Chateau review

Chateau is a new winemaking-themed Facebook game from Russian developer Arvara, published by 6waves. The game showed up as the No. 2 emerging Facebook game at the end of last week, and seems to be performing well so far.

Chateau casts players in the role of a new landowner who has acquired an abandoned chateau and its surrounding grounds. The previous owner was forced out of the business by a rival winemaker and wishes to see the player succeed where they failed. This is accomplished by the player splitting their time between interior design, managing the chateau’s estate and surrounding town and ensuring that the winemaking business gets back up and running.

The game is split into three distinct components, and the game’s quests will see players flipping back and forth between them regularly. Inside the chateau, players have a first-person perspective view of the various level-locked rooms and are occasionally called upon to find “hidden” items to advance the story. This is no hidden object game, however — hidden items are invisible, concealed within other items of furniture, and may only be found by clicking on the places the player thinks they might be. This gives the game a light “adventure game” feeling at times, but the rather simplistic nature of this gameplay aspect does turn it into a case of “click everywhere until something happens” more often than not.

Also inside the chateau, players are required to purchase new furniture in order to raise their house’s “prestige” level. Purchasing new furniture generally replaces old items, so players do not have complete freedom of expression to redecorate exactly how they please. Many furniture items are level-locked, also, though more effective items may always be purchased by using hard currency regardless of level.

Outside the chateau is where the bulk of the gameplay takes place, and it is here that the gameplay is also most traditional. Players must build up their fledgling wine business by constructing houses for workers, using them to collect grapes from the vineyards and then either selling these grapes at market or using them to create various more valuable items via a “supply chain” system. For example, to make wine, players must harvest grapes using workers, then use the grapes in a wine press to turn them into juice, then send the juice to a fermenting cellar to turn it into wine. Players may sell their products at any point along this chain, but additional steps to create more valuable wine pays off in the long run.

While the “supply chain” system is interesting, in practice the basic gameplay in Chateau is the usual clicking on structures with icons floating over them and expending energy in the process. There is a strong emphasis on decorating the area, however — the chateau has a “beauty” rating that must be kept above zero in order to avoid being fined by the local authorities. Constructing industrial buildings lowers the beauty rating, while placing decorations increases it. As such, the player must carefully balance their building projects between natural decorations and production facilities.

Chateau is a decent quality game, albeit one that doesn’t do anything especially innovative — and one that certainly has room for improvement. In gameplay terms, for example, it would be nice to see more done with the “interior” sections such as the ability to freely rearrange furniture or customize rooms to a greater degree. There are also some interface issues that get in the way of enjoyment — when purchasing items such as trees or roads that are likely to be placed in large quantities, for example, the player has to click on the toolbar item and then place it for every single item. This is an inconvenience rather than a major usability issue, but when some other games take a more efficient approach by allowing the player to click a toolbar item once and then place as many copies as they desire, it makes one wonder why the decision to not take this approach here was reached. Alongside this, there are a number of inconsistencies in the game’s logic — removing abandoned houses and piles of garbage costs energy and can be accomplished simply by clicking on them, for example, while removing dead trees requires the player to enter the “tools” menu and use the “demolish” function to delete them with no energy cost.

The presentation, too, needs some work. There are a lot of errors in the game’s English text — hard currency is referred to as “Francs” in quest text, for example, but on the purchasing screen it is called “Franks” — leaving aside the fact that France now uses Euros rather than Francs as its currency, the former is the correct spelling. Similarly, the game provides the player with a wine fact upon every completed objective, accompanied by the phrase “Does your friends know this?” (rather than “Do your friends know this?” as it should be). Some of these issues are likely due to the translation from Russian, but the game would have an altogether more professional appearance if these errors — which crop up far too frequently to be brushed off as simple typos — were caught during proofreading and playtesting.

Despite interface inconsistencies and textual errors, Chateau is a decent game that makes a noticeable effort to go a little bit beyond being a straightforward citybuilding or farming sim clone. It needs fleshing out and polishing up a little more, but with some continued support from its developer, there’s the possibility for long-term success here. The unusual concept alone makes it worthy of note, but it doesn’t quite feel ready for the big-time just yet. It will certainly be interesting to see how it develops as time goes on — and whether users will take to virtual winemaking.

Chateau currently has 50,000 monthly active users and 8,000 daily active users. Follow its progress with AppData, our traffic tracking service for social games and developers.

Wait

Some good ideas here, but the game needs fleshing out more and the presentation needs cleaning up before it’s ready for the big-time.