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Publisher: Electronic Arts    Genre: Simulation
Min OS X: 10.4    CPU: Intel    RAM: 999 MB    Hard Disk: 4000 MB    Graphics: 128 MB VRAM

September 26, 2008 | Franklin Pride

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Editor's Note: Due to current limitations in our authoring system, we are unable to list system requirements higher than OS 10.4. Please be aware that the minimum system requirement for Spore is OS 10.5.3.

Spore has arrived. During its development, it has been hailed as the game to beat all games, a shoo-in for game of the year, and the ultimate end of the Sim series. However, its copy-protection has been identified as extremely restrictive, invasive, and an unnecessary hassle for the honest consumer. The question is, does Spore live up to its hype?

Gameplay: From Cells to Sentience in an Hour
Spore's gameplay is split into five sections: cell, creature, tribal, civilization, and space. In each section, you have three different ways you can act and no more. These tend to be peaceful, aggressive, or a combination of the two. Depending on which approach you do for each section, your race will get a different racial trait that gives them advantages in the later stages. This provides some replayability, even though each of the first four sections can be finished in just a few minutes each.

For instance, the cell stage allows you to be a herbivore, a carnivore, or an omnivore. If you stay as a plant-eating cell, you'll receive abilities that aid your creature in building friendly relationships, if you go to the midpoint and eat both plants and creatures, you'll receive abilities that aid your economic efforts, and if you eat all meat, you'll receive abilities that increase your power in war. Regardless of which path you choose, the first stage only lasts a few minutes. The gameplay consists of dragging your creature around and having it eat various things to gain DNA points for upgrades. There are only a few upgrades you can choose, so the cell stage ends up feeling very empty.

The creature stage follows the same pattern, only it becomes social, a combination of social and predatory, and purely predatory. Once again, there's not that much to do during the stage. You can play the social minigame with fellow creature groups or you can slaughter them mercilessly. The social minigame is nothing more than a game of Simon Says, so most players will find themselves getting bored and massacring everything in sight. Once again, the stage is over in almost no time at all and feels incomplete.

In the tribal stage things pick up, but only a little. You still are stuck with only two choices, social or warlike. You can't lead an army of allies against an enemy tribe, you can't tame an army of wild beasts and use them as mounts, and you can't mine or do any other normal economic tribal activities. Aside from the fact that you control multiple creatures and have a new set of things to buy, there's little difference in the gameplay between creature and tribal mode.

The main problem with the first few modes, though, is simply how progression is handled. You can't say "I'll take my time and enjoy this" as you're forced to progress as you gain DNA points and get stronger. After the stage is complete, you can still run around and do a few things, but you don't gain DNA any more and can't expand your creature to its limits. All of these stages could have been ridiculously fun with more things to do, longer stages, and the ability to progress at your own pace. As it stands, the stages are overly simplistic and end way too fast.

When you enter the civilization stage, Spore starts to become a little more fun. Despite the fact that it's nothing but a really watered down strategy game, it has a few more choices to make over the previous stages and can be enjoyed for quite a bit longer. For instance, although you start as one of the three city types, any city you conquer, buy, or convert can be kept as its original type. This allows you to use all of the three varieties simultaneously, which creates some interesting tactics. You could use religious vehicles against an unhappy military enemy while using economic vehicles to rack up a small fortune, for example. It's still not enough for more than an hour or two of gameplay, though.


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