Village Life focuses heavily on a storyline, as you're introduced to a woman in labor and her husband that are forced in homelessness after a dam breaks in the game's beginning cut scene. Making a new life for themselves, our heroes take shelter (and the mother gives birth) in a rundown abandoned hut. Things look up from here, as we're introduced to a new male character and a teenage girl, both of which join your new village. Every character in Village Life can be named, either by allowing the game to randomly generate names for you, or by typing one of your choosing. This gives you the chance to bring the real world to life in the digital world, naming characters after friends, family and even co-workers.
From there, the game becomes a constant struggle to grow the village with new characters that grow into adults over time and can even marry and give birth themselves (where applicable). The more adult villagers you have, the more tasks that can be completed at once, as you'll need to keep a constant supply of food, water, and other resources on hand to make progress. There isn't a traditional quest line pushing you forward here; instead, you're encouraged to place items like huts and entertainment structures via the wants of your villagers, represented by thought bubbles.
Once you accept a thought bubble as an action you'd like to complete (gathering a specific kind of food, building a particular structure, etc.), you'll see a quest window appear on the left side of the screen, but you can complete these makeshift quests at your own pace, and will, again, make faster progress the more you play the game.
Crafting is a huge element of gameplay in Village Life, as items are created via items cycles. One item must be created before crafting something else. That second item is needed before a resource can be collected, and so on. While some items like food and water can be consumed or gathered outright with your villagers' bare hands, others require a ton of crafting items and cycles, and at first, this slows down progress quite a bit.
Village Life is unfortunately a really slow burn at first, as your three adult villagers are used to complete all necessary tasks while you wait for the teenagers and infants to grow up over real world time. This makes the game hard to get attached to for those looking for rapid progress - the kind of progress you'd find in many other Facebook games. That is, instead of rocketing you to Level 5 or higher before ever completing the tutorial, the tutorial in Village Life ends at the beginning of Level 2, and you're left to discover much of what the game has to offer on your own.
Experience points come slowly as well, and aren't just handed out in the traditional fashion. We're used to seeing games reward experience points for purchasing items in the store or completing quests, but in Village Life, experience points are only earned when you've done something to make your villagers happy. Happiness is ultimately what keeps your village growing, as the village Shrine will fill with these Happiness bubbles (XP), and you can only level up each time the Shrine is full. While you'll earn Happiness bubbles for fulfilling a villager's particular need or want (they'll be "happy" with you for doing so, and you'll be rewarded accordingly), you'll also earn some as villagers simply explore and interact with the items that you've already built. A villager may reward you with Happiness after they've danced or enjoyed the warmth of the fire, but again, the more villagers you have to interact with such items, the higher your rate of progress.
Additionally, you don't have to worry about constantly expanding your land in Village Life, as a fairly large map is unlocked to you right from the beginning of the game. This land is full of trees, berry bushes, and even broken items that can become accessible as your villagers desire them, or as you reach higher Levels. While you'll have coins to spend on decorations and buildings, and you're given plenty of premium currency for free (which can be used to speed up actions or purchase premium items in the store), the most valuable commodity here is Keys, which are used to unlock most major items that your villagers will want you to build. Keys are earned when leveling up, but again, your productivity is incredibly dependent on how many tasks you can complete at once.
It's unfortunate that Village Life is so hard to get into initially, as it comes with some truly interesting ideas and is a lot of fun to play once things really get moving. What's more, the ability play with so many strangers across Zynga.com's network, and not just rely on Facebook friends, makes the experience even funner still. If you're looking for another game to play alongside the many "Ville's" of the genre, Village Life is definitely worth a bit of your time.
Click here to play Village Life on Zynga.com >
Have you tried Village Life on Zynga.com? Do you prefer playing games on Zynga.com to a traditional Facebook gaming experience? Let us know in the comments!