I started play, the time just started to fly.

So far, I’ve only put in enough time to play the aquatic level and partway through the creature level.  What does that mean?  Well, if you want to play the game all the way through, you begin "life" as a microscopic organism in a biological soup.  You eat, you fight, you find things to consume that help you evolve, and then you find another organism like you and make the next step in your evolution.  As you go, you pick up DNA points which allow you to add on feature to move faster, defend yourself better, make friends easier, or attach others more aggressively.  Eventually, you do enough that you evolve limbs and adventure out onto dry land.

Peanutula_5Peanutula_5Once you’re on land, you follow whatever path you set yourself in the water – were you very aggressive, attacking, killing, and eating anything that looked funny at you? Then you’ll be a carnivore.  Did you have a balanced meal? Omnivore.  And, of course, you can be a herbivore by only eating the plants.  At this level, you want to find treasures on the ground that will add feature to the menus that will be available when you have enough DNA point to mate and evolve some more.  Also, you can fight other species, or try to make friends with them

That’s as far as I’ve gotten so far.  Most of the other creatures I’ve run into were designed by Maxis, but the game has already pulled in two of the creatures I’d built previously with the Creature Creator, which was pretty neat.  I can’t wait to get further, and start seeing the races designed by all the other players!

Only gamplay complaints so far were some clipping, and a problem with the running AI that would have my creature getting stuck halfway up a hill when it couldn’t figure out it needed to go around to get to the place I’d sent it.  Otherwise, things look good.  I especially loved the rich, layerd watercolor of the primordial ooze level, and how, as your creature grew in size, it would suddenly start noticing (and being noticed by) other creatures that had previously been too big to care about.

All in all, it’s tremendous fun so far.  More to come as I work through the game!

Updated: Okay, now I’ve made to the tribal stage.  After you’ve made the appropriate progress through the initial land-animal stage (in my case, killing and eating enough other creatures), your brain evolves to sentience, and you get to form a tribe.  This is also the last stage of evolution, and your last chance to tweak your character’s look and capabilities.

Now, instead of gathering DNA, you’re gathering food, building your village, and either making friends with your neighbors, or subjugating them.  The earnables are no longer additional physical features though, they’re now social improvements – specific tools or weapons to give you advantages in different aspects of the game.  Your ultimate goals are to get food, add members to your tribe, and develop.  More to come as I make more progress!

Wired: Brisk, well-balanced and imaginative gameplay, great visuals in the primordial stage.

Tired: Some clipping (creatures passing through "solid" objects), poor object avoidance AI.

EA Games, $50.

Update : There has been a lot of chatter going about with respect to comments being left on Amazon (as well as low review scores) talking about invasive DRM being installed.  I installed the Mac version of Spore and have seen ZERO evidence of any DRM.  The Windows situation may be different, but at this point I’ve read no reviews or news stories that speak to the issue.  Indeed, the Amazon information may be a coordinated attack against the reputation of the software rather than accurate information (again, not confirmed), so for the time being, take what you read with a grain of salt, and just enjoy the game!

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