We purchased our copies of spore and jumped in. Except, we didn't. EA's servers were having quite some issues at the time but thanks to their error messages it seemed like it would not accept our Serial Numbers instead.
So I angrily started phoning EA Support and they simply told me their servers were down. First day, servers down, good start. But at least you can play offline so we did.
Cell Stage is quite possibly THE most playable aspect of spore. It's a bit like pacman on crack and insanely fun to boot. I actually enjoyed this quite a bit but eventually I proceeded to creature stage.
One thing the game doesn't do too well is explain how you do things. I eventually twigged how to make friends with creatures. My girlfriend on the other hand was getting frustrated at how she would constantly get killed (as she was a carnivore and needed to attack things) which makes me wonder just how well balanced the game is even from this early stage.
But I proceeded and the creature stage overall was quite good.
Next is the tribal stage. Tribal stage is a bit like an RTS, Think The Settlers or Age of Empires except it's dumbed down. Lots.
It did not last nearly long enough, and it's far too simplistic to pass off as a proper RTS. The gameplay here was a little shallow, but it was acceptable. Next up: Civ stage.
They shouldn't have even bothered with this. Not only did the leap from Tribal to Civ stage feel totally unnatural but civ stage is completely pointless. Once you figure out that there is no strategy for winning other than making as many units as you can and bombing them then you're sure as hell going to get through it quick.
The gameplay in Civ stage is totally and utterly shallow and ultimately totally pointless. It seems like the most rushed aspect of the game.
Finally, space stage. The bit I've been waiting for. What a shame it turned out to be a huge (literally) dissapointment.
Space stage is quite possibly the most frustrating aspect of the game, according to Will Wrights preview videos kicking around the web he designed it so that spore would be very directed at the start, and by the end you can do as you want.
So I launched into space stage thinking, great now I can explore at my own rate. How wrong I was.
Every 2 minutes you get a DISASTER. This is akin to having a tornado rip through your city every two minutes. I can't help but feel that the morons at Electronic Arts have stepped in and gone "people will be bored at space stage, give them something to do every 2 mins".
Nothing is more annoying than trying to explore the galaxy and then having to rush back home just to stop some stupid creature from dying out on your home planet, or fending off an infinite supply of space pirates.
This makes the game virtually unplayable as you feel like you're just defending non-stop and have no time to actually play the game. This is either a bug, or someone at EA needs a very huge slap in the face.
If this isn't enough to make you throw your game away in sheer frustration there's more to come. Once you've figured out what disasters you can safely IGNORE and just carry on anyway you actually start getting places. I started taking out an enemy that owns a 'rather large' amount of territory (not saying who or it will spoiler for the rest!) and eventually got stuck. Not because I can't handle an army that is 10,000,000 times bigger than my own but because there's actually stars in the galaxy that you CANNOT reach, and the enemy happens to have taken over such planets (cheaters).
Speaking of size: your fleet is YOU plus 5 weaklings you can pick up on the way. The enemy seems to be allowed to take on upto 50 ships in a battle. Seems fair no?
Overall, space stage feels either unfinished, buggy, poorly designed or a combination of all of the above.
Besides my own personal experiences, one only has to read the Electronic Arts forums to encounter a massive flood of people who have all kinds of other issues. The game crashing frequently is a common one (happens to me too, I must save often). Others are less fortuanate and crash WHEN they save.
Some people can't even run the game. Spore told me that my hardware was 'out of date'. This is hilarious because it's a 3 GHz Quad Core with a Radeon X1950 Pro. I don't see how this is 'old' hardware.
And even if you're lucky enough to run the game with the hardware you have, you're in for a bigger treat with EA's ridiculous DRM system where you can't install the game more than 3 times.
Yep that's right. Need to wipe the computer? That's another install gone. So in effect you're renting your game rather than buying it. Top job EA.
Overall I am impressed only by one aspect of spore: the creature creator. The procedural animation is a work of genius, but this is not enough to make a game, a game needs GAMEPLAY, and except for the first few stages of the game spore lacks any kind of fun gameplay and instead feels more like a punishment.
If you want the best value for money. Get the creature creator only. It's like £3, contains most of the best bits of spore and doesn't have DRM issues. Brilliant.
One of the most eagerly hyped games of the year, ruined by the dark empire that is EA. If they listen to their customers and fix all the glaring issues it'll be a miracle, but the damage is already done and spore will go down as another game that could have been awesome but turned out to be crippled by the publisher giant.
What a shame.