LGR - Spore - PC Game Review

LGR – Spore – PC Game Review

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Some called it SimEverything, others called it SimLetdown. Spore was quite the divisive game when it was released, but how does it hold up today? Time for a detailed look at it!

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Music used is from the Spore OST.

Spore. Spore never changes. This most promising and
infamous of phallus creation kits was developed by Maxis and published by Electronic
Arts in 2008 for Windows and Macintosh PCs. However it's no secret that
Spore is considered by many to be one of the biggest letdowns
in gaming in the past ten years. But was it really that bad? For starters, Spore was hyped to hell and back
by the publisher, the press, the fans, the developers and even the late Robin Williams. [Robin Williams]
I'm putting together a creature that pretty much Darwin would go "Hey, I'm not taking acid ever again." [Laughter] Pre-release hype was off the charts as a result and
I know personally it was first game I ever pre-ordered if for no other reason than to get this fancy-shmancy
Galactic collector's edition. But also I was super-psyched because
it was a new game from Will Wright! Yes, that Will Wright. The legendary game designer
behind SimCity and The Sims. And when he started teasing the
concept of Spore back in 2005, it was nothing short of revolutionary at the time. The game was often dubbed "SimEverything," in reference to previous Maxis Sim games and due to its unbelievable scope. You'd begin as a microscopic organism, evolve into an aquatic fish-like animal, leave the water as a walking or flying creature, gain sentience, start a tribe, found a civilization, then finally head off into space. The key to this was a never-before-seen
procedural generation algorithm, combined with an advanced physics engine which could build a completely unique
game for you every time you played. It was billed as the ultimate
exploration of the concept of evolution, allowing players to manipulate life at every level in such a way that put Maxis'
previous god games to shame. Not only that, but Spore's universe was online, letting you interact with other
players' creations automatically. They even released a paid-for demo
called the Creature Creator before launch, which lets you play with the editor of the same name,
increasing the hype even further. Unfortunately, by the time its September 2008
launch date came to pass, Spore was quickly becoming the butt of jokes. A huge variety of things were gone, including the bloody creature battles, the Underwater Stage, the ability to fly, the physics engine, the emphasis
on real science and biology, and the advanced skeletal model
for procedurally generating creatures. Instead, Spore was a game that looked
and played more like a cartoonish parody of was so proudly shown off before, making it unfeasible for use
in educational institutions and disappointing for gamers who were
looking forward to a deep sandbox simulation. Not only that, but had launched
with an aggressive DRM scheme that influenced thousands
of one-star reviews online, and even class-action lawsuits
against the publisher over the ordeal. Although Spore still sold several million units, it gained the dubious honor of being the most
pirated game ever, according to several sources, and its lead designer Will Wright
ended up leaving Maxis shortly after its launch. In fact, he not only left Maxis but left the
big-budget triple-A gaming industry entirely. And sad as that is for gamers
like me that worship him, I can't say I blame the guy. But despite all the backlash,
Spore didn't exactly fail, which is fascinating to me. It got a parts pack, an expansion pack and as of August 2015, it's still online, with thousands of people uploading creations daily
and posting in the official forums. So, what is it about Spore that has people
still buying and playing it to this day? Well, let's take a look. Spore begins in a rather grandiose fashion,
with several spiraling logos, followed by a spiral galaxy
filling the screen with much aplomb. The galaxy then settles in place
to reveal a menu of sorts, bringing to attention to several planets scattered among its galactic arms. Choosing and naming one of these planets will
determine where you start your game, with more planets being generated as you play. If you've already played before, then you
can jump right into any of the stages but when you're starting out,
you begin with the Cell stage. A short cut-scene plays, showing a meteor getting
violently acquainted with your planet, revealing that life began here
via the concept of panspermia. Once life, uh, finds a way, you take control of a randomly
generated single-celled organism. Much like the early teasers showed off, the goal is to evolve this primitive little thing over many generations into something
that will one day become a space-faring species. But for the time being, you play kind of
a mix of the games of Flow and Pac-Man, since you're a cell,
that exists only to eat or be eaten. If you chose to be a carnivore,
you eat other creatures, and if you're an herbivore,
you eat the little green plants. Oh, and you can also reproduce, but that can only happen
if you have enough DNA points, which is the scientifically-proven
way evolution works, don't you know? There are a handful of parts
to choose from at first, with each of them giving or taking away
a certain set of abilities for your cell. Each of them costs a
certain number of DNA points, so you can't just place
everything on your cell to create some super beast
from the get-go, Playing the Cell Stage allows
you to earn more DNA points, as well as more parts that can be found by
killing other cells or discovering meteor pieces. In a deeply factual example
of the intricacies of genetics, you just mate again anytime to
customize your cell however you please. Don't like being a carnivore any more?
Be an herbivore. Don't like either one of those?
Be an omnivore. Eventually, you'll have eaten enough
things to get big and sprout legs before crawling onto land for the first time. This brings you to the Creature Stage. The goal of this stage is to gain sentience, but as they say, the road to intelligence
is paved with gettin' jiggy with it. Again, just pure biological facts here. Uh, and, yeah, as cool as this part
looked in the preview footage, it turns out to just be a string of
Simon Says and scavenger hunts. You have a nest, which acts a home base,
but there's evolving to do, so guess what? Go find some DNA points
and creature parts, or else you may as well just go back
to the ocean to get killed by a sea monster. Finding parts and earning DNA points
can be done in one of two ways. First, you can earn the trust of other species
by interacting with them socially, and this is the Simon Says portion, in which you mimic their actions in order to
fill the meter at the top of the screen. If you have the stats to match theirs,
and impress enough of their kind, they'll become an ally,
giving you some parts and points, and that helps you grow a brain, I guess. The other way to grab parts and points is to
just kill them in a decidedly G-rated fashion. This functions similar to a fantasy MMO, in that you just press a few hotkeys,
wait for them to cool down, then press them again until
somebody's numbers run out. And that helps you grow a brain, I guess. Head back to your nest and get it on with
the nearest androgynous member of your kind, and you're taken to the Creature Creator! Personally, this is one of the single
most enjoyable parts of the game, and this is where most of
the creative stuff happens. It's here that you can
create giant, walking dongs, but also a massive variety of animals,
both recognizable and terrifying. Even though it's a bit dumbed-down
compared to what they showed before launch, and there's no way to add things
like fur or functional wings, I am impressed to this day
by what the creator is capable of. It's like a combination of modeling
clay and Mr. Potato Head. You just click and drag
the body in all directions, then mess with part placement
and see what happens. It will then procedurally
animate your abomination, resulting in a creation that is
uniquely yours every time. Paint it, tweak it, make it hop
around like it's on meth. It's brilliant! And once you're done
making something terrible, it'll upload to the Sporepedia automatically
as long as you're signed in, adding to the tens of millions
of other player creations. These will then populate your galaxy
at random, if you so desire, and it's a pretty clever way of expanding the game's
content without the developers having to do a thing. What you do in Creature Creator also affects
how you'll play the Creature stage itself, since every part has a
set of statistics tied to it. This also means that if you want to
maximize your creature's efficiency, most of the parts are
objectively worse than others, resulting in needlessly stifled creativity. And this is where the game
first begins to falter for me, because it's like it can't decide
if it wants to be a creative sandbox, an educational tool,
or a kid-friendly game. On the one hand, you're given a huge amount of
freedom to create anything using the tools provided, but on the other hand, ehh, most of the parts are a bad choice if you want to make the best creature
to progress in the game. Then it tries to educate by touching on the concept
of genetics, evolution, social structures, food chains and biological timelines, only to negate all of that by introducing
tropey video game mechanics and arguably advocating intelligent design. I mean, nothing changes gradually or by chance, it's you purposely creating
all these things to suit your own tastes with the explicit goal of sentience. I think it'd be really neat if you had the option to just
simulate millions of years and see what happens based on your creature's initial traits
and environmental pressures. But, nope. You just wander around collecting sparkly
bone piles and shakin' what your mama gave ya. I wont deny it's initially fun
to explore your planet, especially when you stumble across something like
an epic creature created by fellow Spore players, or a UFO shows up, only to
shamelessly abduct your friends. But all this is a shallow pool of party tricks,
rather than a deep ocean of meaningful content. Once you've murdered or boogied your way
to the top and gained a sentient brain, you get a cut-scene, showing your creature re-enacting
the famous scene from 2001: A Space Oddysey. With tools now at your disposal,
you move on to the Tribal Stage. And this one takes on the form of the
world's dumbest real-time strategy game, where the goal is to destroy
or ally with the AI-controlled creatures. This is accomplished by either
killing everything intelligent in sight, or dancing and playing music for them
via another Simon Says game. You sensing a pattern here? Eh, it's the same old thing,
just with a different camera angle and this easily my least favorite
section of the game. There is a new editor here,
but it works exactly the same as the previous one, just with less interesting stuff to do. The idea is to deck out your tribe members
with parts that unlock new abilities, like being able to do combat, make peace,
or gather resources more efficiently. Unlock new parts and points by
taking care other players, blah, blah blah. Other than the repetition, the big problem
is that you're the only target, by everyone simultaneously, meaning that you're frequently bombarded
with enemy units, raids and local wildlife attacks, while the rest just go about their
merry way while waiting to attack you next. So it becomes a mad dash of gathering resources,
building units and base building, just so you can manage to
take action before everyone else does! Not only that, but the AI
is absolutely brain dead, using no form of discernible tactics, and not even making use of their chieftain, who normally leads the charge
in acts of peace or war. Your allies never help you out
in battle or socializing either, only existing to sporadically
bring over a basket of food. So just stave off the AI's mindless drones, then rush to either play music
or murder whenever you can! Once that pointlessness is over,
it's on to the Civilization Stage. And as its name implies, it takes
inspiration from Sid Meier's Civilization, although it plays in real-time
instead of being turn-based. Now, this takes place on a global scale, but instead of tribes and huts,
you have nations with full-blown cities. And, surprise, surprise.
Kill them or socialize them. Oh, wait! You can also convert them via religion. Finally something new! Each nation has their own religion and it's up to you to make sure everyone
on the planet bows before yours. Sadly, you can't customize the likeness of your deity,
but you can customize your cities. And yes, buildings can be created just like creatures,
which a very nice touch. Every city center contains a city hall, and then inside the city walls,
you can place the other buildings, consisting of houses, entertainment and factories. Turrets and decorations can also be plopped down,
but you can't customize these. Each city has its own stats, and the way you accomplish things
at this point is money, known as Sporebucks. Optimizing your city layout to balance population,
happiness and productivity will result in more income. And what is this source of income? Spice, naturally! [Male voice]
"The spice must flow…" Claim as many of the planet's
spice geysers as you can, defend them, and you'll have a steady source
of cash to confront your foes. Each city can provide three types of units:
military, religious and economic, in either land, sea or air forms. And yes, this means that you get a slew of new parts
and creature tools to make these things. I love these creators! It's exactly the kind of thing
I always dreamed of having as a kid. You can make cars and trucks and boats
and fighter jets and UFOs and freakin' mechs! This is fantastic! And thankfully, you're not pushed to
select certain aesthetic parts over others since most of the parts have no stats tied to them. There are some that will increase strength
in one of the three takeover methods, but picking the best is not
as vital as in previous stages. This is because all you need
to do is just make a lot of 'em, and take whatever you want by force that way. Simply overwhelm the other cities with your units
and watch them fall like dominoes. You can also talk to them and do some diplomacy, but why would you do that when you can
send a Battletech army to do the job. After you do the same thing you do
every night and take over the world, it's time to move on to the
final stage of the game, the Space Stage. And as you might expect,
you get one more creator, which lets you make a spaceship, allowing you to bring all sorts
of geeky vessel fantasies to life. Then you're tossed out into space, boldly going where no Goram frakkin'
nerf herder has gone before. Although, let me touch on this graph for a minute, because it's only at this point
that it becomes pretty vital. After each stage of the game is completed, you're presented with this timeline of how you played. It's divided into three sections, effectively giving you a good,
evil, and neutral path to follow. What you do in the previous stage
carries over into the next, giving you some bonus abilities to play with that are a direct result of your play style. These never really mean too much
until the Space Stage, where the path you end up on
at the end of the Civilization Stage will affect your disposition in space, and provide you with a unique ability. Everything you do up to that point
will determine your species' philosophy, so there's actually a bit of strategy
in determining how you end each stage. You can change your philosophy through
missions in space, if you really want to, though it won't happen until quite a ways in. But anyway, once you're in space, the game really opens up into
something far more complex. Whether on not this is enjoyable
depends on your preferences, of course, but I know that I've spent
way more time in space than any other portion of the game. The goal here is… whatever, man, you know? Just spread your non-functional
wings and explore the universe. There is an end game, of sorts, that has you making your way
to the center of the galaxy, and getting a delightfully absurd cut-scene
straight out of a Douglas Adams novel, but it's not required. Most of the time, you'll just be expanding
the might and influence of your own species by planting colonies on other worlds. And of course… [Male voice]
"The spice must flow…" So each heavenly body features
its own supply of spices, and some of them are more rare or
in demand in depending on where you go. So inevitably, the game takes on a form reminiscent of games like Elite and M.U.L.E., of which the latter is directly
referenced in the trading post music. [8-bit M.U.L.E. theme] Speaking of music, holy crap! I can't believe I haven't mentioned it yet, but the music in Spore is spectacular. It's composed primarily by Brian Eno, who's famous for his ambient soundscapes, which suit the feeling of Spore perfectly. And like so much of the rest of the game, it too is procedurally generated. [ethereal music] Of course, most of the actual
compositions are already pre-recorded, but the arrangements of each
of them are randomly chosen in many areas, and the result is just awesome. I love good ambient soundtracks. The Space Stage in particular
is filled with all sorts of awesome music and sound design, really just sucking me into this
universe and making me feel like I *am* exploring the Final Frontier. With over 500,000 planets orbiting around 100,000 stars, there is no shortage of stuff to see and do. But yeah, I could go on and on
about the Space Stage for ages because this is where the majority
of the game's content lies. You can terraform planets, abduct or destroy alien life forms, make meaningful allies and trade routes, wage interstellar war, seek out and sell rare
artifacts on remote planets, discover black holes and
other astrological anomalies, earn badges and commendations
to level up your spaceship, upgrade yourself with godlike
planet-destroying powers, or just collect and trade spice all day long. You can even track down
Earth in the solar system, which is eerily void of humanity. And if you get the
Galactic Adventures expansion pack, you can even beam down to various
planet surfaces and walk around, carrying out quests and missions
for the local populous. However, the controls and execution
of said missions are clunky at best, and I can't say I had much fun at all
with this when it came out. Now, creating these missions was a ton of fun, and I made a string of complex,
adventure game-style quests to take on, but it's by no means a necessary expansion unless you just really dislike
the rest of the Space Stage, and think that some awkwardly-
handling adventures will help. Yes, there are other games that do
this kind of space role-playing better, but there's something about the level of creativity
that keeps me coming back to Spore every so often. Being able to take control of
significant parts of the galaxy as a penis monster you evolved
from a single-celled organism is nothing short of unique. Even if getting there is a huge chore at times– and it is– it's still an experience that I've
never had with any other game. And people are still buying it
because of things like that, even with all its glaring issues
and DRM-riddled weirdness. Spore never achieved
anywhere near the popularity of The Sims, like EA had hoped, but it still found a lasting community,
due to its unique blend of creative elements and split-genre gameplay. There's no telling how long
the online portions will last, so if you want to give the full experience a go,
I would do that sooner rather than later. But even without the sharing of content, Spore is an undeniably fascinating game. Now that doesn't make it
a great one, but fascinating, and at this point, still utterly unique. Although, anytime I play it,
I still mourn for it's "what ifs" The possibilities of Will Wright's
initial concept for the game, the chance of a "SimEverything" that was
equal parts fun and scientifically sound. Perhaps someday, this
grand concept will be revisited, [fart] and I don't mean in the
form of a Diablo clone, but rather as a game
much closer to its original vision. Until then, we've got Spore. And Spore never changes… [ethereal music] And if you enjoyed this review that went on
for *way* longer than I anticipated, then perhaps would like to see some of my others, which almost never go this long, but this is a special game. I have a weird place for it in my heart,
even though it's HUGELY flawed. I just– I get passionate about this stuff,
so if you like that, then you're on the right channel. You're on the right channel. I've got new videos every Monday and Friday
here at LGR, so subscribe if you would like. There's also Twitter and Facebook to talk
about other things throughout the week, and Patreon, if you'd like to
support the show monetarily, and get some cool perks,
like being able to see videos early. And, as always, I thank you very much for watching.

39 Replies to “LGR – Spore – PC Game Review”

  1. Cristaliana Ivor

    maybe to make it better: merge creature, tribal and civilisation phase, so that everyone evolves with time and not that there are 7 villages… but that everything stays like in the creature phase, but when you evolve you can lead attacks and built your village and evolve it to a city? I think the tribal and civ stages need some more love. and I like the galaxy phase, but to improve it you could make it some star trek like, so basically improve the galactic adventure pack. so you can really go explore other planets and stuff…

  2. LoVeLoVe

    When I saw No Man's Sky being hyped I told people not to get too excited because I remembered Spore and I could already tell how lackluster this game was gonna be from the gameplay footage that was being teased. But I guess a new generation of kids didn't remember Spore and had to experience a let down first hand.

  3. LngVly22

    “unfeasible for educational institutions”? My middle school, when this came out, had an elective class, school sponsored, taught by a paid teacher during the school day, where you played Spore, and nothing else.

    Unfeasible as it may be, it didn’t stop all of them!

  4. Jc Wolfie

    My inner child just had a mini meltdown, I just remember playing the demo game as a child and creating some weird ass creatures

  5. Josh DePaola

    The creature creator and cell stage were actually fun can say anything about the tribal stage and so on cause I quit by that point

  6. Davin Liming

    While I do love this game (I didn't grow up with it, but I still did play it a lot and enjoy it), I love the concept it was originally WAY more. The bloody creature battles, the aquatic phase, the flying creatures, that's what got me REALLY excited– and I didn't even hear about all of that stuff until after I'd already played it. Now, when I play it, I can feel like there's something missing, even though it was never there to begin with.

  7. Techforms' Master

    They should add the missing stuff and replace the complexity meter with one that suggests when to stop adding parts, instead of deadwalling it.

  8. Curly Bug

    personally i LOVE spore even how it is today and i think i love it even more today then back when it was released

  9. Dowon Son

    The game came out way tooo early that even with today's perspective. Just couldn't (and still can't) execute things those were proposed.

  10. Alfie East

    Honestly I enjoyed the creature stage. The tribal stage is real boring though. After the creature stage I just wanna go to the Space stage, I could play that stage for days.

  11. Kokuyous3ki

    The microscopic part was the best. Since then we had Reassembly so I could live out all my topdown powercreep fantasies.

  12. Mike de Graaff

    I remember this game as a huge dissapointment, but your video made me go back to and and have a new appreciation for what it was trying to do.

  13. Mason B

    The reason why we don't like it is not because it's a bad game- we don't like it because it is nothing like what we were promised.

    It wasn't just hype- the developers just gave us something totally different than what the 2005 demo showed, and it wasn't what we were looking for.

  14. Adam Badali

    Before I watch this nothing will spoil my love for spore. I am a spice kingping, I broke the visible amount of money you can have haha. Like 99 999 999 spore bucks or something. But the grox are invincible I say!

  15. Adam Badali

    Before I watch this nothing will spoil my love for spore. I am a spice kingping, I broke the visible amount of money you can have haha. Like 99 999 999 dollars or something. But the grox are invincible i say!

  16. Electric Dreams

    Spore – nice digital toy, terrible game.
    Will Wright is a great digital toy designer and visionary, but he is not a "game" designer. All of his "games" are not really games – they are toys, or sandboxes filled with toys. If Spore stuck to being a "box of toys" rather than trying to be a game with some kind of progression and challenge, it would have been a much much better product. Imagine Spore engine with players/customers being able to design their own games around it… like Minecraft or Roblox… But I guess that would have been an idea way before its time.

    Instead it tries to be both, and because of it it fails miserably on both accounts. A sandbox without enough freedom and a game without story and challenge.

  17. Mariusz

    Hmm nice review, very funny and on point 🙂

    was the line same thing you do every night and take over the world Pinky and the Brain inspired 😀 ?

  18. Bas Peeters

    Going through the mimicking and tribal phase was so tedious, it really plateaued the experience of playing the game for me. This caused me to never see the subsequent phases of the game. The cities, customizable buildings and vehicles, look really cool and I think that I would have really enjoyed those things at the time.

    I simply gave up on a lot of 90's/00's games back in the day because the gameplay and feel would get so arid after a while. Up until a certain point in time I didn't even have any internet access, so reading about tips, strategies and other people's experiences wasn't even a thing. Now being able to see what lied beyond the point of giving up is what I love about watching these game reviews.

    Also, the Spore UI always had a slight Sims-like feel to me. Learning now that Will Wright made this is interesting.

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