Thursday, April 21, 2016

Spore - Initial Thoughts

I'm going to go with a break in my usual format today because Steam has decided, for inexplicable reasons, to break Spore down into 3 different games. Ordinarily, that would mean that I'd play it for 60 hours, to get my 20 hours of completion on all three expansion packs, but this time, I'm only going to go for 40 because, while Spore: Galactic Adventures adds a significant new wrinkle to the game that makes it worth standing on its own (while also having a single massive flaw that makes it worth avoiding - but more on that later), Spore: Creepy and Cute Parts Pack just adds some new parts to the creature stage without changing vanilla's gameplay in any significant fashion.

I know all this because I actually own the disc version of the game and have played it extensively. I wound up buying it for Steam way back when I upgraded my computer last year because I'm lazy and didn't want to reinstall from disc. Also, like Civilization IV, it turned out that when the game was discounted, it was cheaper to buy the whole bundle then it was to purchase the one remaining expansion pack I didn't already own.

I'm looking forward to playing this game again because I love the freedom it gives you to design your own creatures and customize their technology. On the other hand, Spore is also justly notorious for being incredibly uneven. The middle portions of the game (the tribal and civilization eras) are completely undercooked. Maybe there are some good ideas buried inside them, but their win conditions are so narrow that there's almost no room for the customization that is this game's greatest strength. The creature phase is fun, but overcoming its challenges requires you to optimize your creature's parts even when you might prefer the weaker options cosmetically. The cell stage is a fun little minigame, but totally shallow. And the space stage can be objectively great, but it is grindy as hell.

All together, Spore is one of those games that's deeply flawed, but nonetheless a cherished part of my gaming life. I anticipate having no problems with its rough patches and sailing through 40 hours as if they were no time at all.

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