|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Maxis||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 23, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
January 23, 2009 - It's quite clear that user-generated content is becoming more and more popular these days. The success of games like Little Big Planet and Spore have already shown just how interested many gamers are in helping to create their own sharable experiences. While Little Big Planet allowed players to create their own multilayered, 2D side-scrolling levels, Spore focused more heavily on creature creation. Now that Spore has amassed an astonishing sixty five million custom made creatures, Maxis decided it was about time to give players more meaningful things to do with them.
Enter Spore's first expansion pack, Galactic Adventures. Much like Little Big Planet, this new pack stresses the playing, creating, and sharing of miniature adventures. Thankfully, this means players will finally be freed from the confines of their UFOs in order to beam down to various planets containing different missions. The finished package will come complete with dozens of Maxis created missions for fans to play, enjoy, and ultimately derive inspiration from. However, these are likely to be the most overlooked and underappreciated aspects of Galactic Adventures.
While these missions are sure to be entertaining and worth playing through, the clear highlight of this package comes in its powerful, do-it-yourself creation tools. The first of these tools allows players to create and customize their own planets. This is the same tool used by the developers, so it definitely allows for quite a bit of variety but it is also surprisingly simple to use. With just a few clicks of the mouse, players can raise or lower the planet's water levels, change the water's color, add rivers and mountains, drastically change the temperature to create a molten or frozen world, or just about anything else you could probably think of.
After you've gotten your planet designed exactly to your liking, you can then move on to the second tool, which grants your imagination a license to run wild. This tool allows you to create your very own adventures from scratch with a simplistic and user-friendly interface. Players can quickly drag and drop countless creatures, buildings, and objects directly onto their planets. All of these things can also easily be scaled to enormous sizes or made ridiculously tiny, depending on whatever your needs would dictate. Once placed in the world, just about every aspect of a creature's behavior can be tweaked as well. Players can alter each creature's awareness radius, control its movement by creating a patrol path or setting it to wander, and even determine whether said creature will be a friend or foe when happened upon during the course of a mission.
Creating your own stories, events, and goals can also be fairly quick and painless endeavors. Each mission can consist of a maximum of five acts containing at most five goals each. Goals can range anywhere from moving to a specific location to destroying certain creatures. These goals are easily implemented by simply dragging an icon to wherever you wish a goal to be located and then setting which type of goal you want it to be. Missions can also be constructed to abide by a timer, meaning players will only have a set amount of time to complete it.
To demonstrate how all these things should come together, we were shown what was labeled as a small to medium-sized level entitled "Save the Princess." Act one started off with two goals clearly labeled in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. The first required us to talk to a character who furthered the mission's story, and the second had us killing a few enemies near a campfire. As the foes took their last breath after being blindsided by a missile from the new missile launcher, act two began, sending us to check out a castle to figure out where the princess was being held.
Navigating our way to the castle was made easier due to one of the major new items found in Galactic Adventures, the jump/hover pack. This pack allows for an impressive sense of verticality and a decent amount of hang-time but also suffers from a limited energy supply. While the energy will eventually recharge by itself, extra batteries can be carried to extend its use as well.
Having made it to our destination, the king informed us that the princess wasn't in the castle but was instead being held in a heavily guarded cage. Thus, act three required us to finally break the princess loose from her prison. When confronted by her massive kidnapper, an ability called "summon swarm" was used to create a swarm of insect-like creatures that pestered and distracted the enormous foe. Being careful not to get trampled, we made our way to the cage, set the princess free, and thereby successfully completed the mission. While the mission-ending screen wasn't quite finalized yet, we were assured that upon completion players would be able to assign each mission a rating and would then be beamed back up to their UFOs to receive any rewards or objects earned while playing.
Finding a good mission to play should also be easier than expected, since these ratings won't be the sole method used to sift through the inevitable plethora of user-created experiences that will be available. When searching, players will be able to specifically look for missions in several different categories such as maze, puzzle, story, RPG, quest, defend, and attack to name a few. While there is no way to gauge how successful this method will ultimately be, the idea seems to be fairly sound.
Galactic Adventures is already looking like it will be a very welcome addition to Spore. By adding a ton of new items and the ability to create your own missions, this expansion pack should pretty much guarantee that you won't run out of things to do in Spore anytime soon. Check back in March for our review to see how well the finished product turns out.
CCC Staff Contributor