I keep hoping that Spore is just in a gestation period in terms of my own interest. One day I’ll suddenly be struck with a ravening desire to load up its application, download a few patches, and tear into it again with a gusto that makes my initial playthrough seem paltry by comparison.
The dreamy part of me eventually meets the pragmatic side and what ensues is wondering how I can be possessed with such an odd, deluded daemon.
I don’t dislike Spore, but after reaching Space, I was somewhat disappointed. Instead of being able to explore and marvel at all I could find, I was suddenly engaged in one spaceship battle after another, trying to save my planets. This invariably led me back to my homeworld to defend it against a warmongering race, which in turn led my game to crash. It left a sour taste in my mouth, but I figured I’d be able to come back when the appropriate patch came along (I did not relish deleting my turrets and all decorative items every time I returned) and just breeze along dreamily, eventually putting the other race out of its misery.
Wait a minute.
Had I not started an herbivorous race that had loved singing and teaching other races to dance and have fun? I realize conflict exists in many videogames because it is the easiest way to progress a competitive story, but in choosing a peaceful race, I find it odd that most of my time in Space has thus far been ruled by blasting other ships to smithereens in order to preserve my own hide.
The hints of this dissatisfaction started early on in the Civilization stage actually. To conquer other cities, which I had to do, I had to blare an image of what I presume to be my race’s leader proselytizing as beams of light were shot into the city. My religion is better than yours!
Herein I find two problems. Religion is nonviolent? Really? Perhaps I’m reading too much of our own history into this game, but most religions are anything but nonviolent. I think my annoyance with the selection of the themes of a race choosing among War, Religion, or Trade is that the three are inseparable for the most part. To say that my race is a pure theocracy who does not use trade or war is very simplistic, and while I know that this was the aim of Spore (to not be entrenched in complicating details), I somehow feel that some other metric might have been used to allow our races to continue.
Unfortunately, in the way the game is built, I cannot say what this would be, as the game misses one element I feel is quite sorely missed: diplomacy. Is your race one that tries to solve its problems with words? I do not buy the principle that streaming yellow beams of my religion are the words that equal diplomacy. The difference between it and the War path are only that they shoot missiles from their vehicles that are much more damaging. After all, if I was throwing my ‘conversion’ religious beams at another vehicle, why does it not actually convert said vehicle instead of destroying it?
My path was not really nonviolent, it was just violence painted in another palette with different words, and I was supposed to be pleased that my vegetarian, pacifist race was still spreading happiness and cheer. As an atheist, I think you can read the frown dripping from my fingers right now.
So, by the time I reached the Space stage and was constantly embroiled in space battles, I grew rather disheartened; the bug that caused me to crash when leaving my home planet if there were some turrets or decorative items on it only exasperated these feelings.
My problem with Spore was that I wanted a more open ended game. There is an impressive tool set, definitely. However, in actual gameplay, I find myself yawning now. The Space stage has left a very poor impression that won’t remove itself until I know that I could, for instance, use diplomacy in a method other than wandering in to another solar system. You mean to tell me that we can travel through the galaxy, terraform planets, and can’t communicate via remote means?
This is not all Spore’s fault, though. I was expecting something else. In all actual truth, I was hoping for something that pushed the limits of The Sims franchise and re-envisioned it. The two games are wholly different with little I see actually linking them. This is, of course, a good thing. Considering The Sims franchise will continue, I’ll likely stick around to play its next incarnation.
Perhaps most disappointing was that after all was said and done, the further removed I became from my creatures, the less personality they actually had that seemed distinguishable from any other race.
Verdict? I’ll have to return to Spore at another point, but I doubt I’ll buy any of its expansions or sets.