FrontierVille is the next game in the series of hugely popular Facebook games from Zynga. Following the blueprint laid down in YoVille and the monster hit FarmVille, FrontierVille combines several of the things that makes Zynga’s games so popular and puts it all in a wild west setting.
In FrontierVille you start the game out in the middle of an overgrown wilderness, and your goal is to clear the land and build up a thriving homestead. This setting is very effective as it gives players a sense of achievement as the land is slowly claimed back from the woods.
The process of clearing the land will be very familiar to Treasure Isle players. Cutting down trees and removing wild grass is handled in the same way as treasure hunting in Treasure Isle. The constant exploration in Treasure Isle forced the game into introducing a huge amount of different locations to travel to. FrontierVille gets past this problem cleverly by having grass and trees constantly sprout around and on your farm.
FrontierVille also introduces a new concept with dropable resources. Anytime you harvest a crop, cut down a tree or even feed one of your animals the game will drop a random amount of resources. These resources are typically money and experience (in the form of coins and stars), but can include items such as wood and food and much more. Sometimes you will even see artifacts dropped. Artifacts come in series of five and is traded in for big rewards when a set is complete. The different series of items are related to the different kinds of resources. For example there is a series of pumpkin items that are only dropped by some pumpkins when they are harvested. Artifacts can be dropped by trees and rogue animals as well.
Unlike other Zynga games where your resources are collected automatically, dropped items have to be picked up within a certain amount of time. This has undoubtedly been introduced to make the gathering process in the game more interactive and entertaining. The faster you click on the dropped items, the more you build up your bonus meter, which will let you earn extra coins from your efforts. This process makes harvesting crops for example more of a mini game as the rewards are not always static and you have to be quick with the most to collect them yourself. This is a welcome change from the tedium of managing huge crops in FramVille.
Player energy is another Treasure Isle invention, or more likely a Mafia Wars concept, that is borrowed in FrontierVille. Most actions your character can do require energy. Clearing grass or chopping down trees can only be done as long as you have energy left. Just like in other games with this kind of energy concept, managing your energy becomes essential to be successful in the game. Every time you level up your maximum energy level increases by one. Your energy is also refilled when you reach a new level. This means that timing your leveling can be a very powerful strategy. Always try to run your energy down as low as possible before leveling up. This can be a challenge on the early levels when your maximum energy is very low and you level up very quickly, but it is still a good strategy to get the most out of your energy.
In FrontierVille you can actually buy more energy with resources you make in the game. One of the resources you can collect is food. Food is found when harvesting crops or fruit trees, but also when getting rid of pesky animals from your farm. For 25 pieces of food you can buy three more energy points. This can be a great way to get that extra boost you need to get to a new level or complete a task you are working on.
The tasks in FrontierVille are another interesting part of the game. While goals and tasks are not new to these kinds of games, FrontierVille uses these to introduce a sort of story to the game. As you work away on your farm in the wilderness you will unlock new goals to achieve. These can be simple as in cutting down a set number of trees, to more involved tasks that require you to complete several different tasks at once. Every time a goal is reached, you receive a letter from a mysterious spouse to be who is very much looking forward to joining you on the farm. Just as soon as you clear some more grass, and plant some more crops. It is a simple mechanic, but one that actually introduces a feeling of working towards a goal. This is an advancement over many other Facebook games where the game is driven forward mostly by getting access to new decorative items before your friends.
As you toil in the woods, you will often run into animals you don’t want on your farm. The harmless gopher will pop up all over your land, or an angry rattlesnake will pop out of the grass you are mowing. When chopping down trees, a mean looking grizzly bear will sometimes come charging out of the woods. All these animals need to be removed from your farm as working close to them is very resource intensive. The gophers can be whacked a couple of times, and three clobbers to a rattlesnake will knock it out clean. The bear is more persistent and needs to be scared six times before he leaves. The animals can be removed by clicking on them, but each action requires an energy point. Don’t worry though, these animals will always drop plenty of resources, and many of the artifact series can only be completed by finding these animals.
As you would expect, FrontierVille lets you invite Facebook friends to be your neighbors. Visiting and helping out your neighbors comes with it’s own set of rewards. You will get money and energy once a day just for showing up, but if you take the time to help out with five different chores on their farms you will earn more resources. Helping other friends is also the only way to earn the reputation resource. This resource is shaped like a heart and your reputation increases as you collect more of these.
Finally, crop management is a little different in FrontierVille than in games like FarmVille or Farm Town. You buy seeds at the store as usual, but when harvesting a crop the field is returned to grassland. Planting a crop does not require any energy, but harvesting it does. This means that it is crucial that you don’t plant more crops than you will be able to harvest. Just like in other games, crops will die if you leave them in the field for too long. Planting too many of the fast growing crops can put you in a situation where you don’t have enough energy to harvest them all in time. Avoid this problem by planting smaller patches of crops and plan ahead when you will be able to harvest and how much energy you can spend harvesting. Like in FarmVille, your crops stay fresh for roughly the same amount of time as it takes them to ripen. This means that a 5 minute crop is dead 5 minutes after it is ready to harvest, while a 2 day crop can be left in the field for two days while you gather the energy to harvest it all. Naturally, the longer the crop takes to mature, the more of it you can plant without having to worry about not having enough energy to harvest it.