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    Games Like Spore – 12 Years on

    A look at Spore and the survival/creation god games that have come since its release 12 years ago.

    Just over 12 years ago, releasing in the September of 2008, Spore came to the gaming world. While still an iconic member of the god game and survival genres – I decided to take a look at how the market has changed and what games like Spore can be found and played in the years since its release.

    Whether after nostalgia about some older games – or seeking something to scratch that Spore related itch, this list details a few interesting titles in the past 12 years worth a mention.

    Spore (2008 – EA)

    One of the most iconic entries in the God game genre this century and centrepiece of this article – Spore sees you go from humble beginnings as a simple cell consuming floating matter to a spacefaring civilization.

    Gameplay

    The game is split into multiple phases. These maintain the same core ideas, but are otherwise their own self contained games. The scale increases with each phase – beginning as a single cell exploring the ocean. As the game progresses, you eventually reach land and survive as an individual, recruiting ally’s as you grow smarter. As the brain grows, you eventually gain a tribe and your control changes to that of the society instead of the individual. This scale that continues to zoom out as you advance to civilization and eventually space.

    A growing society in the game Spore - Showcasing several creatures co-existing in a small community.
    “The Tribe Grows, as brains develop the game zooms out to a wider control – Spore (2008, EA) – Via IGDB”

    Theme

    The game follows one central theme, common among god/survival games – ascension. To be something smarter, better and greater then you began. Every stage has unique gameplay, moving from cell by cell control to controlling new buildings – but this remains the same. Your goal is always to achieve some kind of growth or unification – to ascend to a greater level.

    While Spore has sadly not maintained relevancy or performance into the modern market, it is still a landmark title in the genre. Very few games have tried to be exactly like Spore, its hugely ambitious multitude of phases being difficult to emulate. Its art style may be dated, but its gameplay is still surprisingly unique. Despite that however, the gameplay definitely still has its weak points in terms of depth.

    Availability

    You can get your hands on Spore on any major digital marketplace or its website.

    There are few games quite like Spore, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty more the genre has to offer.

    1: Combat of Giants (2008-2011 – Ubisoft)

    “Dinosaur Battle! – Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs (2018, Ubisoft) – Via IGDB”

    A short but dense series of games released by Ubisoft for Nintendo consoles between 2008 and 2011 – The combat of giants games saw you battling it out as dinosaurs, mutant beasts and dragons.

    While a step away from a God game, it does still follow the evolution and growth of your creature. You help govern what powers it gains, how it fights and how it looks through a variety of different systems depending on the game.

    Gameplay

    In the first entry, Combat of Giants: Dinosaurs – You roamed a small level and sought out specific objectives to advance you to the next area. In each area you could find a grotto, spending resources earned by defeating other dinosaurs in battle to modify yourself for speed, attack or defence.

    The most impressive thing for its time was how customisable it made each dinosaur visually. Each body part has a slot that is be given a defence, attack or speed upgrade. These also made a notable visual change to your Dino.

    After battling against weaker foes, you eventually battle stronger and stronger foes or complete quests to ascend to the next area. The game also featured some very odd battles against things like a modern day tank, monster truck or crane.

    While there is variation in each games features and gameplay, they all follow a similar style. Roam – Battle – Upgrade.

    Compared to Spore

    While notably more simple then Spores in depth evolution options, it offers a simpler experience of targeting yourself towards a specific field. it also offers a wide range of different dinosaurs to select as a base creature.

    The entire series has certainly aged visually quite badly, not unlike Spore – but the gameplay not so much. A simple but fun combat system can be very rewarding from time to time.

    Availability

    While the series has more or less died out now – If you still have a Nintendo DS and are hankering for a Spore style fight in a variety of settings – any of them might be for you.

    With so many games in its collection, there are few places to buy them all. Most can be found on any major online marketplaces such as Amazon or eBay.


    2: Reus (2013 – Abbey Games)

    3 peaceful Gods watching over a growing settlement in the 2013 game Reus. Several indicators lie below the surface, connoting resources available to the player.
    “Watching over the people – Reus (2013, Abbey Games) – Via IGDB”

    Reus, released in 2013 by Abbey Games, follows the awakening, function and ultimate departure of several gods. Over their lifetime – set at the beginning of each game – each god will create resources, modify the environment and even attack its residents in order to create a world that can survive after their departure.

    The game caters well to those achievement hunters out there, with its main gameplay loop revolving around the earning of achievements to unlock new content for your next playthrough.

    Gameplay

    Reus begins with a dead, barren world and the 4 gods, or giants. They are the Ocean Giant, Forest Giant, Rock giant and Swamp Giant. There is no game without all 4, as it is not simple preference – but each one’s abilities work with one another to create a balanced and functional planet.

    Using their powers to carve oceans, create forests and raise mountains – The land will slowly become inhabitable. You then seed the land with fruits, animals, minerals and more. Once resources are available, nomads will appear and settle.

    Unlike many other civilisation building titles, in Reus you have little control over what your people do and how they interact. Managing how fast they develop, giving them the resources they need and controlling their greedy instincts is how to build a thriving society.

    After a set time, the giants return to sleep – imposing a strict limit of game time. Your feats in this time unlock new abilities, new projects and new features to enjoy in future games – but your planet and its people is otherwise lost.

    “Creating life, A Giant placing resources just outside a small village – Reus (2013, Abbey Studios) – Via IGDB”

    Compared to Spore

    Unlike Spore, in Reus your control is always over one or more communities. It is never the individual. Even the giants offer 4 different set of actions of which all are essential. They also feature less individual customisation, the customisation instead focused on what you give your people and how they develop.

    It still earns the title of “Games like Spore” however in that its a resource game. In order to develop, your society and people require materials to grow – be that food, minerals or treasure. Achieving new ranks unlocks ambassadors, which can augment and improve your giants and help society thrive more. Survive and thrive, the cornerstone of any good Spore-like.

    Reus is a great way to scratch that god-game itch in the absence of anymore Spore in the many years since its release. With its stylised look, synergetic gameplay and ample achievements – its certainly aged much better than Spore at the least.

    Availability

    While Reus sadly never saw much extra content, the developers – Abbey Studios – are still actively building new games in the genre. You can even find their latest release – Godhood – here.

    Reus can be found on most major digital games retailers or on their website.


    3: Niche – A genetics survival game (2017 – Stray Fawn)

    “A curious family of critters – Niche – A genetics survival game (2017, Stray Fawn) – via IGDB”

    Released as Early access in 2016 and fully in 2017, Niche – A genetics survival game (Niche) is a modern take on the core ideas Spore was trying to create all those years ago.

    The game was even directly influenced by Spore, and it shows in its quirky and interesting randomised creatures. Each trait has a physical appearance on many of them as well.

    Gameplay

    While deeply rooted in the core concepts of Spore, Niche swaps the real time strategy for a turn based system. Each individual in your community has their own turns which can be used to move around, attack creatures, gather food and so on.

    Each individual has their own traits as well, inherited from their parents through real genetic sciences such as genetic flow, genetic drift or natural selection.

    This takes the form of your creatures genes. Being skilled at specific roles and tasks – these genes can be passed down to create stronger creatures. As your community grows, you have more mouths to feed but more ‘units’ to use and explore your terrain.

    Surviving natural disasters, predators, disease and even climate change – Niche offers an interesting perspective on evolution. The game serves not only for entertainment but also education, helping people understand the details of genetics more then most education services offer.

    Compared to Spore

    While the surface gameplay is very different to Spore – Niche does offer the same core ideas. You start with few of your species and explore, eat and survive to breed stronger, better individuals.

    As your community grows, you can breed further and develop your community more and more. Its genetics system is particularly complicated as well, but being modelled after true genetics its highly informative at the same time.

    It certainly takes a more educational stance then Spore – but offers that genetics theme that many other games in this list cannot replicate. If seeking that familiar Spore feel with a more modern approach and turn based layout – check it out.

    Availability

    You can buy Niche for yourself from most major digital marketplaces or on their website here. Its also been recently released for switch, which you can check out here.


    4: Oxygen not Included (2019 – Klei Entertainment)

    A Character in the game Oxygen Not Included looking panicked as a flaming machine in front of him is activated. He is surrounded by metal walkways above a pool of water. Keeping access to resources like food and water is key to growth - similar to Spore.
    “Stuck in space, what could go wrong? – Oxygen Not Included (2019, Klei Entertainment) – Via IGDB”

    The most modern option on the list – Oxygen Not Included focuses more on the management of an environment then its individuals. Despite this, it still keeps the tense survival feel that spore does so well.

    Released fully in 2019, Oxygen Not Included offers a completely sci-fi take on survival of only the fittest. It will test not only your colonists, but you as a player.

    Gameplay

    Oxygen Not Included places you somewhat in control of a few brave colonists. They feature their own talents, preferences and responses to stress.

    The game applies instant pressure, every single resource: the food you eat, water you wash with and even air you breath needs to be quickly and carefully regulated. With its extremely advanced simulations, building a base for efficient airflow is a must.

    While surviving, you are also constantly upgrading. Unlocking new technology, items and more. With each upgrade comes new challenges, but all are needed to ultimately survive.

    While more of a pure survival then god game, your control is quite in-direct. You dont tell individual specimens what to do. Instead you offer tasks which they will perform based on priority and personal needs. This means while you have control mostly, sometimes you can only guide.

    A character walking amongst an industrial centre, surrounded by rubble. Similar to the later stages of Spore - Managing resources is critical to growth.
    “A thriving, albeit messy, industrial outpost – Oxygen Not Included (2019, Klei Entertainment) – Via IGDB”

    Compared to Spore

    A definite shift from Spores genetics, survival and battle – Oxygen Not Included is definitely a different experience. That said, managing your colony feels reminiscient of the later stages of Spore.

    With no direct control over every single individual, you steadily leave more and more of the microscopic details behind as you progress. While a little different, if you are a fan of difficult but compelling survival – Oxygen Not Included definitely has something to offer.

    Availability

    A recent release, Oxygen Not Included can be found in most major digital retailers like Steam or Epic.

    Summary

    Spore may be old in gaming terms – but its still an enjoyable game. There are plenty of games like Spore still on offer and coming out year by year. The god game and survival genres may have seen many gems already, but they are still fighting strong into the modern age.

    Have any other games similar to Spore you’d like to discuss? Pop them in the comments below!

    Daniel Bakerhttps://berbwrites.home.blog/
    Also known as Berbwrites, Dan is a Games Development student, games nerd and fan of all things tabletop - working as a freelance games writer, both for an about games of all kinds.

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