Even if you only have a passing interest in social games on Facebook, it's incredibly easy to see the resemblances between Zynga's newest Facebook game the Ville and Playfish's the Sims Social (which came first). There's no denying Zynga's penchant for "being inspired by" other companies' titles, and there is perhaps no better example of that than the Ville. This is especially interesting too, considering that the Ville was in development for at least a year, coinciding with the announcement of Playfish's The Sims Social at E3 2011. I wouldn't go so far as to say that the Ville is an exact clone of the Sims Social, as the two games do have some functional differences. However, the Ville is set to head down the same path as the Sims Social, by making all of the same mistakes of its "predecessor."
The Ville gives you the chance to create a virtual avatar either in your own likeness or in the design of your choosing, customizing hair color and style, clothing, accessories and even a basic personality trait. Character complete, you'll head into your new home and will introduced to Casey, your permanent friend in the Ville that will introduce you to the neighborhood. You'll be given a bathroom, bedroom, living room / kitchen combo and spare room (office?) to begin, and can then start shopping for furniture to create the home of your dreams.
You'll be guided through gameplay by a series of quests, requiring you to complete all manner of tasks, ranging from purchasing specific items for your home to visiting friends and completing actions in their pads. Even with the two games' similarities, the Ville does contain a few positive elements that the Sims Social does not, as you won't be forced to micromanage your avatar's needs, and can easily interact with neighbors without leaving your own home.
The latter feature is something Zynga is banking on being successful, as there are whole quest series devoted to throwing parties and interacting with your real world friends' avatars and the supply of computer controlled characters that live on your street. These characters ensure that you'll never truly be playing alone, even if your friends jump ship from the game, but you'll still be forced to ask for building ingredients or collectible items from friends to finish quests, building projects and other basic tasks. One final element worth noting is the relationship that can be formed between your own avatar and each individual character in the game. Some relationship levels can be accessed automatically, while others (specifically romantic relationships) require both friends to commit before becoming active.
Whether you like it or not, the Ville forces you to become a social butterfly, as doing so earns Happiness Points, a currency that allows you to use items like computers and other electronics to convert Happiness into coins. Each "job" takes a few minutes or hours to complete, and will reward you with different amounts of coins accordingly, but there are only a few tasks within each item that are even worth completing when factoring in how long it takes you to earn even the smallest amount of coins.
Putting it simply, money is hard to come by in the Ville, unless you're able to play the game and expend all of your energy multiple times per day. Even if you perform daily visits to every friend in your friends bar, completing all five "free" actions in their homes, you'll only walk away with a couple thousand coins each day, which isn't nearly enough to survive with the game's constant requirements to "Build X or Y" item, expand your home lot, purchase new rooms, etc.
While the Ville may seem like a complex experience on the outside, your low energy cap will see you completing the same sets of tasks day in and day out just to complete a few quests or earn money that you'll desperately need to progress. It's odd that there are so many similarities between the Ville and Sims Social, and yet the Ville is lacking elements that have made the latter so much better over time. You can't choose a career, you can't drive or own an additional home, which begs the question: If you're going to be inspired by one part of a game, why not go all of the way and make it more entertaining in the end?
Are we being hard on the Ville? Perhaps, but saying that the Ville is completely different from the Sims Social is like giving into EA and Playfish's own claim that its new game SimCity Social is the "anti-Ville" or anti-CityVille, which isn't the case either. When it comes right down to it, both companies now simply have two incredibly similar games, a city-builder and a life simulator, and it's unlikely that either new title will be able to pull diehard fans away from those that came first.
Click here to try the Ville on Facebook ---->
Have you tried the Ville on Facebook? Have you also played Sims Social? How do you think the two games compare? Sound off in the comments!