Village Life review

Village Life is a Facebook game from Playdemic. It’s seen fairly strong growth recently, showing up at No. 18 on our Top Gainers by MAU chart on New Year’s Eve.

Village Life is a game in which players take control of a small community and must guide it to prosperity. Rather than taking a simple citybuilding/FrontierVille-style approach, however, Village Life focuses much more on the people who inhabit the village rather than the act of building a sprawling but soulless community. The game begins with players naming a husband and pregnant wife duo, completing a few basic tutorial quests and establishing a small base camp. Shortly afterwards, the husband, wife and children are introduced to two more villagers (also renamable) and the game proper begins.

Gameplay in Village Life largely consists of taking care of the villagers’ core needs. This is achieved by looking at the thought bubbles above their heads, which indicate they are hungry, in need of shelter, thirsty, looking for a relationship or desiring a specific building/structure to make use of. Clicking on the thought bubble brings up a more detailed explanation of what they are interested in and provides the opportunity for the player to trigger a quest to fulfil the want if it is a multi-step process. Players are also free to manage the village in their own way if they so desire.

Most actions in Village Life require villagers to spend time working on them. Each villager has their own independent energy bar that refills over time or may be immediately replenished with special “energy potions” that can be acquired with hard currency. This means that the more villagers the player has in their village, the more actions they are able to take in a single session — it’s a good incentive for the player to try and grow their village as much as possible and, due to the way the game works, engage as much as possible with their friends.

The game features a “technology tree” of various items and structures that the villagers are able to build, and players must unlock each new level of technology by using a special “keys” currency. This may either be purchased using hard currency or acquired on level up. Unusually, the player does not gain experience for every action they perform in the game — rather, experience is presented as the village’s “happiness,” so in order to level up the player must perform actions that please the villagers and subsequently fill up the “happiness shrine.”

Village Life is a fun game that encourages players to become emotionally invested in their custom-named villagers. If there is one thing that may hurt the game a little for some players, however, it is the hefty amount of social play required in order to progress effectively. Many structures may only be built using resources requested from other players (or purchased using hard currency), for example, and villagers may only date, marry and have children with villagers from a friend’s game. This means that solo players — or those unable to convince their friends to play this game in particular — will have a tough time progressing beyond a certain point. The game would benefit from something along the lines of the “Community” feature Zynga has incorporated into its past few games — the ability to add neighbors who are not on the player’s Facebook friends list.

This issue aside, however, Village Life is an interesting game that is worth paying attention to. Besides the fun, unconventional gameplay, it features excellent presentation, with characters that are full of personality and charm along with high quality but unobtrusive background music and sound effects. The only real criticism of the presentation is that on lower-resolution displays such as laptops, the game canvas is too big to fit on screen, and during the tutorial quests it is seemingly impossible to access the “full screen” control. Once into the game proper, this ceases to be an issue for the most part — though popups such as “invite friends” windows cause the game to switch out of full-screen mode without being asked. This is more an issue with Flash than with the game itself, though it’s surprising that apparently very few developers have worked out if there is a way around this yet.

Village Life is currently enjoying strong growth, with 490,000 MAU, 300,000 WAU and 100,000 DAU to its name. You can follow its progress with AppData, our traffic tracking service for social games and developers.

Play

A fun, unconventional community-building game — though the heavy focus on social play may prove offputting for more solitary players.

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