Top critical review
11 of 11 people found this helpful
Excellent ARPG ruined by always online requirement and lack of support
on June 12, 2013
UPDATE: Surprisingly, despite the lack of updates, support, player community, the Error 3 issue is resolved, likely due to a server reset which would need to be done regularly anyways. It could have been damage control as EA has been voted the worst company of the year twice, and they were in the news for temporarily removing the game from Steam. Error 3 is fixed, but the remainder of the review is still valid.
***DO NOT BUY DARKSPORE*** until you read this review and the Darkspore forums. At this point in time, it would be folly to purchase this game. Darkspore has been officially abandoned per an announcement on the Darkspore forums, and currently, players are experiencing Error Code 3 (which doesn't appear to be documented beyond a couple threads), which prevents players from saving changes to heroes (a KEY gameplay mechanic) and some players report that they're only able to play the last level they entered and can't change levels. The lack of support, popularity and news of this game likely means that they aren't likely to manually fix this error. Players also often see the infamous Error 73003 which prevents players from joining this ALWAYS ONLINE game.
Now that the warning has been made, I do need to fairly review the title as Maxis deserves much of credit for what the care put in into the core of the game.
-Familiar Diablo style gameplay that emphasizes action and skill as players need to learn to avoid projectiles and attack patterns. Which leads me to...
-Creative enemy types: You don't just have your typical "grunt warrior enemy", "fast, small annoying enemy", and "overpowered magic enemy" like similar titles. You have enemies that cower in fear when alone, enemies that put up a timed invincibility buff when half dead, cyber enemies that use their laser attack to boost similar teammates, enemies that can haunt you, enemies that teleport away, enemies that can slow you down in time bubbles, enemies that shoot fast projectiles, enemies that shoot super slow, easy to dodge projectiles, some of which will stop and change direction to attack you again. The enemy variety is literally the best I've ever seen in a "Diablo clone" and I think players take it for granted.
-Unique skill types: such as a explosive projectile that heals, a slow moving fireball that shocks nearby enemies and explodes on contact, a skill to "redo" the damage you inflicted on an enemy using time manipulation. I've seen so many interesting skills from this game
-Hero swap mechanic: Allows for a variety of skills and strategies for the player to take on a level. 1 attack + 3 Skill X 3 Heroes = 12 unique skill options
-Spore-like customization: While not as robust as Spore, players can add upgrade parts to any part of a hero body (except for weapon, hands and feet) and make any loot item a detail item.
-Catalyst drop system for passive buffs: Pick up orbs and arrange them tic-tac-toe style in a grid to give your hero stat bonuses
-Gambling system: try you luck for rare drops by reaching level goals and continuing to play levels without going back to the ship to manage upgrades. It sure does suck if you die with a continue.
-Pure action based, skill reliant gameplay: Unlike MMOs or even Diablo 2, if you move far away from an enemies melee, you will be missed (and not have to rely on your dodge rating). Some enemies shoot projectiles that you have to dodge. One tank like enemy shoots three, continuous lasers that you need to dodge and after a few seconds, will re-aim those lasers at you. This game requires more than your typical random luck and kiting tactics.
-Fantasic graphics with a sleek, hi-tech space look: Everything just looks so darn cool. Criticals are satisfying when you see enemies explode in blood. If I ever make a sci-fi/alien/futuristic game, Darkspore will inspire it.
-Visceral sound effects: Sharp Claws sound like they are cutting, lasers sound like futuristic beams, growing vines sound like...growing vines
-Always on connection: This may have been the game's downfall. Like MMOs and Diablo 3, you can only play this online. This is likely a reason why this game didn't sell well, as the biggest reason why Diablo 2 was popular so long after its release was because of LAN and offline gameplay. Just open up Diablo and play anytime you want. Since Darkspore relies on servers, if there are server issues, you will have to wait until someone at EA/Maxis to resolve (which is unlikely as the game is abandoned) and if you have connection problems, tough luck. It doesn't make any sense for a game that requires constant grinding in a traditionally single player genre (This isn't an MMO, you don't explore or socialize, or waste time. just fight) to be online ONLY
-Lack of support: It was released in April 2011. The last official patch was in Sept 2011. Players constantly gripe about unavoidable and irreparable errors and even on the Darkspore forum, there is an official announcement stating the game was abandoned
-No trade system: There's no official way to trade items beyond dropping what you don't want while in the middle of the fight. Considering the issue I have with items below, this is irritating and cuts out a social aspect in the game that requires to be online with people.
-Reduced Customization vs Spore: You can't take a detail item and infuse it with the stats of an item you found, so more often than not, your best customization drops are the goofiest looking items and you're stuck with it if you want the stats. Which leads me to...
-Too many ineffective items: Perhaps more a problem with this genre, but extremely annoying here (especially when you can loose all your items in a gambling system). I'm not quite sure you loose all your drops from battle, or just the special drops, but it sucks to loose all that (if you die while continuing) especially when it's hard to find the exact gear you need for each heroes. I often find items of a much higher level for my hero that aren't the best items to use because they don't have stats aligned to it.
-Minor UI Issues: Sometimes I have problems dragging gear to my hero and it will freeze in place (can usually be fixed.) It stinks to have to go through a long horizontal list to get through level select. Lobby list will only show people in the main lobby or friends list - so there isn't a correct account of all online players.
-Constant Errors; Error 3, Error 73003, Error 8004000. So many errors that you can literally do nothing about and makes your Darkspore disc a glorified coaster.
-Origin only?: Some players say they can only run this in Origin. I think this only applies to a digital version straight from them, and maybe the Steam version. I bought the disc here from Amazon and I don't need EA Origin (Search why people don't like EA Origin)
The sad thing is, if this game was allowed be played offline and be modded like Diablo, nearly all the issues could be fixed. There are so many things done well with the core mechanics of this game and I hate to see the low Metacritic ratings because the game itself isn't bad, it's the environment that EA forced Maxis to put this game in. Unless you hear news about more support for this game or an offline version, DO NOT BUY this and make sure you tell any gamer you can. It's not fair that they are still selling a game that is online only, but riddled with online server issues.