Sorry for not having an article last week. Being a poor college student during exam season makes for no free time to play games and write about them. I’m back though with a new Win Conditioning! This time, I’ll be talking about a game that I enjoyed thoroughly while the rest of the gaming community pretty much shit on it!
Spore was released September of 2008. Originally known as “Sim Everything,” it was created by Will Wright and advertised as a “Universe in a Box.” This was not exactly what we got, though. The game touts some very impressive content creation systems, which are simple to use but produce very dynamic results. It was a very different gameplay experience to be sure, offering 5 different stages, representing the stages of evolution: Cell, Creature, Tribal, Civilization, and Space. Each stage is different gameplay wise, and is actually based on more complicated games. The goal of the first 4 stages is to evolve to the next in some way.
The Cell stage plays similarly to the game flOw, where you are a single celled organism and the only goal is to eat and grow. The Creature stage plays like a very simple MMO, with you walking around the landscape, either fighting or befriending other creatures. The goal of these two stages is to gather enough DNA points in order to evolve. The Tribal stage is a simple RTS, where you must unite the continent you are on into a single tribe by either dominating or befriending the other tribes. The Civilization stage plays like a simplified version of the game it was named after. You can destroy other civilizations, trade with them, buy them out, convert them religiously, etc. No matter what you do, your goal is to unite the entire planet under a single banner.
That is when you head into space.
Even the Space stage has a goal, however. So, why am I featuring it on Win Conditioning? Well, like Animal Crossing, the goal isn’t exactly an end point. You can continue playing after you’ve accomplished it, or even ignore it completely. This goal is to reach a Supermassive Black Hole at the center of the galaxy. Your prize for reaching this? The Staff of Life, which can instantly make any planet fully inhabitable. But, I”ll go more into this later.
So, wtf can I do?
The Space stage starts you off with naught but a ship, your Home planet, and some space money, which I refuse to call Sporebucks, so I’ll just call it “money.” After some tutorial stuff, which details things like how to terraform planets and colonize them, you’ll be set adrift to do as you please in the galaxy. I will say that the galaxy is ENORMOUS. You’ll think you’ve traveled far and wide and colonized half the place, but you scroll out and NOPE. You haven’t even covered half the galaxy arm you started on. Back to the point, though. Now you can dow what you want in your galaxy. However, money is always helpful, so I’ll detail some good ways of makin’ dem bucks.
Yes, you can take on quests for all of the empires out there. They’re relatively simple: Bring package X to planet Y, kill X number of species Y on planet Z, find an artifact and bring it back, and so on. However, after a couple quests, you’ll find that it’s a pretty damn good way to make some extra money and can quickly bolster your wallet when you’re in a pinch for cash. That and it’ll help you get more medals which allow you to buy and use more items.*
2. Spice Trade
This game’s equivalent to a stock market is the spice trade. Essentially, you colonize a planet and start producing spice from it. The more colonies on it, the more spice you can produce from it. There are different colors of spice: red, blue, teal, pink, and purple. Different planets will buy different color spice at different prices at different times. So yeah, stock market. You can throw any strategy you might be thinking of out the window though, because the best strategy is:
Step 1: Get a LOT of purple spice
Step 2: Sell at the highest price you can find easily
Step 3: MAD PROFITS
Purple spice is the most expensive in the galaxy and selling other spice becomes quickly obsolete as soon as you find your first purple spice planet. This is how you’ll be making the majority of your money.
3. Space battles
As you make your way to other planets, occasionally one of your own will get raided by pirates, who are looking to steal a single unit of spice. Now, this is really insignificant in the scope of things, but if you destroy their ships, they will drop money which you can beam aboard your ships. this also applies to other ships you shoot down, such as the ships of empires who you are at war with. They don’t drop a lot of cash though, so try to keep the price of the battle low, as Anti-Matter Missiles and Bombs are expensive.**
4. Artifact dealer
As you explore different systems in the galaxy, you’ll occasionally be alerted to an item on a random planet. These can range from terraforming tools to rare artifacts. These artifacts usually sell for a pretty good price, which improves drastically f you collect the 10-item sets they can be part of. Just keep an eye out for these artifacts and you’ll be collecting that extra money in no time.
Once you have a good amount of money and some badge points from doing quests and other miscellaneous things, it’s time to start stocking up on items. You can buy things from pretty much any empire, or any of your own planets. The prices will vary from planet to planet based on a number of factors, but to be honest, once you’ve got a good spice trade started, money’s no object, so spend away. If you’re looking to pick some fights with the other empires, or better defend yourself from attackers, start stocking up on consumable weapons. The missiles you can buy are great for clusters of smaller ships, while your standard weapons which eat up energy are better for single, stronger ships. Bombs are used for blowing up cities and colonies on a planet. Anti-matter missiles and bombs are the strongest of these weapons and can end most battles pretty quickly. Take advantage of this, and stock up on them whenever you see they are available. The same goes for repair items, especially the AOE Repair, which fully restores your ship and all the ships you might have following you in your fleet.
Now, some of that might be a bit confusing, so here’s a few more mechanics of this mode in Spore. There are 2 types of tools your ships can use: those which use your ship’s energy, and those that are consumable items. For example, tools like your ship’s laser use energy, while missiles and bombs require ammunition. This applies to non-weapon tools as well, such as tools which affect the atmosphere of a planet, making it more or less habitable. This is a very important concept when you want to expand your empire to more planets. There are 3 levels of habitability of a planet: T1, T2, and T3. For each level, you can have that many colonies on the planet, which speeds up spice production and allows you to store more spice as well. You can also set up planetary defenses on these colonies, which become important if you ever go to war with another empire.
Makin Friends and Planets: Easy as Pi!
As for the actual atmosphere manipulation, it’s relatively simple. If you look at the tooltip of each item, you’ll find an arrow. This corresponds with a planet’s atmosphere grid, which is a bullseye with a dot on it. The more towards the center of the bullseye the dot is, the higher your T score. The item moves the dot in the direction indicated by the arrow. Simple! However, once you reach a new T stage, you have to stabilize the atmosphere in that condition. You do this by beaming down different plant and wildlife. Once a T score is stabilized, it won’t ever recede naturally, and the planet will only become uninhabitable if you use tools to make it that way. This is a good thing to keep in mind, as it can be used as warfare against enemy planets.
Now, when you form alliances with other space-faring empires, they will allow you to take one of their ships for use in combat. It’ll fly alongside your ship and fire on its own. It’s AI is relatively stupid. You can have about 4 or 5 other ships with you, and they tend to die very quickly. AOE Repair is a godsend if you want to keep them alive. I’ve found that flying solo isn’t that bad for combat, though. Except if you’re fighting the Grox.
The Bor….er, Grox!
The Grox are the biggest galactic douchebags around. No matter whose game it is, they are ALWAYS surrounding the Galactic Core, on about 2400 planets. Their ships are strong and they will attack your planets fairly relentlessly once you make your presence known to them, even after you’ve reached the Core and returned.
You have a few options regarding them. The first is to go through it like a man, as I’ve detailed above. The second is you can actually befriend the Grox with some hard work, which involves being a dick to the rest of the galaxy, maybe breaking the Galactic Code along the way (I’ll explain this soon). The third option is to race your way to the Core and then IMMEDIATELY use the Return Ticket tool (if you have it) to return to your home planet, before the Grox have a chance to react to you. This way you can play in peace while having gotten to the Core, but the Grox won’t attack you, so you can do as you wish in space, as long as you stay away from the Core.
Now, this was a lot of exposition, and not a great deal of tactics. Now that you know the basics and some specifics, lets get you to where you want to be: A Galactic Superpower, from step 1.
From Dwarf to Giant in a Couple Easy Steps!
The first step is to acquire money and badge points, like I said above. This will allow you to buy everything you need for your ship, such as the higher warp drives, which allow you to travel farther, cargo, which increases your storage, and all of the atmospheric manipulators which use energy, so you can terraform to your heart’s content. Next, try to colonize all the planets around your home planet. This sets up a safety web, as invaders will usually attack the outer planets of a series controlled by you. After this is done, you’ve most likely ran into a few other empires. Unless they’re ridiculously aggressive right off the bat, make them allies and set up trade routes with them. The trade routes will allow you to automatically exchange spice with them, so if they’re mining a different color than you, you’ll get some of theirs on occasion, which is useful early on. You can crush them later if you so please, or allow the trade routes to progress, which will eventually give you the option of purchasing that planet for your own empire. As you do all this, be on the lookout for planets bearing purple spice, and always try and expand if you can afford to. Eventually, your sphere of influence will extend pretty far, and you’ll have a lot more to interact with.
Depending on how you played through the rest of Spore, you’ll find that you have a special ship tool that you started the Space Stage with. For example, if your species was listed as “Shaman,” you’ll get Return Ticket which automatically returns you to your home planet, no matter where in the galaxy you are. If you got the title of Zealot, you’ll get Fanatical Frenzy, which converts an entire planet to your religion, allowing you to take it over. Take note that this breaks the Galactic Code. What is this Galactic Code, you ask? It’s more or less a rule which states that you should not use WMDs on other galactic civilizations. This includes weapons like Fanatical Frenzy or the Planet Buster, which destroys any planet in one shot. If you break this code, then all the empires around where you commit the crime will instantly hate you, and may even declare war on you. It is something you have to keep in mind, but there will never be a situation where you HAVE to destroy a planet for some reason.
Back to the strategy. As soon as you have access to a Wormhole key and find your first black hole, you’ll find yourself in a completely different part of the galaxy. So, what do you do? Start over! Sort of. Essentially, start up a new home planet, and branch out from there, following similar steps. make allies, colonize lots of planets, and find lots of spice. Make a note of where the wormhole is located, though, as there is no visual aid to where it leads, or more importantly, where it leads to. They are all given individual code names, of which you can make note so its easier to remember which black holes lead to each other.
Now you know the benefits of allying with other empires and setting up trade routes. But what if you want to pick a fight and start a war? Or someone declares war on your first? Well, then it’s time to fight. Waging war on an empire isn’t that big of a deal if you’re well equipped. If you have anti-matter bombs, and you use them on one or two cities on the planet, then that planet will usually surrender itself to you before you do any more damage, giving you the planet and all the remainder of the standing structures, which gives you a head start on building up the planet’s productivity.
This is the easy way out, though, and impractical if you have tons of enemy ships breathing down your neck. As I’ve mentioned earlier, Anti-matter missiles (or any missiles really) are great for taking out clusters of forces, which your pulse laser or regular laser are better for one on one fights. This doesn’t limit you from using what you want, and in some cases it is very beneficial to switch up your weapon use. It’s up to you to experiment with what works best in what situation. After you’ve dealt with these forces, you then have to deal with the colonies and their automated defenses. If you have bombs, just use those. An Anti-matter bomb will take care of the situation within seconds. Other wise, just bomb as you fly by, rinse and repeat. For dealing with large empires, just focus on taking down one planet at a time. It doesnt matter what order you take them out in. As long as you’re quick, they shouldn’t be able to rebuild.
This is more or less all you need to know about being a supreme badass in Spore’s Space stage. With these tips in mind, go out into the galaxy and mix shit up a bit! Experiment with all the game has to offer you, which is a LOT. If you take the time and get lost in the sandbox, you‘ll find that you can have a tremendous amount of fun terraforming planets as you wish, finding artifacts in unlikely places, and single-handedly conquering entire civilizations.
If only the rest of the game was this engaging, then maybe it wouldn’t have sucked as much.
*It’s good to know that in the future, advanced sapient species won’t spend their time unraveling the secrets of the universe or workings towards intergalactic understanding. They’ll send one another on fucking fetch quests. ~WiNG
**Only suckers pay MSRP for their ezo-based space weaponry. ~WiNG