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Spore will likely do very, very well (even despite the DRM/Amazon review fiasco). At this point, I really cannot see it being a massive failure. It’s easy to get into, none of the stages are overly difficult, and it supports researching evolution as well as intelligent design. It’s inoffensive on many levels.

Knowing that I liked the Sims, and had stopped playing Sims 2 after loading the game one time caused it to wipe all of my neighborhoods, I was rather excited to give it a go. Even though my degree has four parts that are all focused in the humanities, I am rather engaged in science and biology (especially concerning genetics) often held my interest alongside the theater courses. I’d even downloaded the Creature Creator and given it a whirl a few months ago:

So, here are my initial impressions of Spore:

I enjoy the gameplay. In essence, the first two stages of Spore are an RPG that sees major cosmetic changes as you progress. The Cell stage does not take long and the Creature stage can be as quick or long as you wish it to be. On my first go, being the collector I am, I gathered all the body parts I could in both sections. While not one for achievements that brag about what I’ve accomplished, I like unlocking parts of games that are usable in some manner. In fact, I’m an anal retentive completionist–why I avoid an RPG unless I know I’ll want to finish it.

Playing an herbivore (I wanted to see whether or not us pacifist vegetarians can conquer the world), I found the social bits during the creature stage amusing, and the challenges were definitely there. There were some creatures with whom I could not negotiate, others who were much better performers in some fashion whom I could not woo, and I had very few weapon capabilities.

However, as soon as I hit the Tribal stage I was just trying to move on as quickly as possible. Both it and the Civilization stage were rather weak as Real Time Strategy games. The only point of interest I actually had was in the fact that I could design my buildings, aircraft, and the dress of my now ‘fully evolved’ creature. Being the theater person I am, the entertainment building saw a large portion of my time and energy expended on its structure alone.

Unfortunately, upon reaching the Space stage, I could not save nor heal my spaceship. At that point I decided to have dinner, and sure enough, upon returning, it set me all the way back at the beginning of the Civilization stage. My mother and I have a running joke between us (though the joke is more on us): never buy an EA game when it first launches. As the Sims expansion packs have shown, something will go horribly wrong. So geht’s.

One aspect of interest to me about this game is the fact that I can pick and choose. I do not have to play the Tribal or Civilization stages ever again if I don’t want to do so. However, I have a problem with this. I’m sure it will be a feature that saves the game in many peoples’ eyes, but I cannot break my own habit of seeing something through from beginning to end. This probably stems from the fact that I have a somewhat more rigidly defined sense of what a game constitutes and don’t wish to skip about from section to section–I want to see the evolution of each creature I create.

In a grander scheme, I see the entirety of Spore as an RPG whose focus shifts. It is acquisition, refining of your avatar (and consequently the civilization), managing stats, and the only thing it lacks is a written plot (this can be argued, but I’m thinking in the larger scheme of narratives, not goal posts hidden in tutorials). Considering I find many J/RPGs to be a bit too convoluted and trite these days, I’m actually glad to provide my own stories, which I will gladly take upon myself given the right tools. I might even make the argument that this is the ludite’s RPG–it provides the basic tools and you do with it what you will.

Then again, considering one can play this game any which way one wants and some people will likely be taken to only creating creatures, buildings, vehicles, planets, and YouTube videos, it is also not an RPG at all. Which brings me to the one feature I hope to further explore, interaction with friends’ creations. So, if you have Spore and need a buddy, add Aeazel to your list and feel free to e-mail me your own Spore screenname.

About Denis Farr

Writer interested in intersectionality, games, comics, nerdy stuff in general, theater, and how it all mixes. Graduate of Wabash College, with studies in Theater, English, German, and Gender Studies.
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