Spore: The First Reviews (UPDATED)

Apparently the official online embargo starts lifting tomorrow, but a bunch of print scores have already found their way into the realms of webby-land. Most notably, CVG have just posted a slightly bizarre summary of Tom Francis’ print review in PC Gamer UK, which is possibly a cheeky attempt to get a march on tomorrow’s online reviews. The lad scored Will Wright’s new’un a whopping 91%, but delivered a few sharp punches to Spore’s ribs. For the whole review you’ll need to read the mag, but what are, purportedly, the most pertinent comments can be found here.

On the other side of the coin, VG247 is reporting less favourable scores from a couple of German gaming mags.: 79% from Gamestar, and 73% from PC Games. Hmm. Looks like it’s silly season for huge score discrepancies, eh?

Update – Looks like those German mags are in the minority. There are ten reviews in the wild now, most of which are 8s and 9s. This one seems especially trustworthy, for some mysterious reason.


  1. Butler` says:

    I’m expecting a Metacritic rating of around the 89 mark.

    It’s got an awful lot to live up to in the eyes of journalists, and to a much lesser extent for Joe public.

    Not that review scores are particularly relevant for Spore, it’s going to sell like hot cakes and do very well anyway.

    edit: engrish

  2. Chandrose says:

    Kind of expected to be disappointed with this one, it was a large piece to bite off for the devs, but I’m still hoping for the best.

  3. Mike says:

    You’ll be disappointed by the overall product, I think, but not by sharing things with friends. Or the dragons in top hats.

  4. Chris R says:

    Is it weird that I’m not interested in Spore at all? I think I’m confused by the game. None of the different.. “periods?” seem compelling to me. Anyone else feel this way?

  5. Tellurian says:

    Jeez, those two…
    Ever since they heralded Unreal 2 the second coming of (no not Unreal) the FPS, throwing high 90s score about for it I’ve lost what little respect I got left in me for those. There’s not really a German gaming mag worth the money. Maybe GEE, if you can stomach the artsy stuff. Sadly I couldn’t find a store here which sells Edge or another one of the pretty neat British mags.
    The funny thing is, I do tend to pick on reviewers giving games “too high” scores, but now I’m nagging about those two… Yeah. Kinda shizo I guess… o_ô
    Anyway, the comment is right though. Spore does have to live to an INCREDIBLE amount of hype… So it’s bound to disappoint one or the other. I’m really interested in what kind of score Eurogamer will give them, as – at least to me – they tend to be a bit unpredictable.

  6. onkellou says:

    Not trying to dishearten anyone here, but I bought it yesterday (bit of an early stealth release here in Germany), and while I have just so reached the space stage, I am not overly impressed what was before. I really recommend waiting for a few more reviews for everyone who isn’t entirely sure about it anyhow.

    It’s all rather hilarious and charming, but while I wasn’t even expecting that much, I still was shocked just how shallow, formulaic and disjointed it all feels, and ultimately rather tedious. I don’t think I will have the desire to play any of the first stages again anytime soon.

    Space Stage looks like there’s a bit more to it, but you’re rather detached from your creature.

  7. Alex McLarty says:

    I can’t get a version for the Mac to review because EA are busy.

    Woe for me!

  8. Tom Francis says:

    My whole review was up for a while, some people commented on it, then it turned into a summary of its former self. I think it’s supposed to go up at the same time as everyone’s.

    IGN’s review, 92%:

    link to uk.pc.ign.com

  9. Ginger Yellow says:

    What’s the deal with PC Gamer UK and CVG? They used to be on Games Radar, didn’t they? Is this a Future thing, or just PCG?

    Anyway, you should read Tom’s review. He’s very critical about the game’s shortcomings, but says the experience of encountering people’s amazing and well-crafted creations outweighs them. You may not agree (I’ve been worried about that tension for a long while myself), but there’s much more to the review than the score. You should also read his GalCiv book, which is hilarious.

  10. James G says:

    Hmm, I’ve been enormously sceptical about spore from the start, and strangely the 91% review in PCG didn’t to much to kindle my interest. (It was possibly the most negative 91% review I’ve ever read) It feels like a few interesting ideas, tied around a central premise, but without any backbone to form a truly strong game. I can’t help but think that it’ll tire quickly.

    Still, I’m happy to be proved wrong, but I think I might be holding off on this one for a month or so, to let all the reviews come in, both from the reviewers and players.

  11. Walsh says:

    I think this is going to be another Black & White, just about every reviewer raved about how great it was and then everyone realized the reviewers never actually played the game that far.

  12. Ginger Yellow says:

    Am I the only person who thought Black & White really was awesome? Totally flawed, sure. But amazing nonetheless.

  13. Hugo says:

    PCPowerPlay was the first magazine to get a review out. It received a 9 out of 10… failing to join the ranks of Civ 4 and Psychonauts (and a few other titles) as a perfect 10 game.

  14. Hypocee says:

    Yeah, I loved Black and White (except for Molyneux’s Advisors). My cow was a tender soul who learned well and spent all his days dancing and creating water and trees. Also, hunched and smoking with inexplicable 98% evil.

  15. RichPowers says:

    Black&White is amazing. The sequel, on the other hand, is a smoldering wreck that stinks of charred expectations…and flesh. I reviewed it for BlogCritics several moons ago, essentially saying that it tries at everything but succeeds at nothing.

    Spore’s reviews confirm my suspicion: that the content creation and distribution technology is superior to the actual minigames. To those who’ve played it, do you think it can appeal to both casual Sims players and RTS/4X/strat fans?

    EA is really hyping this one, for sure. Spore billboards line several major US freeways. Go PC gaming? I find it interesting that The Sims, EA’s sacred cash cow, had a significantly smaller hype machine behind it. Wright even said that several EA dudes questioned if the game would sell.

  16. nabeel says:



  17. muscrat says:

    Australian magazine PC PowerPlay gave it 9/10

    …… They reviewed it last month ‘world first review’.
    And quite a few other magazines have given it great scores

    This whole article seems ripped straight from that misenformed kotaku post.


  18. Rustkill says:

    My first impressions having played up to the start of Civ stage:

    The downside:
    The gameplay side of things is very shallow to start with. Basically, cell stage, creature stage and tribal stage have consisted of “Do task X. Repeat”. I imagine going back and trying the combat path rather than the social path will give some replay value, but not much; “Do task Y. Repeat.”

    The upside:
    Seeing creatures that I created with the creature editor in the actual game is very cool.
    Evolving you creature rather than just creating it in the creature editor is a treat. The single greatest thing about the game so far is the ability to look back at the history of your creature. Seeing the changes in appearance of your creature over time is very cool.

    The remaining side:
    The editors are a huge timesink, and that is where the longevity of the game lies. Creating stuff and sharing it with your friends will be the key. The “gameplay” outside of the editors has been bland so far. I guess as I play through the rest of the game I might find more depth in the civ or space stages, but I am doubtful.

  19. Axel says:

    Both Gamestar and PCGames follow the “let’s be objective” (aka the “throw numbers at everything”) path. Gamestar for example has ten categories. Each category gets up to ten points. However the categories differ between games. All in all it is mostly useless. The Spore ratings were: graphics 7, sound 7, balance 7, athmosphere 9, usability 6, lenghth 9, editors 10, AI 6, units 9, campaign 9. Theey critizise the bland landscape and low res textures, bad background music, confusig interface outside the editors and changing controlls between the stages. They also think it is to easy and lacks the Settlers Effect.

  20. No Picnic says:

    Is it weird that I’m not interested in Spore at all? I think I’m confused by the game. None of the different.. “periods?” seem compelling to me. Anyone else feel this way?

    You are not alone. I got the Creature Creator only because its something simple that I can allow visitors otherwise uninteresting in games to play. I’ve following the game quite a bit just because of the buzz, but I can’t get myself really interested in.

  21. Neb says:

    Personally, I’m sick of seeing Spore creatures everywhere.

  22. morbug says:

    I got it yesterday and tried playing it on my MacBook Pro. The frame rates are ridiculous, perhaps 5 fps once I got out of the water (at 1024×768 resolution with most settings at medium or low). I think I’ll have to reinstall it on my BootCamp Vista installation and see if it’s the hardware or Cider that I should blame.

  23. jigglybean says:

    @ Morbug ‘trying to play on a Mac’? Get a real PC! :-p

    My copy is on its way and I am looking forward to it. I read Toms review in PCG and it did raise an eyebrow. I have high standards but if the game provides a lot of fun and enough variety, I should be ok.

    Either way, Spore will shut those who keep claiming that the PC market is in decline, when if they include the digital downloading/MMO money clearly shows that it isnt. $10.7 billion worth in the US alone last year according to NPD

  24. Jae Armstrong says:

    Division in the hivemind! The backlash has begun!

    I can already hear the counter-backlash and anti-counter-backlash engines kicking into gear.

  25. RichPowers says:

    Nah, you’re hearing the echo from the Bioshock and Fallout 3 threads. ;)

  26. Nimic says:

    I’ve played it for the last 7 and a half hours, and I have to say, it’s absolutely brilliant. And by that time (most of it, I recently started another species) I had just reached the Space part and started getting involved in that. The space part looks really huge. If people are complaining that the first four parts are a series of “mini-games”, then they have nothing to say against the last part, which would have been a fine game on its own.

    For the record, I thoroughly enjoyed the first four parts too.

    9/10 for me, maybe 10/10 when I’ve got more chance to test if replayability is as high as it could be.

    Edit: Oh, and facing one of your own previously created species as prey or enemy is quite a feeling. I’m pretty sure you can meet them randomly in space too, though there’s quite a few species to choose from, and that includes an enormous amount of pre-made species from Maxis. Though I reckon the chance of meeting one of your own species is artificially increased, and that’s good.

  27. Little Green Man says:

    On CVG Tom’s article appeared in full before being changed to become just a highlight’s thingamajig.

    On Spore: I like the look of it, and I bet it would be the closest a non druggy could get to feeling high (without drugs). But I don’t think I’ll pick it up yet, maybe when the preice has dropped a bit.

  28. Acosta says:

    Mine is up too but it’s in spanish so no point linking it. I gave it a high score but I totally expect to see a mixed range of scores and you sure can expect TONS of discussions around Spore.

    Basically, I think Spore does some truly revolutionary things, its focus for creativity and how they managed that side is astonishing, I could see myself designing creatures, tanks and buildings for the eternity and I would be happy. The mix of your own creativity combined with others creativity and the procedural generation of the universe make something really special that is worth to explore.

    Mi biggest fear was Maxis not being able to make a game with these tools and features. Fortunately they managed to, but it’s pretty obvious how important was to keep the game open for everyone, keeping just the very basic core elements of different genres to avoid unexperienced users being overwhelmed. I think they did a reasonably good work but some part of me wish they had been more wild with aspects like managing, strategy or diplomacy (at some point I found myself imagining some of the best parts of Spore combined with the best elements of GalCiv II, that could have been an incredible game).

    Really easy game with some part that are not even fun. The second phase can be really boring if you don’t like to explore, the mechanic combat takes the worst of the Hack’n Slash genre and the whole game would benefit a lot of some complexity. That’s it from my viewpoint of course, but Spore is not targeted at me, it’s targeted to everyone and at the end, I think they did a a great work trying to introduce different mechanics to people who has not played managers or RTS, and the same time is something that veteran players can toy with and enjoy too, so that could be the main point of it.

    By the way, hi Tom (we met in Genove, I’m the Spanish guy).

  29. SwiftRanger says:

    It’s good stuff imo, sometimes simplicity is needed in certain games. If you expected this to be five times AoE II or something like that then of course you’re in for a disappointment.

    EDIT: like many other people I can’t register though, I just knew there had to be something else aside from the DRM that EA had to f*ck up.

  30. Turin Turambar says:

    link to meristation.com

    I see. 7-10 range.

  31. FunkyLlama says:

    It seems that the reviews divide up into the jaded, cynical reviewers, picking holes in the game, and the reviewers who are happy to just sit there, staring at their creatures.

  32. Kieron Gillen says:

    I’m under NDA until tomorrow. Come back at 12:01 and I’ll be posting some initial things on Spore.



  33. Acosta says:

    I thought the european online NDA expired this morning. Kieron must have an extra special NDA! dun dun dun.

    Really want to discuss this game, doing reviews at home is so lonely, sometimes I wish I had coworkers to be able to share impressions and talk about it. The lows and highs of being freelance I guess.

  34. Kieron Gillen says:

    Yeah, it’s odd. It’s a magazine one which said the 5th for some reason. Fuck knows.

    I didn’t sign it, admittedly.


  35. Bobsy says:

    Remember when the Sims came out? “Gamers” thought it was nice but a little lacklustre. And it sold kajillions. I reckon Spore will do the same.

    Plus: this is nothing like Black and White. You don’t create your giant cow. You get given it.

  36. Ravenger says:

    None of the reviews have mentioned the DRM scheme so far. I would have thought that’s important, as it may be a deal breaker for some people.

    It uses the same scheme as Mass Effect: 3 activations, no regaining an activation when you uninstall, no idea what hardware changes will force a reactivation, and no way to revoke or check how many activations you have left. You have to contact EA support to get more activations, which can involve an expensive phone call.

    I’ve had no problems with the scheme on Mass Effect so far, but then I’ve not had to change my PC in any way or tried to install it on a different account or PC.

    I hope EA ups the support for their DRM restricted games so that legit gamers can re-activate their copies as painlessly as possible, and for free.

  37. Theory says:

    Some of the creatures people are making now are just amazing. :)

  38. Tom says:

    I don’t really care about review scores for games, I generally go by what I can suss out from reading ‘between lines’, which as has been pointed out, is useless in german-gaming-mags, because the reviewers generally have no souls, its all about ‘Leistung’…
    I think I will pick spore up once it gets to budget stage, by which time I will have the necessary horsepowered pc under my desk.
    What I would still like to know, what has become with the copy protection situation of the game?? Does it still ‘phone home’, does it require you to insert body parts into your machine?? Now matter how good it maybe, its not getting near my box, if I have to sell my soul to play it, like with bioshock for example…

  39. Bobsy says:

    We consider IGN trustworthy now? Cor.

  40. Kieron Gillen says:

    Read closer, Bobsy.


  41. Okami says:

    It should be noted, that the magazines that gave Spore 70s scores are the same that gave Darwinia review scores in the mid 60s range and made Gothic 3 and Two Worlds their games of the month.

    German gaming journalism is a joke.

  42. I.Steal.your.gun.be says:

    In most European countries (like Belgium) the release of games happens on Thursday instead of Friday, giving us mostly of the times a small head start.

  43. Orange says:

    They are getting 8s/9s, but reading the actual reviews there is a surprising amount of flaws and concern raised. Can’t help but feel the 9 is given to appease EA and in view of any possible future mods / patches rather than it’s current state.

    Too late to cancel my preorder, so I will find out tomorrow.

  44. Jochen Scheisse says:

    Okami: Both magazines actually gave Darwinia a score in the low 70s, and PC Games refused to review Gothic 3 on release because they deemed it too buggy for a release game (they said to wait for the first patch before considering to buy it), but I agree insofar that I don’t like to read their reviews because they are boring.

  45. Bobsy says:

    I maintain that the strangeness was not present at time of earlier comment. I do!

  46. Mark says:

    They deserve the low scores (lower, even!) for packaging the game with Computer Herpes.

  47. morbug says:

    Yay! After I lowered the lighting quality to “low” the game runs very smoothly in OSX on my MacBook Pro. I could even raise all other sliders to high (although I left shadows at low). Now I can play the game in spite of me not having a real PC :P

  48. Colthor says:

    As much good as it did them…

  49. terry says:

    Upon hearing that GAME uk were breaking release date I went in earlier to demand my copy – the guy had pulled the shrinkwrapped package from the behind the counter drawer and I was several seconds from the purchase. Then some dick with a fancy badge and shirt waltzed up and said NO :(

  50. Myros says:

    Personaly I wouldnt give it more than a 7/10 (thats after about 8 hours play). It’s an interesting diversion but not much of a ‘game’.

    I disliked the fact the little creature you spend time creating becomes irrelevant as soon as you hit the civ section. Just made it all a useless time sink as far as the total gameplay is concerned.

    I also disliked the fact that in the civ game none of the parts have any impact on gameplay … which is a complete reversal of the prior game. Whereas choosing one hand or mouth had a direct (though often minor) impact on the gameplay now you can create vehicles with any parts and none make the slightest difference, they all move at the same speed and have the same fire animations regardless of what you put on them. It’s all just a cosmetic skin with zero game depth.

    They could have kept some consistency with the general game mechanic where choices actualy mean something, just seemed they skimped out on the whole civ game which could have been done much better. Sure we can make a custom town hall and house but you cant change the function at all, just another pointless time sink which just like the original creature is promptly irrelevant as soon as your done with the civ phase.

    A very disjointed and unsatisfying progression of game elements IMO. Has some fun in it for sure but very over-hyped for what it actualy delivers.