In the last two days I’ve been playing Spore which I have, lets say, borrowed from a friend and I must say I quite like it. It’s a pretty addictive game and all pseudo-evolution, make your own monster stuff is cute.
But I’m not going to buy it.
Why? Because the publisher has seriously dropped the ball in regards to what the consumer wants. I was honestly considering bying the game today but then I stumbled onto the reviews of it on Amazon and realised what kind of C.R.A.P. they have in store for me. I will not buy a product who treats me as if I’m a thief already. I will not buy a product which is liable to stop working after I reinstall my machine a few times (and as a techie, this is not that rare). I will not buy a procuct which may stop accepting my activation after a few years. I will not buy a product which uses a copy-protection both known to be disruptive to your machine and taxing on your hardware.
Unless this DRM shit is removed, I am not buying the game. And it seems that most people agree with me on this.
Other than that, there are a few other things that are wrong with the game.
1) Evolution is very misrepresented.
While I understand that the game is mostly meant to be fun, there’s certainly ways you could have made it a bit more realistic. For example, I don’t mind that your creature seems to be growing in real time (especially since in the history view, this is shown as millions of years) but what I didn’t like was that your actions do not affect your evolution at all, other than the generic disposition you have (social vs aggressive, carnivore vs herbivore etc).
However, you actual creature traits have nothing to do with what actions you take. I can start as a carnivore but at any point I can switch to herbivore. I can have 4 spikes and suddenly have 1 big poison gland. I can have 8 limbs and a long body and the next generation can be a little ball with wings.
If nothing more, this seems like the creationist view of evolution where they expect a dog to give birth to a chicken or something similar, as this is exactly how it’s represented in the game. You gather DNA by doing stuff and then you mate and get to redesign your creature. At the this stage, you can pretty much make a totally new thing if you want to.
UPDATE: I think this review adequately explains everything that is wrong with the way evolution is repressented in the game.
2) Some things seem purely cosmetic.
I designed a creature with six legs which was as fast as a creature with one leg. This is because the only thing that matters is what kind of “foot” you have. You can have 10 legs if you want to but it actually hurts you. The only thing that matters is your best type of each limb. Your best hand, your best feet, etc. Multiple eyes don’t make any difference. More than 4 legs or hands are a disadvantage etc.
This is because bonuses don’t stack. You only ever use your best bonus from a specific part. So if you have one set of feet that gives 2 speed, and another that gives 3. Your overall is not 5 but 3. What this means is that there’s no point in getting more than 2 of any item as their bonuses overlap. So some feet give extra speed but less charge, some give jump and some give dance but they all overlap eventually.
There’s also no point in getting the same types of limbs for cosmetic reasons. If I have 3 sets of arms, it is a disadvantage to get all of them as human hands as I will not be getting any extra bonuses.
As a result, your creature ends up as a patchwork of limbs that just give the best bonuses and have no relation to possibly evolve (see part 1 as well).
I don’t really understand why they did this as it would have been very easy to simply allow the stacking of these bonuses. Then there would be a reason to have similar parts. If they also threw in a penalty for switching types (say a penalty from switching from a mouth to a beak) then it would make a bit more sense.
Another thing that bugs me about cosmetic stuff is that all the parts your acquire in the first two stages become irrelevant in the rest. It makes no difference in your abilities if you have 2,3,5 or 6 arms, legs, eyes or whatever. It would be nice if the way each creature was finalized (at the end of stage 2) played some role in the rest of the game.
3) The Creature Stage is too short
By far the creature stage (the 2nd one) is the most interesting as you get to play around with your critter body and limbs and the like. Unfortunately you barely begin to enjoy it when it ends and while you can continue playing in order to gather DNA and the like, there’s no point (unless there is some hidden award in place which I do not know but I imagine there is)
All your body changes (other than speed) become purely cosmetic for subsequent stages of the game.
It would be great if on hard difficulty the DNA rewards were much slower and one had the chance to play around a bit more, get to fight some of the big monsters etc. As it is, I had barely finished migrating one time when I was done and from a previous experience, I knew there was no point in gathering more DNA.
4) Civilization stage is boring
The fourth stage of the game is the Civilization stage which for me was very boring and repetitive. I won’t go much into details in this but basically combat is not really exciting and diplomacy does not exist. It’s best if one just does as much as possible to get past it quickly.
5) It’s not very hard
As an experienced gamer, I found medium difficulty to be very easy and the hard difficulty is barely challenging. If you’re going to make it that easy on hard, at least give us hardcore gamers an “impossible” setting or soemthing so that we can have a bit of fun.
6) No multiplayer
While the game is touted as a massive single-player game, it would be great if they had though of some way to have player interraction. As much fun as it look to be able to trade creatures and buildings with others, the novelty of that will last all of one week. Still, the galactic game seems interesting even though I haven’t managed to play it a lot. However my initial impression is that it might get boring very quickly if it isn’t expanded and the only way this can work is either with user created content or regular updates from the company (like a MMORPG) in the form or new missions, new types of single player experience etc.
Still, for all these things, the game is seriously fun and addictive. I can’t see me playing for too long but I’ve enjoyed it for the last two days. It’s quite fun to make your little critter be as weird as possible and slowly evolve it (realistically) and I’m going to go back and try to make more weird types later on, just for fun.
The creature creator is the best part of the game, as never before have we had so much freedom and fun in creating a new 3D object. What before would take hours of 3D modelling, can now happen in the span of a few minutes.
I truly believe most people will enjoy Spore, even with all its problems but I also believe that it’s not worth bying. Not with horrible DRM restrictions and not with such a low replayability. And if you think I’m being too negative, just check what is going on in the Spore Feedback fora. Perhaps this screenshot will give you some perspective.