By Yuriy Nikshych, Edited by Neil Schneider
SPORE General Game Review
MAXIS, now part of Electronic Arts, has released a great and long awaited title that gamers have been speculating and discussing for ages now- that something is SPORE.
What is SPORE? Well, you start off as just that – a spore. You begin as a cuddly looking amoeba that floats around somewhere deep in the proverbial bio goo. You are a simple organism and are small even around your competing bacterial peers. At most, you represent a very early form of DNA…and then your fun evolution begins.
It’s all about customization, customization, and more customization. Without giving too much away, you get to “model” your bacterial beginnings. Depending on how you want to survive, you can add flipper propeller thingies that allow you to swim faster through the goo, you can adjust your coloring, shape, and more or less everything until you have become the ultimate form of insignificance!
Once formed, you begin your rampaging quest to eat either meat or vegetables, until you grow all big and puffy. The more you eat, the more “DNA points” you earn that you can spend on enhancements. Yes, it’s unrealistic, but sacrifices had to be made not to make this game into some complicated evolution simulator. Instead, this is something everyone can enjoy.
As you gobble and become bigger and more complex, carefully avoiding or eating all the competing life, you gradually begin to see the world take shape beyond the goo. Before you know it, you’ve evolved into a fish and can eventually walk on dry land!
As your character evolves, so does the complexity of the game. With your first trip on land, you enter the creature stage, and must earn your DNA points by either eating the fellow inhabitants, or strengthening your diplomatic skills of dance, song, and pose to join forces. You will either make sworn enemies, or earn enough respect to have other inhabitants join your party.
As you evolve, your brain and stature grows, until you have become the epitome of species evolution, and can form a native tribe.
This is a fun stage. Similar to the creature stage, you can either be a diplomat or a carnivorous tyrant. You can either impress the neighboring villages with special dances and horns, or you can acquire weapons and burn their villages to the ground. In either case, you earn points to bring your technology further.
Spore is filled with unspoken humor, and it really shines in the tribe stage. When your tribe hunts animals and brings back plates with meat, you can hear everyone talking like the Swedish Chef on the Muppet Show. When your tribe is dancing around a fire, instead of hearing stereotypical native songs, you hear Mexican Fiesta. It’s the surprising details that make the game a lot of fun.
Once you are technologically evolved enough, you form a civilized city. Similar to villages, you have to either destroy them or befriend them – except this time you have tanks, boats, planes, and other modern warfare add-ons.
Before you know it, you are exploring space and hovering over primitive worlds and seeing all the wildlife and tribes scatter as you yourself once did.
Through all the stages of the game, everything can be custom designed right down to the shapes and sizes of vehicles, buildings, and dress code! Be warned – everything is super cute in this game. Even when you are trying to make things look nasty, they end up looking cute.
It appears that MAXIS tried as hard as possible to give you as much control and ability to create new and amazing creatures and buildings without making the game counter intuitive. In fact, this is one of the very few and select groups of games that both adults and kids can actually enjoy together – and contrary to what the marketing machine has been telling us, games like this are few and far between.
Don’t get me wrong- this game is not meant just for kids by a long shot. I really like how, while at the same time simple, SPORE has a complex philosophical idea behind it – that humans are actually not that unique, and that life is random and we are all very small and insignificant in this big’ol place we call the universe.
One thing that did strike me as a little odd was that the species you compete with in each stage are different. It would have been nice to witness single sets of species evolve alongside yourself, but in no way is this a deal-breaker for this game.
Now the big question! How does SPORE perform in stereoscopic 3D?
My personal system specs include:
Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600
NVIDIA 8600GTS 256MB
Since my GPU is old, I had to turn the resolution down to 800X600 to get SPORE running smoothly in S-3D mode. Despite the low resolution, it still looks spectacular and does have the hidden advantage of making the interface comfortably large. If you have an NVIDIA 8800 series or AMD 3870 series or better, this will not be an issue and you can play at high settings in 1680X1050 resolution mode.
This game rocks in stereoscopic 3D! I have tested it out with the iZ3D 1.09 release drivers, and it is amazing – simply amazing.
Like a giant 22’ pitri dish, right from the amoeba stage you get to see the fish tank effect of bubbles and goo going back into the screen. Although as you become bigger and your size changes, I occasionally had to readjust the stereo settings to get the effect just right.
When you become a land-born creature, things just get even more impressive and I think the game looks at its best in S-3D mode. It works because you have a detailed volumetric creature in front of you and you run around exploring the big and strange jungle. Even when you interact with the other bizarre creatures, they are all so, well, stereoscopic!
The only noticeable flaw in the creature stage is with objects in the far distance. There is a radius of stereoscopic 3D effectiveness, and when trees and terrain are too far distant, they are rendered in 2D, and only become S-3D once they are close enough. I am hopeful a future driver revision can correct this.
In the later Tribe and Civilization stages, as you build your city and the game becomes an S-3D mini strategy game, everything is perfect except for some slight culling on the sides of the terrain.
The final space stage works in S-3D too, but it wasn’t as impressive as the other levels. I think the biggest problems are inconsistent camera angles caused by zooming in and out. The stage works and S-3D is beneficial – it’s just not as visually interesting as the other parts of the game.
The available 177.83 stereoscopic 3D beta drivers are not yet compatible with this title. However, we will revisit NVIDIA’s compatibility with SPORE when their official driver release is out – most likely in tandem with their upcoming NVIDIA 3D glasses. According to NVIDIA’s press material, SPORE was on their demonstration list, so we have high hopes for this game when their updated drivers are released.
Is SPORE worth your money? Yes, yes, and yes! Will it keep you entertained? Yes, it certainly will!
It’s a fast run through the stages – just a few days for casual gamers and possibly a single sitting for the more experienced players. I think this is a good thing because it prevents the game from becoming long and tedious, and is instead focused on providing a more cinematic experience.
Stereoscopically, SPORE works nearly flawlessly in most of the stages using the iZ3D LLC 1.09 release drivers, and I think it will appeal to most demographics.
In summary, SPORE is a great game that will leave you with something to ponder and talk about once finished.
How Memorable Is This Game
Stereoscopic Effectiveness iZ3D
Stereoscopic Effectiveness NVIDIA
iZ3D Overall Rating:
NVIDIA Overall Rating: