Magic Valley review
Magic Valley is a new Facebook title from Brazilian developer Vostu, the team behind Flying Kingdoms, World Mysteries and Gol Mania. At the time of writing, the game is showing up as the No. 22 top gainer in games by daily active users, with an increase of 30,000 DAU (150%) in the last week.
First impressions of Magic Valley are good. The visuals are excellent, and the game jumps straight in with some dialog-based narrative exposition rather than simply dropping the player into a ruined environment and telling them to get on with it. This pattern continues throughout the game — objectives are usually accompanied by some entertaining conversations between the different in-game characters, though the player avatar remains resolutely mute throughout. This gives the game a good degree of personality and will provide sufficient incentive for some players to continue progression through the many quests.
Unfortunately, that’s the only real incentive to progress in Magic Valley, since its core gameplay is of the same old “click and wait until shiny things pop out” variety we’ve been seeing ever since the earliest social games hit the scene. The lush graphics, high quality sound and strong sense of narrative progression do little to disguise the fact that we are, once again, playing FrontierVille/Pioneer Trail — clicking on objects to remove or harvest them, collecting resources with which to build buildings, uncovering new map tiles, and triggering various structures to produce items which can then be sold for a profit. The game features a combat element, but as is so often seen in this type of game, it takes the form of simply clicking on something until it goes away rather than requiring any RPG-style strategizing or equipment management.
The game’s monetization is similarly unimaginative — aside from the ever-present energy system to throttle progress, there are three main currencies, two of which (soft and hard) may be purchased directly and another of which may either be harvested from special “crystal” structures in the game or acquired with the expenditure of hard currency. This “crystal” currency is typically used in item crafting, while hard currency may be used to hurry real-time actions or used to fulfil resource requirements for building or crafting that have not been met. The game also promises that hard currency will provide access to “exclusive items” but there is little evidence of this early in the game, as a lot of objects are either locked to quest progression or the player’s experience level — and unlike in some other examples of this type of game, these may not be unlocked early in exchange for hard currency.
Magic Valley is beautifully presented (a few typos in the text notwithstanding) and that alone makes it mildly worthy of note, but aside from this, there’s little to distinguish it from its numerous rivals in the increasingly-crowded “sim” space. It has been picking up users at a relatively good rate since launch, but it remains to be seen if they will feel compelled to stick around because of the visuals and storytelling, or whether they will simply return to the more comfortable, well-established environs of titles such as FrontierVille/Pioneer Trail and the like. As the game stands, Magic Valley is testament to the fact that this genre of social gaming has not really moved forward at all in the last couple of years.
Beautiful presentation and strong narrative makes this worthy of note, but it remains to be seen if its players will be satisfied with the same old gameplay they’ve been offered for the last couple of years.