Spore - Space, the Final Stage
The final stage of Spore is enormous in comparison to all the prior stages combined. The game transforms dramatically at this point. The review continues as it explains this stage in detail.
Once your civilization reaches space, the game increases exponentially in complexity and scope. You start off by designing your ship, and then you are off into the vastness of space.
The possibilities are massive at this point. You can immediately start exploring star systems to scout for spice. You can make friends with other nearby space faring civilizations. You can make war on other planets. You can perform missions for other races to earn money. These missions include scanning planet life forms, gathering or abducting planet life forms, "cleansing" a planet of diseased creatures, finding artifacts on planets, and more.
Eventually, you are likely to start expanding your empire by putting down colonies on planets that look attractive. You may do this to gather spice, for strategic advantage, or simply for the fun of it.
Main Plot? Endgame? Who Needs Them?
At this point there is still a main storyline, but you are free to ignore it completely if you want. You can develop your space empire in any direction you desire. You can be a warmonger, a peacemaker, a diplomat, a merchant, or any combination of those. You can destroy planets, betray allies, terraform planets, raise up lower life forms to sentience, and a whole host of other things. This is when the real sandbox nature of the game reveals itself and you might spend as much time imagining the things you want to do as you spend actually doing them.
The game allows this type of creativity by not putting any real restraints on what you want to do. You can go anywhere and do almost anything. You are definitely the super star of the universe, so if you put your mind to it you can accomplish anything for your space culture.
One of the best things about this stage is the fact that the majority of the time you will create your own goals for yourself. In any game, goals that you create for yourself are always more rewarding, exciting, and memorable than goals you achieve because the game says you should achieve them.
This is also where a lot of the "Sim-like" stories will develop among players. When a game lets you craft your own stories the opportunities for long term play are tremendous. With so much to do in this stage, the opportunities for developing hilarious or exciting stories about your race are limitless.
Space Stage is a Genre Breaker
I do not think any standard PC game genre fits the space stage. There are action elements, strategy elements, RPG elements, and simply creative elements. The space stage is certainly a genre breaker, as so many different gameplay styles comprise the whole of it. Furthermore, the way the space stage plays depends heavily on the player. If you play warlike, the action and strategy elements are more significant. But if you simply want to build a network of allies while you beautify the galaxy, the game will play more like a Tycoon style game.