CityVille 2 review

CityVille 2 is the long-awaited follow-up to Zynga’s immensely popular CityVille, a game which popularized many of the conventions we see in other citybuilding social games today. Like the recent FarmVille 2, CityVille 2 is a complete reimagining of its predecessor, adopting a thoroughly modern 3D aesthetic and changing up its game mechanics significantly enough to make it an obviously different game rather than simply a reskinned version of the original.

In CityVille 2, players are once again cast in the role of a fledgling township’s mayor. In what would have been a genuinely surprising twist if it hadn’t already been spoiled by the media, the player’s mayoral estate is blown up shortly after the game begins. Much of the game’s overarching storyline consists of working alongside two colorful “cop” characters to investigate various local residents and uncover the mystery of who was responsible for the attack. These “investigation” quests crop up at fairly regular intervals as the player progresses through the game, but it’s not possible to “rush” through them.

Between investigations, the player is responsible for running their city and managing their resources carefully. Regular quests from characters who live in the city — including some of the “suspects” once they have been cleared — provide the player with guidance on what to do next, but it’s also possible to go off-piste and expand in a more freeform manner if desired.

Unlike the original CityVille, which relied on a supply chain of using farms to generate goods, which in turn powered businesses and generated money, CityVille 2 uses a different arrangement of systems. In order to build structures, players require various resources, including “Citizen” and “Builder” characters, who can be found in cars and trucks driving around the city streets. Building houses generates shoppers, who wander the streets and occasionally enter businesses. Once a business has served its limit of customers, the player may collect income from it. In order to encourage the city’s population to go out and spend money, the player may click on houses to send out shoppers or click on businesses to advertise for customers. The player may switch the city between day and night at will, with different resources available to collect at different times of the virtual day.

As the player expands into various new districts, each district gains experience and may eventually be assigned a “specialism” — either residential, commercial or industrial. Residential districts generate shoppers more quickly, commercial districts increase the payout from businesses and industrial sectors are quicker at crafting special items using collected resources.

Clicking on pretty much anything in CityVille causes two things to happen: firstly, a rhythm-based minigame challenges players to stop a marker within a particular area, with bigger bonuses of coins, experience and “mayoral approval” awarded for successfully completing the minigame. Secondly, a present pops out of the building that was clicked on, and “catching” this in mid-air provides a huge boost to the player’s approval rating. If the approval rating reaches its limit, the game enters “Bonus Mode,” at which point it is impossible to fail the minigame and the rewards on offer are temporarily greater. These two mechanics give the game a fun “arcadey” feel and an element of skill amid the otherwise-repetitive clicking.

There’s an impressive amount of customization and self-expression possible in CityVille. It’s possible to rename business buildings and individual districts as they’re unlocked, and these names show up when neighbors visit and click to help out. A “chat” facility also allows players to leave messages for one another on their cities, though at the time of writing it seemed a little erratic as to whether or not this actually worked.

Monetization stems from the game’s hard currency “Golden Keys,” which can occasionally be found as rewards for constructing buildings or purchased with real money. Golden Keys may be used to accelerate activities that take long periods of time, purchase premium items, bypass quest objectives or purchase resources that the player is unable to collect or acquire from friends. They may also be spent on purchasing energy-restoring items.

While there’s a lot to like about CityVille 2, it still needs some work. Its 3D graphics are attractive but relatively basic, making it surprising to see frame rate issues even on a computer more than capable of running modern standalone 3D-based games. Text input for renaming, chatting and leaving comments is extremely sluggish, occasionally completely fails to recognize keypresses and doesn’t work at all in full-screen mode. The game’s social features are fairly conventional and limited for the most part, consisting mainly of the usual neighbor-visiting and resource-gifting mechanics — though the leaderboards and achievements are a nice, simple but effective addition. Every “reward” screen defaults to sharing stories on the user’s Timeline even if this was previously disabled, which can lead to inadvertent spamming. Occasional unsolicited “Invite Friends” popups are obtrusive and do not seem to organize the player’s Facebook friends in any logical order, making it tricky to quickly locate people without using the Search function. And the energy system is as frustrating as ever, particularly once the player has gained a few levels and needs more experience to level up than can be earned with a single energy bar.

Despite these issues, though, CityVille 2 is off to a solid start, and its future looks bright. If Zynga can work on resolving the few problems the game has, they’ll have an excellent social game on their hands. As it stands, the name and brand alone are likely to make CityVille a huge success at least in the short term, but it remains to be seen if the game will stand the test of time as well as its predecessor.

CityVille 2 has 540,000 MAU, 200,000 WAU and 120,000 DAU at the time of writing. Follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for social games and developers.

Wait

CityVille 2 has the potential to be one of the best social games out there, but it’s marred significantly by a few very noticeable issues that need fixing as soon as possible.

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