Review Date: July 23, 2010
Developer: Zynga East
FrontierVille is the spiritual successor to FarmVille, far and away the most popular game to ever grace Facebook. But while at first glance FrontierVille looks nearly identical to its predecessor, both in terms of how it looks and how it plays, there's quite a bit more content to the game. It's not quite the evolution you might be expecting, but there's certainly a lot more to do that will help keep you engaged for much longer.
Clearing Out The Weeds
The game is all about taming wilderness. You're given a small plot of land, which is overrun with trees, weeds, and varmints. It's your job to turn that plot of land into a home, farm, and eventually a small frontier town. To do this you'll have to clear away all that's in your way and collect all of the materials and cash necessary for building your budding frontier empire.
If you've ever played FarmVille the gameplay will feel intimately familiar. You're given a set amount of energy, which you use up by performing actions. Each action -- whether your harvesting crops, scaring away a snake, feeding your animals, or pulling weeds -- takes a unit of energy. You can earn additional energy in one of four different ways: you can ask your friends for some, purchase some with real-world money, collect food that can be turned into energy packed meals, or you can simply wait until it refills itself in time. So unless you plan on spending lots of money of the game, you're limited in how much you can do at any given time.
Like FarmVille, planting and harvesting crops is a big part of the game. Each crop has a time limit associated with it -- ranging from an hour to a whole day -- and will be ready to harvest once that time expires. If you don't harvest them in time they will wilt and die. But if you do, you'll earn cash, food, experience, and other goodies. The same goes for animals, which will each get hungry and need feeding at specified intervals.
More Than Just Farming
There's a lot more to do in FrontierVille than just grow crops and tend to animals, however. Clearing the land involves chopping down trees and pulling weeds, and is necessary in order to give you space to put your farm as well as build a house and other buildings like a general store. You'll also occasionally come across varmints: pesky creatures like bears, snakes, and foxes that need to be scared off of your land. Eventually you'll even be able to get married and start a family.
Everything you do in the game yields rewards, ranging from cash and experience to special collectible items. The game puts a strong emphasis on collecting and performing actions will occasionally yield random items. These are added to different collections -- which include everything from wild flowers to fertilizer -- and once you complete a collection, you're given a bonus. And there's always something to do, as new trees and weeds will sprout up when you're away from the game.
Of course, being on Facebook the game also includes numerous social features. You can send gifts to your friends and help out with their chores, but the game also locks out a good deal of content until you have a whole bunch of neighbors. This can be frustrating if you don't have a lot of FrontierVille playing friends, as the only other way to access the content is to pay actual money.
There's a lot to do in the game, so to keep you on track there's a quest system to help ensure you're always moving forward and not putting to much focus on one single aspect of the game.
Even though FrontierVille manages to take the incredibly addictive framework laid down by FarmVille and significantly improve it, there are still a number of issues that can be frustrating. Chief among them is the way the game constantly bombards you with pop-ups. Seemingly every action will cause at least one, and in some cases several, notices to pop up. Not only is this just plain annoying, but it also gets in the way of the game, blocking your view of whatever it is you're attempting to do. And unfortunately, while a whole lot of content has been added to the game, the actual gameplay hasn't evolved very much. Every action still amounts to simply clicking on things. So if FarmVille managed to bore you, there's really little that FrontierVille does to win you over.
The Bottom Line
But for everybody else -- the tens of millions of people who have enjoyed countless hours of virtual farming -- FrontierVille is a perfect next step. The social features are much improved and there's simply more variety and more to do. The game manages to take what made FarmVille such a hit and improve on it in virtually every way. And with several features yet to be implemented in the game, it looks like life on the frontier will only get more interesting from here on out.