Clipwire Games has come out with its own version of a frontier-themed simulation game on Facebook with its title Wild West Town. Recently appearing on our top emerging apps list, the youngFacebook app is already earning nearly 1.51 million monthly active users with a daily active user count of roughly 388,000.
Wild West Town obviously resembles FrontierVille, Zynga’s similar-themed game from last year. But while it makes use of many of the predecessor’s mechanics, it comes with a fairly different feel to it, and incorporates a highly addictive introduction sequence that truly brings the town itself to life. Along with more creative ways of rewarding players with virtual currency and getting them to allow the app access to their email, the experience feels very unique despite the game’s less original frontier premise.
The key difference between Wild West Town and FrontierVille is that right from the start players are creating a town. Players start with the predecessor’s mechanic of clearing debris (though such elements are now used in other popular games such as Ravenwood Fair) so that an actual town can be made. Moreover, with each item of debris — cacti, rocks, weeds, etc. — gold, supplies, and oil are all earned.
These become the three currencies used to manage everything, with many items requiring an amount from each category to purchase. Of the most basic are crops, which take on the typical farming-sim mechanic of plant, water, harvest, but thankfully, this is not the sole way to garner income. Actually, the clearing of debris, which constantly regrows, is enough income as it is.
What is of more interest are the various buildings. When players begin the game, they are guided by a very detailed series of quests that has the player meeting a variety of characters that come to live in their budding town. For each of them, a structure is needed, but thus far, each one has had a specific function beyond just looking nice.
One of the most curious is actually the second building constructed: The Bank. In most social games, virtual currency is often rewarded to the player upon leveling up (usually one currency per level). However, this reward becomes significantly less once the player reaches a higher level and cannot level up quickly. To remedy this, the Bank rewards virtual currency on a daily basis, coaxing users to return frequently.
Other buildings produce useful boosts as well. The Cookhouse, for example can make use of crops or purchased livestock to actually make dishes. What is interesting about this, is that each dish can reward the player with more than just experience. Most will actually provide useful powerups. As an example, should users make a “Healthy Breakfast,” all of their crops will grow by one hour.
With many structures, however, friends are needed in some way to make them function. In some cases, Facebook friends must send supplies to build them in the first place. In other situations, they are needed to actually run the place (e.g. the Cookhouse) and must be hired as employees. They don’t actually do anything, and non-player characters can be hired for virtual currency, but they are required to actually “complete” the building in general. Aside from this, friends that become neighbors can be visited and aided in the same fashion as FrontierVille. As a reward, interactions can grant extra energy.
As for anything else worth noting, regarding buildings, is players must also dig about their space to find veins of water or oil. Upon these, they can construct wells and oil derricks that will provide them with a means to water newly planted crops or earn the oil currency.
Another aspect of merit comes in the fluidity of the game’s quest system. In most social games, especially virtual space sims, the quests feel very generic. Here, each one progresses the town in a logical fashion, actually introducing new characters that range from the trouble-making outlaw to the cheery chef to the solemn banker. Each one hangs around the town, Fanglies-style, giving it a bit more life. Sadly, unlike Fanglies, they don’t move much.
As a side note, the quests system is so fluid that when a Pony Express rider rolled into town, chased by bandits and dying of dehydration, it seems almost necessary to join the Pony Express in his stead when asked. Cleverly, this signs the user up for email notifications. It wasn’t hidden, but it was so natural that doing so wasn’t given a second though. Plus, users get some free decorative items for doing so.
It’s also important to point out that the a new player is able to do an impressive amount during their first sitting. Taking a decent amount of time to consume initial starting resources, players actually do get the sense of starting a real western town. The expenditure to reward ratio works perfectly, and even though the town isn’t very large, it still feels like one; unlike other titles that only give users enough gold/energy to build a few crops and maybe a decorative item or two… exciting.
There isn’t much to complain about with Wild West Town. Yes, it is a lot like FrontierVille, but social games have been mimicking the evolution that core games went through, and just as core games that follow similar mechanics (e.g. first-person shooters) have to find new means to differentiate themselves, so too do social games. While Clipwire’s mechanics are similar to previous games, the overall feel of the game is very different.
Aside from this, the game is brand new and marked as “beta,” so there are a number of bizarre bugs that appear now and again. From graphical glitches that leave crops invisible or the avatars with no eyes, to energy not recharging, these come off as annoying at worst. It’s not that they’re not working, they just can’t be seen, and a simple browser refresh seems to always work. Nevertheless, not all new players are going to try that.
All in all, Clipwire is off to a good start with the title, and we expect the game to continue to improve with age.