I vascillated deep within the labyrinth of ambivalence, seeking wise elders of game reviews and a younger generation of Youtube posters before making my decision.
But eventually (read: the day after release) I broke down and bought the Spore expansion, once again proving that conscientious budgeting is a poor goalie against the onslaught of creative curiosity (a lesson learned many times over upon the release of new RPG books).
I am less than thrilled with EA Games, which is to say that water is less than dry. After forking over enough dough for not one but two legal copies of the Sims 3, one of which is my wife’s collector’s edition, I have been unable to download content into my game. Repeated email questions have met with such tips as “update your video driver” (even though my wife is using the older drivers and doesn’t have the same issue) and “the download you are requesting is on THIS webpage!” I didn’t need a link to the page when I included the link in my question.
Two hours on the phone yielded no results, and the rep there confessed, “I don’t blame you if you’re fantasizing about my death right now.” Tempting.
Upon installing Spore: Galactic Adventures, the Creepy and Cute parks pack once again disappeared from my computer without my consent, and I was forced to do a manual uninstall via registry editing and other annoyances to gain access to hundreds of my own creations. Bravo again, EA programmers. And allow me to eyeroll at protestations of piracy — try making sure the legitimate version of the product works as intended for your paying customers…please?
Okay, technical issues aside, how does GA play?
The quick play mode lets you jump directly into adventures from the main menu. This isn’t very immersive, though, as many have a “locked” captain scripted into the adventure, and don’t let you progress with a captain of your choosing.
Dissatisfied there, I jumped into Space phase, eventually abandoned by all Spore players as very repetetive and dry for a 4X game, to see how GA spices things up. I’m pleasantly pleased by the results.
Rather than sending you on the same four banal missions from before, about 90% of the time, alien empires send me to an “adventure” instead where I beam down and play as my captain complete the adventure.
I won’t deny the gameplay is a little stale, particularly for a new captain without any of the cool gadgets. (I can tell you firsthand that combat sucks when you’re up against ray guns with just claws and teeth. Fortunately just one adventure was enough to put those days behind me.)
The game plays primarily like a three-dimensional watered down diablo. There isn’t much in the way of tactics or strategy to combat…just spam your weapons, and retreat if necessary.
The platformer levels, like races or jumping games or mazes, prove to be far more challenging if occasionally annoying. Some of the adventure games are stale, and some are interesting, depending ultimately on the imagination of the author.
Speaking of authors, an inherant weakness of user-generated content is that I have already found such adventures as “distroy teh geniraters” and “kill the enimy captin”.
For the most part, though, I’m pleased, because already I have encountered a rich variety of adventures, and even the poorly designed (or phrased) adventures give me more in the way of content exploration and fun memories than just flying over a bunch of planets. In one adventure, handing two alien sheep creatures each a 3D number resulted in them adding the sum and giving you the total. Not challenging to play, but interesting to experience. I have also reunited feuding dukes, defended a well from attackers, helped a shepherd run errands so he wouldn’t have to leave his flock, performed as a DJ in a club (after killing two bouncers), climbed a mountain, and destroyed the “geniraters” in just a few short hours of play.
The adventure editor is easy to manipulate, and gives me exactly what I wanted — it makes me feel like an RPG designer. True to my perfectionist nature, though, my own first adventure has been hours in the making and is nowhere close to ready. So far the plot is that the Earth Sprinkles have made a mistake practicing bad magic and awoken (or created) a giant evil beast. The Water Sprinkles will appeal to your captain to save the day, not just by destroying the villain, but by rallying them to aid, and eventually convincing the Earth Sprinkles of the error of their ways.
The really cool thing is learning new ways to combine story elements by playing other adventures. And you can even open them in the adventure editor to see how the effect was accomplished.
So what sucks about GA?
It’s overly simplistic. The amount of weapons and powers may appeal to younger gamers in droves, but for anyone who’s played an MMO, there are astoundingly few choices of weaponry.
Also, Maxis has once again opted for cuteness-at-all-costs in Spore…speaking to an NPC makes you face them directly in letterbox form as they gesticulate their mood to you, and your own captain does an annoying dance upon the completion of each adventure. It’s hard to picture yourself as an alien Captain Kirk or a Klingon hardass when your beloved creation is shaking his rump to cheesy music.
But when all is said and done, my biggest annoyance with GA is that more of my friends don’t have it, and I can’t share my created adventures with them.
Maybe when Spore meets D&D my wildest dreams will finally be realized.