Picking between Facebook games can be tough. Often times they look the same, and more often, they play almost identically. If you're looking to take the plunge into the world of mafia-themed games there are plenty of choices, but the two biggest are Zynga's long-running Mafia Wars and Playfish's fast-growing Gangster City. Here's everything you need to know to choose between the two.
The way you progress in both games is the same: you take on jobs. In Mafia Wars, you do this by selecting the Job menu, which will provide you with a list of all available jobs and the necessary information (weapons required, energy used, money earned, etc.). You can then pick the Do Job option, provided you meet all the requirements, and a window will pop-up telling you whether or not you completed it successfully or not. The entire experience is handled via text based menus, except in the case of boss fights, where you'll see a small portrait of your foe.
Meanwhile in Gangster City, you'll have to go to specific locations -- like Sticky's Bar or Romano's Hotel -- and talk to characters to get jobs. Each character has different missions for you to take on, and talking to them brings up a menu of all that are available. Clicking on a mission brings up a short description of what it entails, gives you a list of all the requirements, and gives you the options to either accept or go back. If you accept, you're treated to a comic-book style cut-scene that portrays how the job turns out.
Money: Making and Spending
No matter which game you're playing, you'll earn money the same ways. Successfully completing jobs will earn you some instant cash, while buying properties will earn you a steady stream of income. In Mafia Wars, your properties will yield money ever three hours, and in Gangster City you can collect every eight. And in both games you can also upgrade your property. In Mafia Wars this requires nothing more than cold hard cash, but the upgrades in Gangster City are only available at specified experience levels.
And once you have a fist full of cash, there are plenty of places to spend it. In Mafia Wars, you can but new weapons, armor, vehicles, and other upgrades from the Inventory upgrades. These items will provide you with various stat upgrades that will improve your chances of beating missions. Some, mostly vehicles, also require regular upkeep costs. In Gangster City, clicking on the shopping cart icon gives you a few shopping options: WASD Arms, Nessa's Auto Shop, and the Black Market. Buying cars and vehicles uses the in-game currency, with new upgrades made available once you reach specific experience levels, while the Black Market requires Playfish Cash: which can only be bought with real money.
Never Go Against The Family
Of course, as social network games, both Mafia Wars and Gangster City let you incorporate your Facebook friends in your crime sprees. In Mafia Wars, this takes the form of your mafia. Friends who are already playing the game are automatically added to your mafia, but you can also "recruit" members by sending out requests to your friends asking them to play the game as well. Having more members makes your character stronger, giving you a better chance of completing jobs successfully. You can recruit a maximum of 500 fellow players.
In Gangster City, the "Your Family" section is very similar. You are given an organization chart that shows various jobs within your crime family, like underboss or soldier, and you can assign friends to these various positions. Again, these friends must already be playing the game, and adding them gives you a "family bonus" for both your attack and defense skills. The main difference between the two games is that Gangster City limits the number of recruits you can have at a time, and slowly increases this number as you gain experience levels.
So Which Should I Play?
Well it really depends. Mafia Wars has the advantage of having been out for longer. And with nearly 25 million monthly active users, there's a very good chance some of your friends are already playing it right now. And since the social aspect of the game is very important, this could be a deciding factor.
Since Gangster City was released much more recently it has a much smaller (though quickly growing) player base of around 1.5 million monthly active users. Not a small number, but definitely nowhere near as large as Mafia Wars. But where Gangster City has the advantage is with its presentation. As opposed to a dull assortment of dark menus, Gangster City presents an interesting, comic-book themed world. There's also some semblance of a story, as the game is divided into chapters, each with their own brief story to tell.
So the deciding factor is whether or not you care more about having a game that looks great, or one that all of your friends are already playing.