Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fantasy Kingdoms Review

I was introduced to Facebook Games about two years ago by a friend who urged me to join the 'Social Network' and recommended FarmVille and Farm Town to me as the games that resembled Harvest Moon and Rune Factory the most. Almost immediately, however, I discovered two other games that attracted me enormously. These were 'Lovely Farm' and 'Fantasy Kingdoms'.

'Lovely Farm' is a Russian game that had a great deal of appeal but which stagnated and never really expanded its options, although new options were promised. The actual Russian version of the game did progress further than the English or international version and as I never played the original, I am unable to review it.

Most Facebook games have two forms of currency. One is earned primarily through gameplay. The other is primarily purchased with real cash and is the currency required for the most part to purchase 'premium items' as well as land expansions in many cases.

For me, one of the aspects of any Facebook game that defines its appeal is the ability to earn 'premium' cash in the course of gameplay rather than being forced to purchase it with real money. 'Lovely Farm' unfortunately failed this requirement as one NEVER was able to earn the currency required to purchase many of the land expansions and items.

'Fantasy Kingdoms' on the other hand, like FarmVille, rewards players with 1 unit of premium currency with every level increase. Furthermore, it actually is the most generous of all Facebook games I have encountered in that it includes a 'Wishing Well' option players can visit once each day for rewards. The rewards include many premium item as well as 1 unit of premium currency every 7th day.

Fantasy Kingdoms, as its name suggests is the Mecca for any individual who loves fantasy art and fantasy worlds. Its graphics are unparallelled and it has a variety of themes that would appeal to different tastes, from the 'dark' to the 'light', the whimsical to the classical. Even after two years, I continue to marvel at the items and landscapes created by its designers.

Furthermore, of all the games on Facebook, Fantasy Kingdoms most closely follows the feedback from its players and in most case, implements suggestions, whether they come as positive suggestions or complaints.

For example, Lovely Farm had one marvelous option other games lacked in the form of the ability of the player to 'hide' one or more type of item. Players could hide crops, animals, trees, decorations or buildings. This is an incredible aid to players who have used all of the available land as in many cases, a tall building or tree will conceal crops that are ready to be harvested.

I brought this option to the attention of Sneaky Games, maker of Fantasy Kingdoms. It took some time, but Fantasy Kingdoms now includes this fantastic option.

As in most Facebook farming simulation games, neighbours can unwither crops that have passed their harvesting window of opportunity. Fantasy Kingdoms initially gave Crops that had been fertilised or unwithered by neighbours little silver sparkles. They then changed the visuals to blue outlines. Many players, including myself, were very unhappy with the change. We missed the magical sparkles. Other players, however, welcomed the changes as they had complained that the sparkles were distracting. What did Sneaky Games do? They provided the players with the ability to choose their preferred graphic for enchanted/fertilised Crops. How many other game companies respond to players' concerns and suggestions?

Fantasy Kingdoms includes another option that does not appeal to me personally but which many players love. It basically incorporates a game forum beneath the window that displays the game itself. It is a community forum where players can 'meet and greet' other fans of the game and can ask for help or chat about anything or everything as long as the topic is appropriate to all ages.

Finally, where FarmVille only offered a second farm in the form of the English Countryside a few months ago, Fantasy Kingdoms now gives players the opportunity to own 10 Kingdoms and to expand each. As Fantasy Kingdoms is a game with elemental themes and powers, this allows players to create different landscapes for each Element if they so choose.

My only criticism of Fantasy Kingdoms at this point is the often brief Marketplace appearance of some of the themes. Even with the premium currency that one earns in the course of gameplay, in cases where themes are available only for a handful of days, acquiring these items would require significant outlays of real cash that may be outside a player's budget. FarmVille, of course, is far worse in this respect, but I hate to see any tendency on the part of Sneaky Games to persuade players to purchase more than they can afford. Players, especially when they are beginners, can be enormously frustrated by the brief appearance of desirable items or themes and it is rather unfair to subject them to this marketing strategy. In its defence, Sneaky Games, after withdrawing special Crops or items from the general Marketplace, will make them unlockable at high levels. Even so, what is the rush??? Why not make every theme available for at least a month? At the proverbial end of the day, game companies may profit temporarily from the strategy of offering time-limited items that require players to purchase them within 5 days but they ultimately will lose a significant part of their fan base. I only hope that Fantasy Kingdoms will bring back some of the themes, such as Air and Fire, in their entirety and make all Crops and Items available to all players again.

Fantasy Kingdoms offers an additional option to create special items through Spellcasting. Unfortunately, when the Crops and Themes linked to the Spells are available only for a very brief time, it is almost impossible for players to complete them. This can be frustrating as well.

Meanwhile, the new Space Theme, although less appealing to me personally than the Desert, Fire and Air Themes that so quickly disappeared, is available for another fortnight at least.

Of all the games on Facebook, Fantasy Kingdoms still offers the greatest fulfillment to me visually and creatively and I continue to admire the people at Sneaky Games for their consideration of players' concerns as well as their generosity in giving players premium currency and premium items on a regular basis.

N.B. I have written a little guide for Fantasy Kingdoms and created a site for it as well.

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