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Platform: PC, MAC
Genesis. It’s a powerful word and not just for the religiously inclined. Imagine being the creator of life and then having ultimate control over the life you create as it grows and becomes something extraordinarily unique. According to the Bible, God formed man in his own image. What would you create if you had the power to do just that? Welcome to Spore.
The initial Cell stage of the game is where it all happens. Your microscopic creature needs to eat a lot of food and avoid everything else to survive - especially if you chose to be a passive, plant-eating, tree-hugging type of organism. But sometimes being eaten can be beneficial as larger cell creatures will devour smaller ones, which will create a unique item such as a sharp horn for protection. Eventually you will have to allow your freak to breed, to help put the wheels of evolution in motion, but this is all part of nature’s grand plan. The Creature stage is very similar to the Cell stage, but instead of being in a cell pool you will be adventuring out in the wilds of nature. Herbivores look for plants to eat, while carnivores hunt the herbivores. One of the best features in the Creature stage is that you can form alliances with other creatures. If you’re sick of being someone else’s dinner, the best option is to become friends with a neighbouring group of herbivores. Strategically, this makes life a whole lot easier for your plant-munching life form.
I think the next two stages - Tribe and Civilisation - are the hardest in the game. These stages unlock the Real Time Strategy component of the gameplay. Your goal is to either befriend other tribes or make them extinct while you gather food. In the last part of this stage your creature will create structures and enhancements that will make it easier to survive. You can work to invent stone axes or spears to make your tribe stronger in battle. You can even construct special structures for musical instruments such as horns, which are used as a form of communication with other tribes. Each tribe has a chieftain, who is the most powerful unit in the Tribe stage. Just like many strategy games, you can use your strongest tribal unit in battle or when you want to form alliances with other tribes. If you opt for building an alliance, you will then be taken to a mini-game where you can play music to the other tribe in an attempt to entice them to be your friend and ally.
In the Civilisation stage, your success depends on how well you have evolved up until this point. You’ll be busy making units, buildings and other structures to truly make your mark on the world you’re trying to conquer. Importantly, you have full creative control over the different structures and units you produce, allowing them to be tweaked to your liking. When vehicles begin to appear, they give you the ability to take over other cities and expand your territory much faster. This expansion process involves planning strategic battles and forming strong alliances to succeed. By this stage of the game, creature creation is all but left behind and Spore has become a full-blown Real Time Strategy game. The final stage is Space. This sees your fully-evolved creature (and your entire tribe) venturing through the cosmos to other planets and encountering alien life forms.
There’s no doubt that Spore is a groundbreaking and unique game unlike anything we’ve seen before. However, as expansive as the game is, I couldn’t help but feel the creation and evolution of your creature is the true core of the Spore experience. Everything else just seemed a bit like window-dressing. I also found the lack of a multiplayer mode more than a little disappointing. That said, the ability to create your very own creature from scratch is utterly captivating and fascinating, and you’ll spend several hours doing this alone.