The game uses an Almanac to keep track of the animals that you have discovered. Some animals require you to have reached a certain level before you can bring them home, and others require that your Ecosystem Rating be at a certain threshold. This puts an element of complexity into the game that might work for or against it depending how easily players grasp the concept. In addition to th e Almanac that gives you animal goals, there is also a quest system similar to FrontierVille that tells you what crops to plant, decor items to buy, and objectives to achieve in order to keep the player interested and knowing what to do next.
Players can breed animals and share the offspring with friends, run poachers off each other's refuges, and help each other build their buildings using the standard collaborative building feature that most games are using right now. This is where the social features come in, which appear to be done better than The Agency (where it wasn't apparent what having friends would actually do for you).
One interesting thing that Sony has done here is come out of the gate with a partnership with the Cheetah Conservation Fund. Players who purchase particular animals for the game's paid currency, Station Cash, will be donating part of the profits to a real world organization. This element of charity will undoubtedly work well for Sony, as players will be more likely to pay real world money for an item if they know that it is going to a good cause.
The game is well done, and aside from a few usability issues in the game such as the inability to click through objects which hinders finding tracks, Wildlife Refuge is poised to do decently for Sony Online. If it doesn't take off and do well, it could be because the game mechanics themselves are not innovative. Zoo/animal rescue/safari games are not new on Facebook, and neither are games with collections, quests, energy, and the same style of gameplay as Wildlife Refuge. It's not a direct clone of any other games, however, therefore it's possible that it could have the right mix of theme and gameplay elements to be the first Facebook game hit for Sony.
Play Wildlife Refuge on Facebook >