After a long silence around Spore, EA has boosted publicity again through a sneak preview event in London in February. The Spore Zone was invited and checked out the game in its current state. Besides getting a demo from producer Thomas "Evil Dr." Vu we also got some time to get our own hands on what's probably the most anticipated game in the industry of 2008. So without further ado, here is our exclusive preview of Spore.
A Spore Sneak Peak
If you've read more about the game, you'll know that it has five phases to go through. You start from the smallest possible creature in a tide pool. After bits and pieces of evolution you and some others of your kind land on shore, which puts you in the creature phase. Once your numbers have increased, you can form a small tribe - just like other groups will form similar tribes. Join forces and build cities in the civilization stage, until you have conquered the entire planet. That will prepare you for the final stage: lord of the stars and beyond.
You can start a game in any of the five phases. In the main screen you'll see a galaxy in which the existing games (planets) are highlighted. Hovering over the middle will give you the option to enter all available editors, and one special highlighted planet lets you start a new game. This will let you pick a creature from Sporepedia, which we'll discuss later, and start the game on the planet.
The first and most basic stage of the game is very much like pacman. You start off in a tide pool as one of the tiniest possible creatures, coming from a meteorite from space (as shown in the current placeholder cinematic, something the game is full of). You quickly go through evolution, because as you eat you get DNA points. Gain enough, and you can edit your creature a bit spending those DNA points. You can add things to your creature's body which will give you more speed, better offensive or defensive skills, et cetera. Your creature will also grow between those stages, and as you grow you also sink to the lower parts of the ocean. The blurry background - this stage is in top-down view - shows where you'll go next, including the bigger creatures below. During all stages within the cell phase you have to eat smaller creatures around you. As said, there are also plenty of bigger ones who will do the same and attack you. If you die however, it's not game over. You'll just start again at the start of the stage and you can just try again. Swimming and eating is done simply by clicking with the mouse around the screen.
Once you've completed the first and most simple phase of the game, things start getting more advanced. You get to edit your real creature for the first time - after which it'll walk on shore, again shown with cinematics. During the creature phase you'll find more creatures like you, but also others. You can either be friendly with those others, or pick a fight. As for your own species, you should try to reproduce by singing and calling others. Similar to the Cell phase, you'll need to gather DNA points to be able to edit your creature several times. You gain DNA points by completing goals. You can unlock new parts (which cost DNA points in the editor) by picking up skeletons which are found around the world. Around the world you may notice that other creatures evolve while others don't. Some may also be larger than others - other species can basically appear in any size, making them dangerous or just cute.
After a while a few of your species will have gathered and started a tribe together. The first buildings will also appear in this stage. The buildings can only be placed at preset places, so you're not free to put them anywhere you like. The buildings can give you tools and weapons which your creature can use in the world. You need to find other tribes of the same species as yours and ally with them. Other creatures are also around, and may attack other tribes or even yours. You can also try to become friends with them, again giving you the choice of becoming the nice creature-lover or an evil dictator setting the world to his hand. But before it's that far, you head into the next stage.
In the civilization phase your creature's tribe has expanded and a city will be yours to control. Although the tribe phase, during which you had only about 5 creatures under your control, required a lot of micromanagement, this next step in evolution gives you more global control. It's pretty much like a strategy game now, and using the new vehicles in your posession it's up to you to take control of the planet your creature lives on. You can choose to be diplomatic and set up trade routes and play the game economically. If you feel more like being evil, go for the military route and just attack any other creatures and cities on the planet. More or less in between is the religious way to take over, which probably requires lots of persuasion and convincing other creatures to follow you.
Every phase until now is a preparation for what is to come. The space phase is not. It's the final phase of the game, and this is when the sandbox game opens up. You can now build UFOs, although you won't be able to travel through the galaxy straight away yet. As you make progress in the game, you will also be able to zoom out further and fly larger distances. You can abduct other creatures and drop them on strange planets, or terraform new planets to make them livable. There you can create new settlements, or just blow up all those planets as you fly by. The choice is all yours.