Spore: Galactic Adventures PC, Mac
Hey! Remember Spore? It’s better known as What Will Wright Did After The Sims, it was meant to be the second coming, and it turned out to be… um, pretty good, I guess. A classic victim of its own hype, Spore could never really have delivered on all its promises, and what we ended up with was a load of really interesting ideas stuck to a series of rubbish, scaled-down versions of other video games. A shame, then, if not a completely unenjoyable one. And now we’ve got the first proper expansion pack for it (or the second if you count the Creepy and Cute pack – we’re not sure you should, though). So, what’s it about?
Spore: Galactic Adventures is designed to bolt on seamlessly to the main game’s final – and most interesting – stage, where you’re whizzing around the galaxy, colonising planets and waging war against other races. One of the main drawbacks of this stage was that you were forever confined to your spaceship, unable to actually set foot on the hundreds of planets you discovered. So it’s pretty nifty, then, that Galactic Adventures allows you to create a space captain and have him beam down to the planets, carrying out missions and unlocking a bunch of new equipment along the way. You can’t just beam down on every planet you come across, of course – you generally take missions from other alien races in an attempt to make them hate you a little less, and they’ll tell you where to go and what to do. Easy.
The first thing you’ll notice upon attempting your first mission, though, is that it uses the rubbish MMO-esque controls from the game’s ‘creature’ stage. They’re unresponsive and imprecise, which wasn’t too big an issue in the creature stage, but it becomes a real problem when you’re a space captain trying to fight off about five different enemy monsters at once. The fact that they haven’t been tightened up in any way is a real missed opportunity, never mind the fact that it’s easy for your intrepid space captain to get stuck on bits of scenery.
The adventures themselves are surprisingly varied, thanks in no small part to the fact that they’re treated in the same way as most of the objects in Spore – they can be created by other users and shared over the internet, then shoved into your game at random. Sounds great, doesn’t it? At least, it does up until the point where you accept a mission that appears to have been made by an illiterate 12 year-old who couldn’t think of anything more interesting than building a giant bloody maze with a few monsters in it. And don’t get me started on the ‘adventures’ people have made that simply involve you hitting a highly-armoured treasure chest for ten minutes, designed purely so people can grind their experience points up. There is a voting system where people can give a simple ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ rating for each adventure they play, with these ratings being displayed in the Sporepedia. Still, it’s not really enough – a self-moderating community sounds like a great idea in theory, but when the people doing the rating are the same idiots producing the crap adventures in the first place, it doesn’t really work. Mind you, I can’t really criticise – I only made one adventure, and it was called Race to Bum Mountain.
There are some really good adventures among the ones made by the chaps at Maxis, though – not just combat-focused missions, but a fair few genuinely amusing adventures that really show off what the adventure creation tools are capable of. One adventure sees your captain starring in his own Wild West flick, except everything quickly goes wrong and you wind up killing the director for ruining everything. Then your little space captain does a funny little celebratory dance, and you beam back off into space. Victory!
It goes without saying that you’re probably only going to get your money’s worth out of Galactic Adventures if you’re keen to get your teeth into the adventure creator, doubly so if you’ve got friends who feel the same way. It provides a whole host of tools that let you create your own multi-stage adventure, complete with dialogue, multiple objectives, a rudimentary control over each character’s AI, and the ability to build the planet your adventure is set on from the ground up. It’s a really impressive toolset that, if anything, risks being too complicated for its audience. But this complexity only rewards those who are actually willing to get to grips with it, and it means a more varied set of experiences for those too lazy to build their own adventures.
On the whole, Galactic Adventures is a good bit of fun, let down by naff controls and the fact that 95% of the people producing content for it are total morons. It’s certainly a more interesting expansion than, say, anything that’s ever been released for The Sims. Just be certain that you’re willing to get creative if you really want your money’s worth.