Spore needed this. When the species you designed in the original game finally took to space, it found a frighteningly huge galaxy, but one without much real variety. The chunky planets and demented species were visually distinct but functionally equivalent. The idea that in Spore: Galactic Adventures, these planets could host little player-crafted adventures for you to beam down to and complete was perfect: different stuff to do with the different stuff to look at.
Unfortunately though, Galactic Adventures fails honkingly on every level. The manual claims you’ll encounter player-made missions in the Space phase, but this never happened to us. Every one of the dozens we played were Maxis-made. These missions are few, short and bad. Player-made adventures are confined to the Sporepedia browser – which is still malfunctioning, awkward and slow. Thousands of missions have been made at the time of writing, but even the most popular are glitchy, ugly and dull.
Creating your own mission is the closest Adventures gets to fun. You can edit a whole planet, placing creatures, buildings and vehicles as you like, adding script objectives just by dragging them into the world. Kill this, collect that, give one of those to them. But it’s crippled in two ways. Firstly, you can’t create ‘if’ conditions, so players have no choice. They just have to do everything you tell them to, every time.
Secondly, there’s a level-up system for your captain. That's a good thing: you earn new weapons and gadgets by completing missions, making you better in combat or letting you fly, sneak or socialise even if your species can’t. But because mission designers have no idea which of these abilities and weapons your captain has, they must either make missions that don’t require them or missions that most players can’t complete. Sadly, most have gone for the latter.
It’s never wise to underestimate Spore players, of course – remarkable missions will be made. But Galactic Adventures seems to be doing its best to cripple their creativity, exile their work to a ghetto of the sluggish Sporepedia, and saddle them with design challenges even Will Wright would struggle to overcome.
If Spore’s combat had been fun, or its social minigame interesting, it might have been worth wrestling past these claustrophobic limitations, or waiting for the community to do so. As it is, there’s still some entertainment in designing a cool planet, filling it with your favourite creatures and scripting a simple journey. But if a game’s going to cost more that bargain-bin price and take three sodding minutes to start up, it needs to offer much more than that.
Jul 22, 2009