I like it.
While not every choice you make influences aspects of later gameplay, there are some major ones. Ie, spend more time killing your neighbors than negotiating with them, and you'll end up with an aggressive, warlike tech tree when you get to later stages in the game.
The tragedy is that I find it's much easier to just conquer my neighbors than impress them with dances or music performances. My little one celled organisms quickly grew up into goofy bipedal killing machines that gave up all pretense at diplomacy and rapidly established an authortarian empire on both continents of my homeworld. It only got worse once I attained spaceflight.
Will Wright games take me to a scary place. :(
Any rate, the game itself is pretty well crafted. Replay value is in the infinite (and I mean fscking infinite) variety of creatures and cultures you can create. There's some civilization micro-management in the later stages of the game, but it's nothing major and in the worst scenario where you ignore a planet and it drops back to a T0 barren rock... it only takes about 5 minutes work to resculpt it into a T3 paradise.
Only thing I'd ding the game for is that the explanation on how to terraform wasn't clear and it's not covered in the manual. But once I finally doped it out, it's hellah fun.
Main focus of the game is definitely the space stage... most of the other stuff was kind of just phases you had to go through, but I also suspect that there's some good replay value in there. Ie, see how far you can get by being a peaceful herbivore instead of just melting everyone's face.
It's also worth pointing out that during the creature phase, as you're gaining brain capacity the size of your "pack" grows. You can charm multiple creatures to help you out. I made it through most of this stage flying solo, but decided to pick up 3 of my own buddies to help take down the last nest I had to conquer. There was definitely a "goat leg drops onto the roof of the car" moment when you realize that one goofy, almost bashful looking creature is cute... but 4 of them racing through the forest on a dark errand appear to be perfectly tuned killing machines and intent on one terrible goal that might not be suited for children to watch.
Plus, they can spit venom. :o
Still not sure I'm down with the DRM thing, but overall I like the game. Not quite what I'd thought it'd be a year ago, but it's by no means a disappointment.
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