Saturday, May 23, 2009

Spaceyness Crazyness

I'm finding that the space stage of Spore is extremely frustrating.

My 'empire' can only build one ship at a time for some reason. I wish I could have a small fleet of my ships, because when I ally with someone else and get theirs in my fleet, they tend to be useless. They don't really help me in trading or terraforming, and in combat they are about as useful as a bottle of detergent. Essentially, it's me versus the universe.

Lots of other empires want me dead. It becomes an almost Sisyphean task with the more militaristic empires which hate you by default. The problem is that you'll agree to do a mission which will improve the relationship. After I finish that mission, they'll become ambient about me and agree to let me do more go-fer tasks for them (go to planet X get object Y and bring it back to us, etc.). While I'm out on this second task, however, they'll demand a tribute which I often can't pay because it'll be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and I don't have the time to accumulate wealth because I'm too busy doing missions to trade (the trade routes seems to be useless after a while because prices will 'normalize' rather quickly). When I can't pay, they hate me again. When I finish the mission, they become ambient and agree to let me do a mission for them. While I'm out, they demand tribute. I can't pay, so they hate me. When I finish the current mission, they become ambient. While out on another mission for them, they demand tribute...

I become tempted to blast them off the face of the galaxy, except that fighting is terrible. First, your ship is a one ship fleet versus the opponents' almost always overwhelming numbers. Second, your weapons are weak and more suited to blasting innocent animals like chickens or cows. Third, while trying to fight, your opponents will change altitude very frequently. I can't do the same, because there's only two options: in the planet's atmosphere or in the orbit high above, and once you're in orbit, you can't target anything. So you have to maneuver the camera since you're stuck at a pre-set height above the planet's surface trying to see enemies high above you which sometimes your weapons can't reach. There's no option to 'lock onto' your opponent so you have to constantly click on your target. It's more frustrating than attempting to do the missions without paying tribute.

I tried to expand my empire because at the time I held the mistaken belief that more colonies would allow me a bigger fleet. It increased resource production, but for some reason I can only plot three trade routes, so I have to pick up the resources and sell them manually which is a chore but the only way to make money. And now, with all the colonies, I've discovered that, no matter how many turrents I place, they can't defend themselves from pirates. Lately, I've been letting the pirates just have their way because the only effect is that any potential resources that have built up is gone so the colony has to harvest again, and since I visit infrequently anyway and their storage caps out after a while, the pirates are actually doing me a favor.

In addition, you can only mine resources on planets that are earthlike, which means terraforming. That isn't so bad, what is bad is that you have to fetch animals and plants to put on your newly terraformed planet or else it goes to hell again. And that isn't so bad (if a bit repetitive). What's nasty is that the ecosystem will go out of wack and the colony will beg you to fix it (usually by shooting something, like, say, infected animals). Why they can't fix it themselves, I have no idea. Why do they need me to shoot these animals when they have jet fighters that could do the same thing?

So, with my large empire of six planets, I'm always torn between one of them which is being raided or in need of ecoextermination. And the game actually prods you to create more. As if I need a bigger migraine. I can't see why I need more, when the few I do have (I say few because there's at least hundreds of planets in my tiny sector of the galaxy and I have six of them) already produce all the different kinds of resources that you can ever sell.

What I've been doing instead is to mindlessly flirt throughout the galaxy, checking out any primitive tribes and nations I stumble upon (not interfering, of course!), and finding some ancient tablets or something which don't seem to do anything but sell for a lot of money. Plus, if you run into a hostile empire, the game is pretty generous in that you don't get that damaged trying to escape a giant swarm of spacecraft.

Spore must have borrowed heavily from Star Trek, because exploring and doing the occasional mission is what is more fun and easier than attempting to build a galactic empire. I can completely understand why the Empire in Star Wars would build a Death Star (and as I understand it, there is an actual 'planet destroyer' weapon you can unlock somewhere).


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