Spore lets you take an extremely high-concept journey from a single-cell life form swimming through the seas to a continent-spanning superpower to the overlord of a galactic empire. Over the course of about five hours, you shepherd your critter through four introductory stages; then you leave for space.
That’s right, the first four stages of the game—cell, creature, tribe, and civilization—essentially train neophyte gamers to play common game genres: primarily MMO, RTS, and turn-based strategy. You then apply these skills when your fledgling species emerges from its gravity well for the first time. Despite lacking the depth we’d expect from a stand-alone game, the training stages are quite entertaining. You make very simplistic choices: Are you a carnivore or an herbivore? Do you fight or befriend other tribes? Will you be an economic, religious, or military superpower?
Once you leave your planet, the game begins in earnest. You travel between the stars, expanding your empire by conquering, colonizing, or buying planets from alien races. As you become stronger, you encounter increasingly powerful aliens, culminating in an epic battle at the center of the galaxy. The space game is packed full of gameplay, with an essentially infinite galaxy to conquer.
Spore is a technological triumph. By procedurally generating art for everything in the game, all the relevant data about your species fits into a few small PNG files, which are uploaded to the Spore servers. While you play, you download other players’ species in the background, where they populate your planets and galaxy, which gives an already massive game infinite replay value.
We were disappointed by the game’s lack of an auto-save feature; a few crashes cost us hours of progress. And as your empire grows massive, it becomes increasingly difficult to manage. Despite these flaws, Spore is a game that everyone should play.
Powers of ten
There’s never been a game with as wide a scope as Spore. Simply breathtaking.
Power of attorney
No auto-save, no planetary automation, and an occasional crash deny Spore a Kick Ass.