A Closer Look at Zynga’s First Full Sequel for Facebook, Mafia Wars 2

With Mafia Wars’ 28 million+ user heyday behind it, Zynga is ready to release a sequel. Mafia Wars 2 represents Zynga’s first direct sequel to one of its top performing titles, and the developer is keen to deliver an experience that trumps the original.

Zynga announced the game last month with a flashy trailer that revealed very little about actual gameplay. Press outlets were invited to a more in-depth demonstration late last week.

Right away, we can see the difference in presentation. What was a series of screens and menus in Mafia Wars has been transformed into a bustling 3D idealization of the perfect crime-filled Las Vegas in the sequel. Players start out on their “turf” at the city’s outskirts, where they can build the foundation of their criminal empires.

By constructing casinos, players get their cash flow going. Additional “businesses” like grow houses and DVD pirating dens supplement the players’ fortunes. Almost immediately after establishing themselves, however, players find themselves under siege from other criminals. Protection structures like gun stores and banks help protect the business, while players can increase sales by hiring workers.

From the outskirts of the city, players can travel to the Las Vegas strip for story-based missions that pit them against rival characters and bosses. The city is controlled by seven different factions, each with their own location in the city. Similar to the core gameplay in the original, players can call upon their friends in combat to utilize their special abilities. Earnings from winning can be spent back on the player’s home turf to expand them further, adding crafting for weapons, armor, vehicles and other helpful items. Players can specialize in crafting certain items and trade them with friends.

In addition to the home turf and story quests, Mafia Wars 2 offers player versus player combat. This unfolds in several specific arenas, including the Bone Yard, Area 51 and Badlands, where players confront and battle other players in asynchronous combat. These fights are based on the actual stats and items possessed by opponents, and fighting them adds them to a player’s Rivals List. Players can then travel to the home turf of their rivals and attempt to rob them; rivals can also try to attack the player’s turf. Players have a heat meter that fills as they’re attacked by other players — as it fills, they become harder to attack, keeping players from continually griefing one another.

Zynga plans to have more than 200 pieces of weapons and armor items and 300 pieces of clothing in Mafia Wars 2 at launch. The resulting combinations create various character classes, a feature we didn’t get to spend much time with in our demo.

Mafia Wars 2 will launch in “the next few weeks,” worldwide in 16 different languages — including Japanese, Korean, and Thai. On the mobile side of the Mafia Wars franchise, Zynga is preparing Mafia Wars Shakedown for iOS devices. Consumer blog Games.com notes that this page replaces Mafia Wars: Atlantic City, suggesting that Zynga has scrapped HTML5 development for the time being.

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