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There are two basic ways to follow up one game with another: an out-and-out sequel, which runs the risk of either being too much like the original or leaving off some cherished feature the fans of the original loved; and then there's the "spiritual successor": a 'like' game that is similar to, but not directly tied to, the original (like Bioshock and System Shock 2).

Darkspore is more of the latter--it is only barely tied to the Spore universe at all and only vaguely plays like a Spore game. It's still tons of fun to play, don't get me wrong, but if you're expecting a multi-stage Sims-style world creator...well, this is more like a Diablo-esque, Dungeon-Siege-y game. Gameplay is from overhead and you click on targets and techniques or use your keyboard to automate your creatures' combat with the many opponents wandering through a level.

The concept of Darkspore is this: the Crogenitors got to playing around with DNA, and eventually decided to stack so many customizations/modifications onto the creatures they created that this "Exponential DNA" (called "eDNA") destabilized. It formed "Darkspore", genetically tainted mutations that were practically unstoppable and went on a rampage. The Crogenitors were nearly wiped out; survivors were loaded onto ships with computers capable of solving the eDNA problem. That's where you come in: you're a recently-awakened Crogenitor. eDNA has been stabilized, and you now have a handful of creatures capable of standing up to the Darkspore, but not likely to go nuts and try to kill you. You walk them through various places Diablo-style and wipe out any Darkspore creatures you find. In the meantime, you're aboard your spaceship and your computer walks you through the in-between moments, like modifying a creature, adding/removing team members, or picking what type of adventure you want to do next.

There are some twists that make your gameplay unique. First, you can find, add, and upgrade each of your creatures' capabilities. The Editor resembles the Spore editor, creature control just doesn't make as much difference as Spore offered you. Most of your work is closer to Spore's Civilization stage, where you primarily dressed your creatures in interesting ways (though you still have very much the same ability to change body parts, size, shape, paint-up, and etc.). The other change from a typical dungeon-crawler is that your creatures are swappable: you'll find yourself using one creature for monsters that are numerous but weak, then switching to another when there's just one or two strong opponents and you need some heavy one-on-one damage. This also helps you out in the health department: if one creature is starting to get badly injured, just switch to another, finish the battle, and then switch back to collect the heals and power-ups. There's also the ability (eventually) to be more squad-based, controlling multiple creatures, and of course you can also team up with your friends for some co-op fun. Your game is "in the cloud" - based on your Spore account, it puts your stats on whatever computer you log into the game from (bye-bye bad DRM? Let's hope!) and the online arena also lets you jump into PvP if that's more to your liking.

Graphically, Darkspore is gorgeous. Colors are bright, and the designers clearly went to a lot of trouble to add a good color palette, lots of lighting, and places that glitter or sparkle. I sometimes found myself gaping at crystalline formations in the background when I needed to be watching my creature. One nice touch that I liked: it may just be my hardware, but the level of blood and gore in the Beta was ridiculous. It quite literally looked like a bright raspberry cloud would explode in a 20-foot radius every time you defeated an enemy. Thankfully, you can turn this off, and I think it even looks cooler, watching the enemies swirl into a dark cloud of energy when they're defeated.

If you're a fan of the original Spore series, you will like this game if you treat it more like "the dark future after a long run of the Galactic Adventures pack". Consider it an Action RPG and not a Civ/Sim/Strategy game like Spore. If you enjoyed other Diablo-like games and like the ability to more closely tweak a stable of characters, you'll be in for a lot of fun with Darkspore.
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11 comment30 of 31 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on May 2, 2011
When Darkspore was first announced, people really didn't know what to expect from it. It was touted as a dungeon style RPG (like Diablo) but also with a collectable aspect like Pokemon and a creature editor that is almost identical to Spore (they did make it after all). It was also a PC exclusive so the PC crowd got really excited that they were getting an exclusive game that wouldn't simply be created subpar in order to port to a console. As someone who loved the first two games mentioned and sorta kinda liked Spore, I figured I would give it a shot and see how it played. About 20 hours later, I'm glad I did.

When you begin Darkspore, you are introduced to a store that revolves around a race of beings who messed with something called e-DNA and created a race of mutant/robot/alien protectors that they used to fight against an evil which they brought about through their scientific workings. Eventually the evil won, the race was defeated, and a couple of the race fled to space. You are one of them and it's now your job to collect heroes to fight for the cause of turning back the Darkspore enemy one planet at a time. The story is basically here just to move the game forward, trust me, it's nothing great. It's neat that it's there, but nothing else.

The core of the Darkspore game comes in it's gameplay. When you begin the game, you are given a few heroes (out of 100 which can be unlocked throughout the game) and you are sent on your way into the campaign. In each level, you hack and slash your way from one level to the next with the ability to switch between 3 predetermined characters at a time. What characters you bring is all part of the strategy as each level and it's enemies have the ability to do double damage to a type of hero you may have. In the early goings, you just hack and slash but eventually the skill is in the decision and strategy.

While your heroes levels are determined by the equipment they wear, your level as a leader or captain of the group does go up by playing the game. Each level you gain allows you to unlock a new hero (out of 100). There are three types of heroes with varying types. The stalker is the fast hitting, high DPS, but mid to low health rogue type. The sentinel is the brute of the group who favors high HP and taunts to DPS. Finally, the tempest is the mage of the group which consists of heroes who shoot rockets, plasma, or other types of projectiles. They usually have low HP, so they should be protected.

The fun in Darkspore comes from collecting heroes, obtaining loot in dungeons, and outfitting it on the heroes. While you can't create heroes from scratch, you can enlarge body parts and modify equipment to look however you want, along with change heroes colors to give your guy a unique look. This will come in handy when you take the game online, which just so happens to be my favorite part.

Darkspore is fun in single player, but it really shines in Co-Op and PvP. In Co-Op, you basically either matchmake to find teammates to go through the solo game with (with heightened difficulty and rewards) or you can find a teammate in the chat room and join together. PvP on the other hands pits people against each other with their heroes in 1v1, 2v2, 4v4, etc. type battles. The PvP isn't available to be unlocked until level 10 which is a smart choice as the people in PvP don't play around. Make sure you know your stuff before venturing into there. The Co-Op though is nothing but fun as having a few buddies along (known or unknown before the match) can really delve into the social aspects of a dungeon hunting type game. Loot is auto rolled on so there won't be any hard feelings (as everyone can use every type of loot since all characters are available.) When single player got boring for me, hopping on a co-op game definitely spice it up enough.

After sinking quite a few hours into Spore, I have nothing but good things to say. Sure, the game can get repetitive at times and there are some bugs with matchmaking and online play, but you have to remember that this is an online game. Even when you don't play co-op, you are still singing onto the network and when you are in your ship you are basically in a lobby with 80 other players. The game will continue to evolve and heroes are slated to be released as well. If you own a PC and love the dungeon style RPG's like Torchlight and Diablo, which also digging the whole collect them all unique heroes, then Darkspore may be a game that's right up your alley.
0Comment20 of 21 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
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.
11 comment11 of 11 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 18, 2012
much to my disappointment, Darkspore cannot be played. after installing the damned thing I cannot get into game because of the Error so many others like me have faced. the game's server will NOT connect. if anything AVOID THIS GAME! or.... realy... its not a game now. its a new coaster for my soda cans with a nice case for it. thats all it is now. you can't play it, so its useless.

for thoughs who played and liked the game, good for you. honestly, its great you had some joy with it while it lasted, but unfortunantly. the rest of us (and sadly any other poor sap that buys this game and runs into the same problems as we have) couldn't get a chance to play it.

EA, we know you want to make money, and thats cool. but how about instead of making games that need servers to even RUN, how about making games that you can have the option to use the online server, but when you inevitably close that server down, you create an Offline download for the poor people like me and so many others that can download it and be able to still atleast play the damned thing! we know your worried about the Pirate Meanies that wanna steal and make illegal copies of your game, thats cool, but how about keeping in mind about the people that pay their HARD EARNED MONEY to buy these games! And atleast make it so even after the servers are dead we can still play them. How About That!? otherwise, people are like me, using the game as their new cup coaster.... with a flashy new display case. so thanks EA, for my new cup coaster!
0Comment9 of 9 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on April 26, 2011
Played both the Steam Beta of this game and the open Beta offered by EA and before they even released all the nuances of the game I fell in love. A great dungeon crawler game, with the added caveat that there is a squadding system that allows the play of up to 3 "heroes" on a single level. It starts out easy but as you approach level 3-4 and pass it get ready for some serious strategy play, item customization and co-op play should you wish to have some company. PVP system is pretty nice, only played a couple of games and got trounced, but wasn't in the pvp mindset just wanted to see what it offered. Has solid potential and hardcore gamers could find quite a nice niche in its gameplay style to forge the perfect squad and dominate kiddies all day. Like most dungeon crawlers it can be repetitive at times, but with the co-op play and the ability to make unique squads and unlock new "heroes" it can help wash off some of that tedium. If you were a fan of D2 or Torchlight I highly recommend this it may just become your new favorite hack-and-slash!
0Comment17 of 20 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on April 28, 2011
This is a game meant for co-op. 4 player is a enemy-stomping action-packed blast, but solo can get boring. The loot system is fantastic. The great pieces of gear you get for level rewards are great at directly stimulating the "phat lewt" center of my brain. The catalyst system is another great tweak on the format, adding something almost like a puzzle mini-game to the otherwise straight-forward levels. The huge variety of beautifully rendered Heroes, enemies, abilities and environments help keep the game fresh and exciting, since no two enemies behave the same.

In the end, this game is as exciting as you make it. If you choose to only play one Hero, switching as little as possible, and never use any abilities, then yes, that can get dull. You also won't make it very far!. But if you make full use of your abilities and constantly switch in new and different Heroes, the potential for exciting gameplay is endless. However, PvP needs a lot of work, the game lacks a really in-depth trading system, and the plot is very basic and sometimes even confusing.
0Comment9 of 10 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on June 30, 2013
Title is expired! This is no longer playable but is still up for sale by all parties involved. Break your kids heart and buy something that's no longer working. Shame on you!
0Comment5 of 5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on May 23, 2011
Darkspore is just another boring RPG that gets old very fast.

You play with one hero at the time where you can switch around between 3 heroes.
However, they all feel very similar and all these upgrades that you acquire over time only make you units a bit stronger.
The special abilities your heroes have get old fast too.

After awhile all these heroes and all their abilities feel the same, and the game just becomes more tedious as you play it with no variety.

Graphics also look old.

Other issues:
DRM - you have to be logged to the server at all times in order to play.
If you get disconnected from the internet then you will be kicked out in the middle of the game and lose your progress since you cannot save your progress during the game.

You cannot sell your copy to someone else since your copy is tied to your email account.
So do not buy a used copy because you will never be able to play with it.

Connection errors: the game is still not stable and 80% of the time you will get an error trying to connect to the server.
You cannot play the game until you are connected.
Frequently you will also lose connection to the server and then lose your game progress.

If you want to play a much better RPG than Darkspore (with no DRM) then check out "Titan Quest".
This game was released in 2006 and it has much better graphics than Darkspore.
The game play is similar but the upgrades are much more meaningful, with a tech tree that allows you to choose your upgrades in a better way.

Another great RTS/RPG game out is "BattleForge".
With so many units/heroes and so many abilities and great graphics, this "Free to Play" game beats Darkspore 10 times over.
55 comments16 of 21 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on July 4, 2013
It seems like it could be a good game, but it never connects to the server required just to play the game. I spent hours deleting and re-installing it and it only connected once, but when I tried to update, the game crashed. I keep having problems with EA Games, and I'm starting to think I shouldn't buy their products anymore.
0Comment4 of 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on August 7, 2013
0Comment3 of 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

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