What am I doing in FarmVille? As a gamer I had to see how the other half lives. I’m much more at home on a PS4 or Xbox One, or on Steam on my Mac, and while I do play games on my iPad, I am not sure I am in the FarmVille demographic. Actually I am not sure who the demographic is for this game. All I know is I’ve heard so much about these type of free-to-play games, I had to give it a whirl.
FarmVille 2 starts off with a bang. You are given a farm and a supply of keys and virtual coins to purchase things like apple trees and wheat fields. You start buying, start planting and stuff starts happening…fast. Before you know it you start leveling up and doing really well. It’s a sly move to hook you in early. The tutorials gradually open up more of the game and they do an excellent job of leading you through everything. Like a good RPG game, there are missions and tasks, and you can keep grinding (growing and selling) to earn more coins. More coins can be used to buy more land, so you can plant more things, as well as raise sheep, cows and various animals. They go on to produce product such as milk and wool, which you can sell to make more coin.
The key however is, actually, keys. Keys are more limited in supply, they are powerful in that they can make things go by quicker. Peach trees are taking a while to produce, add some keys to it. Baking pies, keys can make them all set to go in seconds. You are nudged in the game to use keys to speed things up, but once they are gone, they are gone. You can buy new sets of keys for actual money, $2 or $10 or $50. Keys make your farm and everything you produce grow fast.
Or you can be patient. See the angle of the game for many is not building a farm, but seeing how far you can go without spending any money. The game is a free download and you earn keys and coins (and other types of currency later in the game) from playing. But after the first hour or so the game slows down considerably. Everything takes longer to grow or produce. Right now I am cooking a loaded baked potato that will take a total of 4 hours to be done. I have some of my farmhands fishing, they’ll be done in 8 hours. Some things go much quicker. Wheat can grow in 30 seconds. Cows can produce milk in about a minute. Generally items you can get a lot of coin for take longer, things less valuable, much quicker. Because there are so many things going on at one time, as you expand your farm you’ll always have plenty to do. Eventually you have to make items that need 3 different ingredients. So you are constantly managing and micromanaging the corn fields with the pan-seared trout dishes. Trout dishes? Surprisingly much more involved than growing corn actually.
There are lots of layers to the game, you can sell products to other players, accept challenges, send your farmhands exploring, buy prized animals for winning ribbons, perform landscaping, cook on stoves, weave on looms, do crafting, compete in timed tasks with deadlines, spin a daily prize wheel and much more. I was playing on my own and was reluctant to connect to my Facebook account, as much as the app gently kept suggesting it. But I did connect and it actually opened up a whole new world of helping others with their farm, them helping me, joining farm co-ops, buying and selling, trading crops and much more.
I am using the app on an iPad Air and I decided to try the Facebook app web version on-line. I thought it looked less refined, was not as polished (must be older) and was much more evasive in asking to invite friends at every turn. I’m going to pass on it. The very polished iOS app on the other hand can be played completely offline if you want, no internet or Facebook connection needed. The iPad app (it also works on iPhone) features beautiful graphics and animations, seriously this is a very polished presentation that looks, sounds and plays great. It’s got a lot of visual eye candy and as I mentioned there is always something to do, some new quest, new section of the game opening up and also plenty of farming. The games syncs to iCloud so you can play on all your iOS devices at anytime and everything is saved.
So is it fun? Can you play without spending money? The game is a lot of fun. I am at level 17 so far and have played for many hours. I have not spent a dime of any real world money (so far) and part of the challenge has been to see how much I can get away with without paying. I think a lot! Now you have to be patient. Typically if you play and don’t pay you may eventually just dip in for some playtime a few times a day. It’s actually kind of relaxing, and it’s always a thrill to hear the audible sound of coins and levels building up. If you have a lot of Facebook friends, and connect the iOS app, you end up getting a lot of help from others which comes in handy. Helping them as well is pretty rewarding.
Now the game can get addicting. It’s actually pretty brilliantly constructed to keep you playing for just a little longer. During the day you’ll feel the tug, well let me just pop in to see how my peach trees are doing or what my farmhands have discovered during the adventure I sent them out on. It can also get a little complex as you level up. In the beginning you plant an apple tree, apples grow, you sell them. As you progress you’ll need to sell items made from multiple ingredients, cooked in different types of stoves and devices, manage your crops because your barn will only hold so much, and keep feeding animals so they can produce the ingredients you need to create higher priced items to sell. It’s spinning plates, in slow motion. These tasks are completed in seconds or hours, often you’ll be working on one recipe only to get sidetracked with another new task, challenge or even better (more profitable) recipe. Not to mention you are constantly looking to buy new land and shopping with your virtual coins to add new animals, plants and equipment, so you can make more money and level up. Even though you are always guided with help and tutorials to suggest how to keep things rolling, the game is flexible enough to let you focus on certain areas if you want.
Through it all you may also suffer burnout. There is great variety in the game but also great repetition. The game is not for everyone but it does reward those who are patient and who can play chess like strategy and keep several moves ahead of the game. If all else fails you can always drop a few bucks and get some keys to make (farm) life easier. I may consider it at some point, only because I actually feel a little guilty playing for hours for free. I’m just having too much fun trying to game the game, trying to get my way and advance without paying. So far I’ve been having a lot of fun approaching it from that angle.
FarmVille 2: Country Escape is available for iOS (iPhone and iPad) and is a free download in the app store. I recommend giving it a try, especially if you like time management games such as Sally’s Spa. You’ll know in the first hour if the game is for you, chances are, you may get hooked. If so, I may see you at a FarmVille co-op in the near future.