It required a little bit of fiddling but in the end I was able to create a tribe that was the equivalent of Adolf Hitler crossed with John Williams.
For all my peaceful (mostly) tendencies, the game decided at the end of this stage that I would be a religious zealot and that I preferred to convert my enemies with music, dance and song rather than by putting a gun to their head and demanding they hand over their muskelberry crops (note: these berries are fictitious).
Then it was time for the Civilization stage, where the game became even more like an RTS. The aim is to conquer all of the other cities across the globe, by fair means or foul. Trade, war, conversion, and those kinds of things you know. As religious zealots, the empire I had designed wasted no time amassing enough money (through spice mining) to build huge armadas of air, land and sea vehicles, stack them with religious propaganda and convert numerous cities to the cause. You can design your own buildings and vehicles using the gameís incredibly versatile editor, which I only touch upon here since the review would be massive otherwise. Paint them, procedurally Ė which is impressive enough. Itís not a terribly complex mode and itís easy enough to figure out how to play. If you want to wage war, then you can attack other cities and the game will decide that youíre a warmonger and give you special abilities based on your style.
Finally when the planet bowed down to me as supreme overlord power, I was able to build/design and paint a starship. This was the mythical final stage, the stage that I had been waiting for!
You have a fully functional space ship; itís capable of abducting flora and fauna. It can pick up new tools that allow you to terraform the worlds that you visit, either artistically or to stabilize the terra-score of that world, making it so you can foster new life and seed the planet. You can trade with alien civilizations and rescue them from biological disasters against the background of thousands upon thousands of stars. Youíre able to explore at your leisure, or are you? No, because the universe is a whiny child that needs constant babysitting. After a while youíll have no peace because the pirates are constantly attacking your home colonies, thereís an evil alien race bent on destruction and a virus is sweeping across another planet you couldnít care two hoots about. No sooner than youíve gone a star or two away, youíre back home again defending against some disaster or another. So the explorative nature of the space game turns to one of frustration.
Spore is a gorgeous game with a cartoon life like no other; it has a fantastic set of editors that allow you to make some supremely inspired creations. The sound effects are superb and the music (which is procedural as well) has an ethereal and out of this world nature to it. Yet it is let down by several design oversights, the very nature of the player driven content should provide your universe with some truly awesome creatures, yet for them to stand any kind of chance they have to support numerous stock parts that make a lot of them appear generic. The stage transitions between the cell, creature, tribal, civilization and space segments of the game are pretty jarring. Though the creature->tribal stage is amusing the first time you see it.
It is more a universal sandbox than a game, and if you look at Spore as one big executive toy then youíre on the right track. As a game itís a collection of mini games bound into one package, as a simulation of life, itís getting thereÖas a toy, itís right up there with having your own lego set and making vignettes about life on Mars. If you can accept the game like this, then you should be able to find hours of amusement and enjoyment in the title.
If youíre looking for the next Sim City meets the Sims, then youíre going to be waiting for a long, long time.
Oh and don't get me started about the DRM for Spore, that's a whole different article however and I promised myself that I wouldn't rant about it in the review. If you want to find out more, just google Spore and DRM to see the hot water EA and Maxis are in with the game community over that one.