September 22nd, 2008 by Potato

Well, I spent the better part of a day on the weekend playing Spore, which is really unfortunate since I had a lot of work to do and it left me somewhat frustrated.

The game involves progressing through 5 different minigames from single-celled organism swimming for food particles in a puddle, through creature, tribal, civilization and space exploration. There are a large number of reviews out there, and I have to agree with a number of points. While each stage was fun, they often felt kind of rushed — the game was prompting me to upgrade to tribal level when I hadn’t even harvested enough resources to upgrade my creature with all the new parts I found. The cell stage only had 12(?) organelles to upgrade to. Tribal and Civilization didn’t seem to fit in with the feel from the first two stages, where you were focused solely on one creature, RPG-like. I think the transition could have been smoothed a bit by making more of the pack option.

I spent the most time in Creature phase as I had to play through it twice, and it really struck me how expensive arms and legs are, even if you put on non-stat-boosting ones. I wanted to create a 6-legged creature, but it was just too costly to pull off unless I spent a lot of time grinding after being prompted to proceed to tribal. I had to play through Creature stage twice because the first time through, as soon as I graduated to tribal, none of my units could move. Then, the same thing happened when I graduated to space stage. This just goes to show that Spore is, at the moment, a pretty buggy game. Those were just the game-ending bugs — there were numerous graphical glitches and random crashes through the game that I was ready to ignore. The big problem, however, is not the bugs but the terrible save game system. You have just one save game per planet that is always overridden when you save. There are no autosaves, either, so if it crashes and you haven’t thought to save, you’re out of luck. Plus, if you enter tribal, hit save, and then find you’re bugged out, the bug persists after you reload — you can’t go back to the creature stage to try to change your creature to see if that might help, since there’s only the one saved game. This also makes it difficult if you feel like exploring different options — going back to just before graduation to tribal to see if being more of a carnivore than an omnivore would change your fate, for instance. Skipping ahead to a stage is an option, but you lose certain bonuses you accrue for playing through the previous stages.

I’ve heard that the space stage is the most interesting and in-depth part of the game, so it was a shame I couldn’t even play it with the same creature I had taken through the other stages. When/if I get time next weekend, I might give it another whirl, but after so many crashes in one day, I’m tempted to just shelve it until a patch (or several) comes out.

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