John Passfield, the Creative Director of 3 Blokes Studios, who helped make the game, says that Virtual Villagers "is building on games like FrontierVille." This is very obvious to players once the game's Quest icons appears, which work nearly identically to FrontierVille's Goals. The two games even share a Quest or Goal achievement called "Clear the Land." On top of that, crops need to be planted and harvested, buildings require wood to build, and the plant life takes over when you've been away for too long.
But plenty of differences allow Virtual Villagers to stand on its own. Unlike FrontierVille, arduous loads of clicking have been replaced with drag-and-drops. Your villagers also don't stay still, and each one comes with his or her own stats page, which will develop over time. And while you start off with one villager, you don't have to work your butt off getting hitched in order to have a second pair of hands to work the land. I got another villager just after hitting Level 3! But, the game warns, "Older villagers start to slow down."