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DRM is worse than you think.
on 12 September 2008
If you buy spore you'll probably be tempted to take it back to the shop after a couple of hours play. I know it can be tempting to see what it's like, so find a friend who has it and try it out. Whatever you do, don't spend your money.
First, the DRM aspect:
If you're thinking: "Why is everyone annoyed at the DRM thing? I only install games once or twice anyway."
That is exactly what EA want you to think.
The install limit is not just deducted every time you reinstall the game, there are many other factors such as windows or hardware updates which will result in your limit reducing. Say you or a parent upgrades your PC or reset windows, you will be losing install numbers without even noticing. If the game is having problems and you need to reinstall, EA says that's your fault, and it will cost you. If you install the game on your laptop and PC, that will cost you too.
"So what's the problem, if I reach my limit I'll just phone up EA?"
Heh, the last word is definitely the one to emphasize. Many have already reported having to wait days to get more points on their limit, some are simply denied. You will need to take time (and money, yes you pay for the call per minute) out of your day to beg EA to let you continue playing YOUR game. You will need to apologize to EA for installing YOUR game that YOU paid for with YOUR money too many times. Exceeding the installation limit is seen as an error on your part and EA aren't pleased they're having to waste their time fixing your game so you can play more. Thus, they charge you whilst you call.
That call centre won't be around forever, in a few years time you won't own the game, you'll just have a useless CD and case, you're effectively renting the game for full price.
If you don't protest, this will become the industry standard.
It doesn't matter what you're thinking at this stage.
You CANNOT let EA get away with this.
For those of you interested in the actual game:
I guarantee, this part was written with all DRM thoughts out of my head.
Without a doubt some of the worst gameplay ever.
Imagine with this concept how amazing a game like this could be, then scrap it and replace it with some mini and incredibly limited design program which lets you attach horns to your creature, the result will be similar to Spore. In other words, the game is a prime example of something that "lowers the bar".
The idea of being able to evolve your own creature is incredibly tempting and Spore had the potential to be a ground breaking innovative game. The problem? It's unbelievably basic and oh so simple you'll feel a desperate urge to do something more productive with your time. Unfortunately in this case, despite the gameplay being incredibly basic it's also very tedious and you'll be doing the same thing over and over again.
That's the first real problem with the game, a 6 year old wouldn't struggle. The other problem is the stages.
The creator of the Maxis games responded to critical reviews with: "I've all kinds of people say they hate different stages, there's no consistent criticism."
Yes it's true, some stages are far better than others, but it's the staging of the game that ruins it, I'm amazed the developers didn't realise this. The game would've been far better if it had run consistently (i.e. you build a city on your planet, then have all that city and the ability to operate it whilst you're exploring space) but sadly this is not the case. There are 5 stages, whenever one starts, only your creature data is passed over (which isn't much, just the visual appearance really) and nothing else. Once you've finished the stage, there is very little point continuing as you will have maxed out most things. The huge flaw is due to the fact the game is simply split into these 5 stages, thus effectively making 5 "mini games", not one of these games is worth the money you're paying for the game, and so it's never actually all that fun.
The first "Water" stage is one of the best, which is incredibly worrying since it's a very simple 2D minigame of a fish swimming around collecting food and DNA points. This is the one point in the game where the evolution idea actually works, its well implemented (adding spikes to the right parts makes a difference), and it's actually fun. It lasts about 15 minutes and you'll soon be excited about developing your creature further.
That all changes with the second "Creature" stage, your creature has evolved legs and can now walk on land. The planet looks incredibly dull and you won't be looking at anything whilst moving around as there's nothing to grasp your eye. Your objectives for this stage are to kill or make friends with other species, and change your appearance and skills. Once again, it's incredibly basic and any form of combat involves constantly clicking a button or two. If you've ever played an MMORPG, it is very much like an offline version. That's right, the tasks are all "Kill X amount of Y, go back, do it again". The result is something dull, tedious, effortless, pointless and it's at this point where you'll be planning your journey back to the video game store. In fact I still find it insane they've taken one of the major flaws with MMOs (grinding) and topped it off by putting it in an offline game...
The next "Tribe" stage is the icing on the cake. Your creature is now fully developed and you can't change it's appearance or features anymore, that part of the game is completely over and it never was put to much use anyway. The whole concept of Spore is over in a couple of hours, of which included about 15 minutes of fun. The stage itself is practically laughable, you'll be fighting other tribes in one of the worst attempts at an RTS (real-time-strategy) of all time. You'll be doing very little and end up leaving your computer on, hoping that it eventually completes to the next stage itself. Here I have to mention something about the advertising and hype of the game, here is a quote from the game author on this stage:
"A lot of people don't realize that there are actually some simple strategies for gathering food in Tribe. You can steal it from other tribes. You can domesticate wild animals and they'll come live with you. You don't have to hunt other creatures; you can domesticate them. If you manage to domesticate a really strong creature and he's sitting in your pen behind your hut, he'll actually help defend your tribe as well."
Sounds interesting huh, all those possibilities... Well guess what. All those activities are done with more or less 1 or 2 clicks of the mouse in Spore, and they are down-right pointless. This is the problem. There is no real multi-tasking involved and very little to actually do. You're always following a strict path which is very dull and tedious, if you take alternate routes, they are pointless and not worth taking. This is what annoys me, the way the game is talked about and hyped by the developers and some reviewers which could only have been bribed or played the first stage only. The game is actually incredibly cheap and takes huge amounts of short cuts in order to give the player something to do.
The gameplay in areas is just absolutely awful, it's as if it wasn't planned at all. It's not entertaining to just sit there clicking the same two buttons for 2 hours.
I won't go into the last 2 stages, but I will admit that they are slightly better. There is more effort put into them and they do at least have a reasonable amount of gameplay. However, this is instantly countered by the fact you may aswell go buy another game similar to the genre of that stage and it will be a great deal better. The game does not flow very well between phases, and thus the programming behind Spore is reasonably basic with no clever outcomes.
In fact, the game really shouldn't have taken long to make at all. Most likely so much time was spent on each and every stage, it stopped the game from really excelling anywhere. The game does a good job at making the creatures "cute", but that won't blind many people of how empty it actually is.
This review is long I'm aware, but I'm really hoping I got the point across. Do not buy this game, if you are tempted to try it then find alternative methods such as playing with a friend.
Spore is a massive dissapointment and is quite frankly, a pathetic attempt at what could've easily been a ground breaking game, had they put in the effort and planning.