Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Nerdgasm Denouement: Galactic Adventures Review

Yesterday after work, I called the local GameStop and had them put on hold the very last copy they had of Spore: Galactic Adventures. I took the short journey over there and traded in two games (GTA: San Andreas for the PS2, which I was hiding from the children and forgot about when I traded in my PS2 so very long ago; and SimCity Creator for the Wii, which was an extreme let-down after SimCity 2000 on the PC), which covered about 65% of the cost of Galactic Adventures.

Spore: Galactic Adventures extends Spore's Space Stage to incorporate some of the types of interactions you knew from the Tribal Stage, and then some. In the original Spore, you might be sent on a mission to some lightly-guarded planet to retrieve a statue or a scroll, and you'd fly your ship over to it and beam it up. With Galactic Adventures, you don't beam it up, you beam yourself down.

Loading the game took a while — of course, you have to load the updates for Spore first before you can load the expansion pack — but I was expecting that. It gave me a chance to do something I rarely do: peruse the instruction manual. (I was happy with the effects of the recent updates, by the way: the regular game seemed to run more smoothly.) So I was ready to go when it finished loading.

First up was the basic tutorial, which was almost completely outside the regular game. What I found was a Second-Life-like town inhabited by talking bunnies, ugly aliens, and a reptilian mayor. My first reaction was mild chagrin. Not because of anything in the game itself, but because of how slow everything was running. The characters were choppy and slow to react. I had encountered this before on this computer — it comes and it goes — but I was hoping, just hoping . . . Anyone out there know which settings can give me the best boost?

But I ventured on. After the tutorial, I ventured into Spore space. I retrieved, at great risk to Captain Blurbius Maximus, the Golden Llama; and I dispatched a horrible beast that was terrorizing a village nightly. And it was all seamlessly incorporated into the regular gameplay. It would have been great fun if I had a faster computer, but I enjoyed it all the same.

I read about but haven't yet tried the adventure editor. One can create one's own adventure — creating buildings, terrain, creatures, and puzzles from scratch — and publish it online so other Spore users can have a go at it. Like I said, I haven't tried it yet, but it sounds an awful lot like a fun version of Second Life, but without all the geometry. This total customization offers great promise.

I have great hopes for Spore in the future. At one point in the game, I visited a spaceport, with all sorts of aliens wandering about and muttering to themselves. Add a multiplayer online feature, and these "spaceports" could take on a Second Life social quality. Imagine seamlessly going from the game to an online 3-D interactive space and back again! Pretty soon, we'd see users creating new gear, new color combinations, etc. and marketing those wares online (which, in my experience, was about the only thing you could do on Second Life without forking over the monthly fee). Soon after that, you could go on missions created and posted by other users and, again, it would be seamlessly integrated into your personal gameplay.

But that's the future of Spore, not the present. Needless to say, I like the direction that it's taking. Whereas Second Life was a great-looking car with no engine, Spore is a great engine, and now they're building a great car around it. If they keep it up, it'll go far.

In short, if you enjoy Spore, and if your computer has decent processing capabilities, it's worth the $30 to get Spore: Galactic Adventures.

Oh, and Second Life sucks.

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