Disclaimer: All views expressed here are of my own and nobody else.
Who here doesn’t know FarmVille? Love or hate it, there is no denying the role of FarmVille in starting and shaping the era of social games, way back in 2009 when it released as a flash game on Facebook. Now, 12 years after it first moo-ved into our lives, the newest avatar of the game, FarmVille 3 is finally here and I am egg-cited to see what’s in store!
FarmVille 3 – A Deconstruction
FarmVille 3 was released on November 4, 2021. As a mobile only game (For now) and so far seems to have had a reasonably good response. The game is much like its predecessors in the way where the player is in charge of a farm, where they can grow and cultivate crops, raise animals, produce goods and fulfil orders to progress.
First Time User Experience
The first time user experience of the game is centered around teaching you the ropes of the core loop where you are taught to grow crops, build a machine to produce goods and finally introduces you to the farmhands, animals and how the breeding system works.
- Crops are grown using crop fields, in which you can sow seeds of all kinds of crops. Interestingly, every seed yields only 1 crop (As opposed to the usual 2 seen in other games), and you can get 2 crops from watering them.
- Water is earned from the well. You get 6 droplets of water every 6 hours. Storage capacity can be increased with a water tower, however that is at a later level.
- Initially there were multiple wells and towers that a player could unlock, but it was removed to a single well and tower in an update. (Players were not happy about this)
- You would think, so wait. If 1 seed yields only 1 crop if I don’t water it. Then what’s the point? Good question! I’d like to think they wanted to build a gate on water as a way to control net output. Though with the current scarcity of the resource it becomes pretty grindy and a session disruptor very quickly, especially while being such an essential part of the core loop.
- However, you can plant seeds for coins if you completely run out of them, which is a way to make sure you never reach a block in case you end up using all your crops. My guess is that this is one of the reasons for the limitation on a fields output. However I personally feel it would have been better to be able to at least get 2x yield by default as water is no longer an option for extra produce, but a necessity for any kind of progress.
- Fields are earned from discovering new breeds of animals. Which seems like a strange choice to build a dependency on. But, I’m assuming it is done so since animal husbandry has been given a lot more depth and purpose in FarmVille 3 compared to before. After all, it is called FarmVille 3 – Animals
- Item crafting is performed through the various buildings that can be purchased and built. These buildings are unlocked with levels.
- Each building starts with 2 slots. Additional slots can be purchased with gems. Crafting here is sequential. Again, similar to most other farming games. You can have multiples of certain buildings as well.
- Buildings are paired with Farmhands, which are NPC’s which provide various boosts via ribbons, which can be earned with every item crafted. (Used in the County fair, a weekly leaderboard).
- Additionally, you also have buildings for storage. A barn and a silo, along with well which acts as a water storage building initially with a water tower available in the later levels.
If there’s anything that would make FarmVille 3 stand out from its predecessors or other games, it would be the new systems surrounding animals. It is very clear from how the game tries to tie everything around it. Starting with,
- The primary source of progression, which is through completing orders. And, on completing orders you get Animal boxes.
- Animal boxes contain you guessed it… animals. Every animal added to the farm gives you XP along with the various products that come along with it.
- Every animal needs a home, which can house 2 of an animal type (Birds, mammals etc.). It needs to be fed to give various produce like eggs, milk etc.
- When 2 animals occupy a home. They will eventually breed and before you know it, a stork is dropping off a bundle of joy at your doorstep.
- Enter, baby animals! Baby animals give XP and take a certain amount of time to grow into adults. You can spend a consumable to speed up this time.
- When a baby becomes an adult, the parents become “elder” , basically this is where you have to sell them and send them to a sanctuary (A nice touch). This is basically the mechanic to cycle through animals since they are now perpetually unlocked through animal boxes. Elders are sold immediately for some coins.
- The new adult can now breed with another (non-elder) adult to give birth to more babies. Eventually, you will start seeing new breeds of animals appear. Sometimes even baby ducks emerging from chicken parents (A FarmVille miracle!).
- Every new breed of animal unlocks a new field and rewards some hard currency.
- There is a whole catalogue of different animal types and breeds to unlock, basically giving the player the a long term collection to complete in the game.
Besides the regular farm animals, another system of collection and progress exists via exotic animals.
- Exotic animals are a different progression and collection vector, where a player can complete several exotic missions via the Ranger tower.
- You will need to use single or multiple animals to participate in some missions. The “mission” itself is a picker mini-game, where the number of picks and chances of completing the mission (Finding the mission chest) vary based on the animals you use.
- Every attempt at a mission costs “animal energy”, which acts as a session control mechanic. Animal energy can be bought or accumulated with time.
- Completing missions rewards you with consumables, ingredients, farmhand stickers and animal tokens.
- Exotic animals can be collected and upgraded with elixirs to increase their power, which are in-turn earned from exotic boxes which can be purchased via IAP or animal tokens, which are earned from various avenues in the game.
- Farmhands are NPC’s that play multiple roles. They are your personal army of assistants.
- Some are required to remove obstacles from the farm like weeks, trees and dirt. These farmhands have a separate energy system associated with them (Seeing a pattern here?).
- The weeds and trees you clear in your farm keep reappearing as a way to replenish the source of their ingredients (Wood, dirt etc.) and keeping farmhands relevant.
- Others are paired along with buildings to earn ribbons from crafting among other bonuses. These farmhands do not use energy.
- Farmhands are unlocked with levels and can be upgraded by collecting their stickers.
- Stickers are earned from various sources like chests, visitors in the farm, rewards in the leaderboard, exotic animal missions etc.
- Farmhands also have different skins that can be earned from various events in the game.
Features and Events
To supplement the core systems, the game is packed with features and events such as,
- Timed Quests and Daily Tasks – These are your set of tasks to perform. There is a set of quests to advance core progression, a multi-day time limited quest and a set of daily tasks.
- Visitors – These are single orders with consumables and stickers as rewards. Visitors leave after a set amount of time.
- Boating Orders – Bulk order system to earn animal tokens and coins.
- Food Truck Event – Limited time event where you serve customers at the food truck with special event ingredients and items to get event points and earn prizes. An energy system (mulch) caps how many of the special ingredients you can grow at a time.
- Museum Event – Museum is another cyclic limited time event that works similar to the Food truck (Time limited ingredients and item crafting with points based reward track) event, but with an added element of Co-op rewards. It occupies the same position on the map as the Food truck and lasts for 11 days.
- Weather Station – Unlock and apply timed boosts using unique consumables . You can unlock multiple slots to activate multiple boosts at a time.
- Country Camping (Season Pass) – FarmVille’s version of the Season Pass, where you perform specific tasks to earn points that unlocks rewards along the season pass reward track. Purchasing the premium pass gives access to perks like increased storage capacity, XP boosts, max energy caps etc.
- At the end of a season, you can earn Trophies which act as *permanent boosts (With coin sinks to replenish their duration) in the game. You can equip upto 3 trophies at a time.
If FarmVille had a second name (Or middle name depending on your stance on “ville” as a word), it would be Social. In the case of FarmVille 3, the game has all the typical social features including,
- County Fair – A weekly league leaderboard where players can move up or down leagues by earning leaderboard points from doing core loop activities.
- Interestingly, the bucket is surprisingly small with just 20 players where the top 6 can win rewards in the Wood League (lowest). But, the rewards themselves aren’t that great as a result.
- Co-Ops – FarmVille’s clubs. In a co-op, players can chat with each other, request for items, send gifts and participate in Co-op features (Sky Race) and events (Like the museum event).
- Sky Race – Sky race is a co-op leaderboard feature where players in a co-op perform special tasks to earn leaderboard points and compete with other co-ops. Each Sky Race season lasts for the duration of 4 weeks where each race lasts for 1 week.
- The Sky Race also has a promotion-demotion system where the top 3 and bottom 3 co-ops in the leaderboard are promoted at the end of each race.
- Players can earn plenty of rewards from reaching milestones during the race, unlocking extra rewards by placing higher up the leagues and finally also purchase items from the Sky Race store with an event currency earned from doing tasks.
More Meaningful Systems
- FarmVille 3 has definitely brought some incremental improvements from its predecessor. It has built on of the systems that didn’t seem to make a lot of sense in the previous games, and added a layer of depth to it. For example, water in FarmVille 2 was an endless resource which served no purpose than adding an extra step to grow crops.
Appealing Collection Mechanics
- Introduction of animal breeding and collection evokes a feeling of ownership and responsibility. The introducing of breeding brings forth the ever enticing chance of RNG favouring you and getting you hooked on collecting animals. It reminded me of the time where I spent hours playing DragonVale, trying to breed a specific type of dragon.
- Between the exotic animals and farm animals, there are more than enough animals for a player to collect.
- You can choose to progress how you like with the vast array of events and features available to you. There is something for every type of player, whether it be playing competitively, co-operatively, collection or just plain solo farming.
- Need I say more?
Though FarmVille 3 gets a lot of things right. The primary issue that the game has in my opinion is,
- The game has a lot of energy/gating systems. Be it water, farmhand energy, animal energy, event limitations and not to mention interdependence of relatively unconnected features that seem forced.
- For example to unlock a Weather Station, which already has a level gate and coin sink, you need to have finished certain chapters in the Exotic animal missions.
- The storage caps for the buildings are pretty small, and you end maxing them out pretty soon. The items needed to upgrade the capacity is exceedingly rare and the scarcity feels artificial, which can off-putting.
- Levelling up is slow because the only way to earn XP is from getting new animals, placing new buildings or from Farmhand activities, all of which that are heavily gated by energy, orders or currency limitations. Add this along with the fact that lot of the events and farmhands are gated behind levels = slow grind + repetition earlier in the game.
- Though the concept of elder animals is an interesting approach to content cycling, the fact that you are forced to sell 2 animals (For a very low cost too) to keep one always means there is will be a scarcity of animals in the farm, and hence reduces the the overall output of the farm even more.
- Absence of a player regulated marketplace (as of now) kills the feel of a social game, in addition to making it difficult for players to be able to find easier ways of progression or solving their resource issues. Since this has already been done in older games, I don’t see why it can’t exist here.
While FarmVille 3 might have its share of issues, the good news is that players seem to be enjoying the new content and systems and it is very likely that the team at Zynga will be working on fixing the economy with time and will be able grow the game considerably.
While I feel FarmVille 3 is definitely is an evolution from its previous games, but that’s about it. It is clear that it has been designed to be a small twist on a proven formula. With that, it manages to do just enough to keep players of the FarmVille franchise happy, and maybe that’s enough.