CityVille, developed by Zynga, currently stands as the most played game on Facebook. I’ll admit that I did not enjoy FarmVille much, another popular game by the same developers, and had a very reserved opinion when starting up CityVille. That said, I was pleasantly surprise. CityVille manages to be an addicting game due to its clear objectives and a decent strategy, despite the horribly implemented interface, and even worse demand for spam.
When you start CityVille, it introduces you with a house and a farm. A guide, Samantha, will direct you in how to build a house and collect rent from it. After that, your tutorial is done: nice, short, and easy. Immediately after the tutorial, however, the Goals (akin to Xbox’s Achievements) are listed on the left-hand side of the screen. The first few will teach how to do other activities, including farming, starting a business, and expanding the population. The most interesting goal is one that requires you to visit your neighbors. Your list of neighbors already include one computer-generated character, Samantha herself. Her city acts like a model city: it has nearly everything you can place and decorate in your city. Additionally, the goal teaches you the different things you can help in a neighboring city, such as collecting money, touring the population to a specific business, and even setting up your brand. The game, of course, limits your activities in the neighboring city and forces you to go back home. By then, however, you’ve already been sold the ultimate objective of the game: making your own city like Samantha’s.
As mentioned earlier, CityVille is addicting. It starts very quickly and smoothly. It has so many things to do, including building houses, maintaining business, farming supplies, decorating the town, and expanding the ever-growing population. The goals are listed in a visible (if annoying) fashion, providing rewards to further compel you to achieving the ideal city. And of course, there’s always you friendly neighbor Samantha, reminding you what you could do with enough cash or persistence. The consistent drive to build and expand the city to your own liking is a compelling tried-and-true experience by several Sims games, and it certainly works wonders here.
Until you run out of Energy. Typical of any Facebook games, CityVille at one points just halts your actions entirely because you don’t have enough stamina to continue. You’re forced to wait five minutes once the energy meter runs out to recovery one unit, and even then, the thirst to continue playing is immediately dried up by the next action you take. As much as I greatly dislike this Arcade-like monetizing, it does pose a bit of an advantage. Knowing your energy bar limit forces you to plan on the best course of action to take to best supply and profit off of your own population. Are you willing to sacrifice an entire day to re-supply your reserve? Or do you need it immediately? Do you want to take the rent from that house now, or when the rent is available to all of your residents? The latter has a huge advantage. By collecting many items at once, your bonus meter fills, supplying extra cash at the end.
Perhaps the part I like least about this game, however, is its constant insistence that you remind your friends you’ve played this game. This tends to be less of a problem in Google+, because those game reminders do not appear in the homepage, but it does get annoying for the player him/herself after a while. Even worse, there’s only 3 ways to expand your population and area of play: inviting more friends, then demanding certain roles, paying cash, or leveling up.
The latter two revolves around CityVille’s 2 currency system: the Coins, which you collect through normal activities, and Cash where one can buy with real money. Leveling up also gives one cash, to later hire different city jobs. I haven’t paid my dollars to convert to cash yet, but I’m assuming it’s using Google Checkout.
Despite it’s glaring flaws and rather cluttered user interface, CityVille still had it going with its constant demand for new activity, requirement to carefully plan your next steps, and the ever-looming goal of creating your dream city. I definitely recommend trying it, well over FarmVille, but I warn you, you’re going to want a lot of friends to help out.