This week Zynga rolled out Farmville 2. I read a few interviews with people attached to the game saying there was more “game” in Farmville 2 than there is in other Ville games, so I decided to give it a try. I’m always willing to give a company another chance.
You see, I kind of like farming games and time management games. Things like Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing or GodFinger. I find it can be fun, for a while, to ‘check in’ on my micro-worlds to see what’s going on and tend to things (though eventually they almost all start feeling like a chore).
So is Farmville 2 more of a game than Farmville 1 is? I’d say yes; I felt like I was making (some) relevant decisions in this title since there are a few interconnected systems.
First is planting. You can plant crops or trees. Trees are more expensive but only have to be purchased once while you need to buy fresh seed for every round of crops you grow. Seeds cost varying amounts, the resulting produce sells for varying amounts and produces varying amounts of feed (see below). So choosing what to grow is a matter of knowing what you want to do with the resulting harvest and how long you want it to take.
In addition to plants, your farm has animals. Animals produce some kind of food-stuff. Chickens produce eggs, goats produce milk (that’s as far as I got). In order to get them to produce you have to feed them. You get feed by processing crops. It seems that any crop can be turned into feed, but for instance Wheat, which takes 4 hours to grow, produces 2 units of feed while a strawberry, which takes 24 hours to grow, produces 10. But strawberries also cost more to plant.
After a few levels you’ll unlock your farmhouse and with it, a kitchen. In the kitchen you can turn crops into more refined products which sell for more. So wheat can be turned into flour. Combine flour with an egg to make dough. Combine dough with apples to make an Apple Cobbler which sells for a goodly amount.
So should you use your wheat for feed? Sell it outright? Use it for flour? These aren’t earth-shaking decisions but they are decisions and they make Farmville 2 feel like a bit more than mindless mouse-clicking.
Farmville 2 is gated by water. Growing crops (including refreshing trees after they bear fruit) requires water. You can store up 20 water initially and more is added to your account over time. Once you get the kitchen unlocked, you get 15 kitchen actions which again, replenish over time. Crops mature according to real world time, as does the cycle of animals producing whatever they produce (for animals it’s time + feed, actually).
If you add friends to your farm neighborhood, once a day they’ll show up at your farm and you can use them to finish some task. This is a great way to get long-duration crops quickly since your friend insta-harvests whatever you point them at.
I was actually having fun playing Farmville 2 until I learned about milk bottles.
You see, when you get a new animal it’s a baby. Before it starts producing you need to grow it to maturity by feeding it milk bottles. Now I told you a goat gives milk, but that bottle of milk the goat gives isn’t considered a milk bottle.
It turns out milk bottles can be obtained in two ways: by spamming your Facebook friends for gifts, or by purchasing them with real money. If you want to play Farmville 2 without bugging friends, you’ll have to pay cash for milk bottles. In other words, pay to win.
I learned this only after I’d scraped and saved a few thousand gold to buy a baby goat. Suddenly I had this kid and no way to grow it up without opening my wallet (I have exactly 1 friend playing the game and I’ve already spammed her to the point where I sent her a message apologizing for it). And that’s when I quit playing Farmville 2.
It’s a shame because as I said, I was having fun and y’know, I’d considered spending real money to get some fancy decorations or something for my farm. I don’t mind spending money on a game I’m enjoying…in fact I think it feels good to support a game you enjoy. But buying milk bottles just flipped my ‘pay to win’ switch; it felt like cheating and it also felt like Zynga was holding a gun to my head. Pay up or don’t make any further progress.
Farmville 2 is a big improvement over Farmville. It plays faster (there’re a lot of convenience features added) and looks pretty good for a Facebook game. Every time you level up everything on a timer finishes at once, causing a huge explosion of awesome on your screen, which is really fun. I still would’ve gotten tired of it eventually I’m sure, but… well I’ll never know.
Thing is, if Zynga offered a stand-alone version of Farmville for $5 or $10 that didn’t require spamming friends or paying to win, I’d be all over it. It’s a fun game to putter around with.
Zynga’s been hemorrhaging customers from its Ville games. You’d think maybe with Farmville 2 they would’ve removed some of the really annoying aspects of their business model in order to try to draw in new blood, but I guess not.
Oh well, on to the next game!