Spore Updated Impressions: An Evolving Interest

Maybe it's because I preferred astronomy class over biology. Maybe it's because the creature creator has been done to death already. Maybe it's because I just want to screw around with lasers more than larvae.

Whatever the reason, I'm finding that I enjoy the later levels of Spore far more than the early organic stages. nope I imagine some people are going to load up Spore and be immediately underwhelmed by the basic nature of the gameplay. Outside of the fun of evolving your race, the initial stages are incredibly straightforward.

In the cell phase, you simply steer your microscopic monster around until it collides with food. You avoid being eaten by other cells. You pick up upgrades, and attach them to your little cell creature. And that's mostly it.

It's beautiful to look at, and entertaining to a point. But in a game about science, the gameplay strangely does not start with a big bang.

The creature stage is much the same. You eat. You attack other creatures. You do that mating thing, and evolve your monster with various appendages. There are a few special abilities you can use, and some social flirtation to be done.

The tribal stage is like that, but with spears, a couple buildings, and a little creature gang war.

But when you get to that civilization/RTS phase, and you start putting massive guns on your mechanized units, and marching your advanced empire toward interstellar dominance, the game just makes sense.

It's fun to watch the faces of EA employees light up when start asking about the later phases. They seem to feel the same way I do--socially interacting with creatures is cute and all, but flying your photo torpedo-armed spaceship around a massive galaxy, fulfilling quests and conquering planets, is just plain cool.

Thankfully, these later phases are by far the lengthiest. You can also skip right to whatever phase you want--though there are bonuses for completing the earlier levels.

Darwinian Design
In a way, Spore is a collection of several different types of games, so some phases will naturally appeal more to different types of people. While I may look forward to the space exploration, I'm sure my girlfriend will prefer making cute little creatures.

And I have to admit, that part can be fun just for the sheer absurdity of it all. During my PAX demo, I played as a hilariously hideous rendition of Yoda. That kind of thing never really gets old, and judging from the reaction to the creature creator, it already appeals to many.

The fun you get out of the early phases seems to be largely dependent on how invested you are in your creature--whether you enjoy the process of upgrading and crafting a race. For instance, fighting creatures was pretty dull until I discovered a new claw attachment, which gave me a reason to enjoy seeing my little guy kick some ass.

But from a gameplay standpoint, the mechanics tend to reflect the evolutionary aspect of the game: things start slow and ramp up later. You go from mindlessly dragging your cell around, to managing a huge array of spaceship abilities. From clicking on a fruit bush, to conquering entire sectors of space.

It'll be interesting to go through the full experience, one end to the other, and get a feel for the flow. My gut tells me most people will at least enjoy their first playthrough of the early stages. After that, I question whether some will be skipping over the creature creation in favor of the more conquest-heavy levels.

We should be getting a review copy in next week, so I'll try to provide a better answer soon.