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Spore in Retrospect

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Will Wright finally released his magnum opus, Spore, recently, but the reviews came in and the game was officially a bit of a disappointment. As I’ve discussed before, hype can really spawn a backlash in gamer opinion, but this wasn’t entirely the case with Spore.The game has some brilliant and intuitive “creators” that are fun on their own, and the first playthrough of the game can be really interesting and fun, but the game turned out to be too concept-heavy to handle. None of the various stages of the game (all of which have completely different game plays, if you haven’t heard by now) work on their own for more than one playthrough. The space stage is the only one that really comes close, but it is still just short of real replayability. It’s almost as if a really bright kid was given the chance to make any game he wanted. It sounds really wonderful as a concept, but is just too bloated to actually be fun. Surprisingly amateur for one of the greatest game designers ever.

Spore is remarkable for its innovation and somewhat dead game play. I don’t personally agree that the game just stole all of its game play from other games, because that’s almost like saying that iPods stole their functions from boomboxes. Both Spore and iPods are aesthetically pleasing, compact, and innovative, yet the actual game play/music feels castrated compared to the fun/sounds of the other games/boomboxes.

The game in its current state can never be even nearly as successful as SimCity and The Sims, which I find really disappointing. Spore is so much smarter than those games, and I absolutely love the references to Douglas Adams and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The game doesn’t represent true open world game play until the space stage, and it somehow lacks lasting appeal. The Creature Creator was somewhat magnificent on its own, but it’s clearly not enough. Spore may not even become a franchise on its own. Where is there to go? EA needs to figure out something fast and start developing it or this terrific concept will indeed die.

Another big disappointment came with EA’s DRM policy with Spore, which almost made more headlines than the actual content. Once the game became notorious for its DRM, the pirating was going to be worse than if the game had no SecuROM. The anti-pirating tools only make things worse, truthfully, because they make the game a target. Now potential pirates have a reason to be pissed off and determined that they won’t actually buy the game. Plus, the antispore.com, but it later blew its own cover intentionally. Apparently, atheists were the only ones who truly protested the game, upset that your species follows the “religious” path if they aren’t specifically militaristic or economically aggressive. Sure, I can identify, but come on. It’s just a game.

In retrospect, that’s all Spore was. The grandest idea for a video game ever making it into a playable final product, and still a disappointment. It is the responsibility of the gaming community to try the game, have fun for a bit, then sigh a collective sigh and stop listening to all that hype. Next time you buy a video game, have fun with it and pretend you hadn’t known anything about the game beforehand. Your experience will work out so much better that way.

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About Nathaniel Edwards