Recently I started re-discovering games that I always wanted to play, but never got around to it. Spore is one of them, and I am tracking my first experiences with the game for fun – read Part I, Part II and Part III.
Hooray, the Prine made it to civilization, and so have the Carax. Depending on your conduct during the Tribal Stage, your creatures either develop a religious, military or economic alignment. As you may have guessed, the Prine immediately founded a thriving theocracy while the Carax pretty much decided to collectively nuke the planet. I’m guessing the insect race, being on the omnivorous middle-ground, might turn out to be the economic geeks.
I am a little disappointed, of course, that there seems to be no alternative to the religious dogma thing. Can’t I impress other cultures with enlightened humanism? Oh well. Okay, so let’s start building this town… oh wait, I have to design a building first, hey, that’s cool!
….SEVERAL HOURS LATER
Holy mother of creativity, I need a break. I never thought I would say this, but I am so beyond out of ideas. I created a city hall with turrets and banners, a religious vehicle with as many musical instruments as I could possible glue on it, a factory with spinny things, a house, an entertainment tower with TVs and confetti…
In the beginning, I was having lots of fun with the different colours and textures – SO many textures – and the different building styles. There is so much room for craziness in this game, it’s baffling. And at some point, sadly, it gets tiresome. After creating a house, I kind of hoped that would be the “blueprint” for all the other buildings, but that wasn’t the case.
But… this is awesome, I kept telling myself! I tried to motivate myself to really put some effort into making these buildings and vehicles. But somehow, I couldn’t: I wanted to get going with the “civilization” part of the game! Only to realise that in the actual game, the quality of my buildings and vehicles was rather low, and for strategic reasons I didn’t really want to spend all my playing time in full-zoom-mode to oggle my town.
Hey, wait a minute – wasn’t this what I had been doing all through the Creature and even in the Tribal Stage? Oh yeah, this brings me to my second point of interest in this stage. Everything is kind of… less pretty.
Yes, the ground was the same textureless brown all the time, but somehow it bugs me more now that I see it from on high. I spent all this time designing buildings and vehicles, only to completely ignore their look now and focus on the strategic menu instead. Honestly, when I looked through the screenshots, I thought my monitor’s brightness was set too low, but everything actually looks this dark and muddy in the game. This planet used to be bursting with colour! Heck, my buildings and rovers should stick out like peacocks, and yet… murkiness abound. And that’s not just my town. The opponents’ towns looked waaay uglier.
Just look at my fleet as I threw them together – and yes, I stopped caring after a while and just stapled things onto other things:
Look at them! Aren’t they colourful and quirky? Well, too bad I didn’t see much of that once I used them in game. This also sucked because you can spend so much time making these (if you’re like me). I mean, it is not enough that you design religious land, air and water vehicles, but you’ve got to do the same thing again if you want additional military and economic ‘troops’, since all of them have their special function stuff stuck on them.
Sure, I didn’t have to do that – I could have just stuck with my missionary fleet and not bother about the other ways to conquer – but naturally I wanted to see how everything worked. After I got the hang of everything I kind of ended up just sticking with ‘missionary work’ though.
Speaking of which, getting an idea of what the heck I was doing became, again, part of the fun. But in the end, this part of Spore played as shallow as the Tribal Stage, with pretty much the same mechanics and no strategic value in it whatsoever.
Building a city feels like a crossover between Black & White 2 and the Battle for Middle-earth games, with its pre-set building spaces. Knowing the former sure helped to understand the “happiness” system in my cities immediately – not that it was that mind-boggling. Entertainment means happy citizens! Factories make money, but nobody likes factories! This is the amount of strategic thinking required.
Making money, or “sporebucks”, is also a piece of cake. You can harvest spices from those funky geysers you’ve seen in the Creature Phase, but sadly there are no other resources than that. You do not even have to build “collection” vehicles; the spice is collected automatically and converted into income.
Additionally, I built two or three factories in my capital, tops. Sometimes my people were so happy they celebrated, which increased productivity (reminiscient of the Civilization games). You can invade your first city pretty quickly, which makes you more money as well. In practically no time at all, I was rich. Okay, maybe by now it has become clear to me that that may have been my fault – when I chose the difficulty “easy”.
All in all, this stage progressed even faster than the Tribal Stage. In fact, I even got an achievement for making it in under one hour. I guess that didn’t count the eons I spent designing stuff. (I’m a perfectionist in these things.)
So the deal in this stage is straightforward. You make a bunch of vehicles – first on land, later on water, finally in the air – and move them all to one of the opponent cities. If you open a trade route with them via your economic vehicles, you can just buy the town to conquer it. It should be obvious what the military vehicles do. Now the religious takeover, that’s where it gets interesting!
When the first attack was leveled at my city, I briefly wondered how my fleet of bandwagons would handle it. I mean, I don’t even have axes or sticks anymore; I got nothing, right?
In Spore, you can attack your opponents with the POWER OF SONG. Wow. Did I accidentally drop into Final Fantasy X-2? Okay, no, actually, this is pretty funny. This looks like something on the Care Bears! Screw your conventional bombs, my friends, I’ve got the power of LOVE, oh yeeeah!
What’s even more astounding is that you can actually conquer cities this way! Once more, where the underlying gameplay of Spore fails to impress, the animations and little gimmicks are what makes it fun to play after all:
Yes, I am projecting a GIANT FUCKING hologram of my weird-looking shaman (I guess) to overwhelm the people of this city with my awesomeness. The more unhappy they are, the easier this is for me. I mean, look at their ugly blob of a city hall. Piece of cake.
Okay, so this made me giggle for a long time, actually. I cannot get over how cool this idea is. Although I still have trouble buying my tribe’s instant transformation from sticks and stones to viral media.
So there you have it. I spent my short time of basic, shallow civilization roaming the planet, which still looks cool, revolving in space and all. By the way, I came across some less developed buddies of mine along the way! A village of Prine, still in the Tribal Stage – let’s drive over there and look at their huts….wait… why are there red arrows around…. No! No, don’t run them over no please, aaah, no, I come in PEACE, ohgod, now they’re running and screaming, no, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to, I swear…
Umm, let’s quickly move onto the Space Stage and be done with it, shall we?