Family Village is a Facebook title from Funium that encourages players to explore their real-life family tree while attempting to build up a village made of their family members.
The game begins with the player creating a character and inputting a selection of personal information about themselves, including their full name, date of birth, birthplace and current location. It’s possible to add this information to each subsequent “villager” who arrives, and it’s through these details that Family Village searches for relevant documents relating to each person, beginning with a “what happened on the day you were born” display. Later, it becomes possible to view documents such as newspaper articles, marriage records, yearbook photos and more.
Searching for documents takes time, though, so while waiting the player engages in some very straightforward, predictable and rather dull village-building gameplay. There is very little that is new in Family Village’s gameplay — players expend energy to chop down trees, clear rocks, collect resources and construct buildings, and are then able to expend additional energy to collect income from buildings and swell their coffers. Money is used to purchase various things around the village, expand further and thus upgrade the “village score” to unlock additional immigration slots. A mild twist on the formula comes in the fact that all new family members added to the player’s family tree appear as villagers and must be given a home and a job to be useful, but aside from this it’s very much business as usual.
Herein lies the big issue with Family Village: the first time the game offers to go and fetch documents for a family member, a four-hour timer begins, with no apparent facility to speed the process up using hard currency. In the meantime, the player is expected to continue questing and building to increase the size of their village while time passes, but unfortunately the gameplay is so very unimaginative and unadventurous that there’s little incentive to play this over more well-established entries in the genre.
The family tree side of things has some significant issues, too. There does not appear to be a facility to add siblings, for example, meaning it’s seemingly impossible to research more complicated family trees where children may have come from a different parent or a previous marriage. It’s also impossible to tell whether or not the player has entered sufficient information for the game to find any relevant documents without waiting for the four-hour timer to elapse, which could lead to significant frustration if a small mistake or inaccuracy has been made.
In terms of social features, the game has the usual “visit your friends and help” facility but also allows players to selectively share both their family tree and any uncovered documents with friends who are playing the game. This means if family members are playing together, they can easily exchange information they have found. When adding new villagers, players are also able to link them to a Facebook profile, providing an easy means of promoting the game and encouraging additional family members to participate.
The trouble with Family Village is that the underlying idea is sound but the execution is poor. Genealogy is a major cultural interest in certain areas of the world, including Europe and China, and it’s a great idea to create a game focusing around it. Unfortunately, the genealogy aspect isn’t particularly well fleshed out and features the inconvenience of non-skippable real-time waits, while the core gameplay is tired, predictable, boring and not particularly polished to boot. Animations are clunky, wooden and lacking in personality, while the response from keyboard and mouse is sometimes sluggish. If a game expects players to return after a four-hour wait, there better be something worth coming back for — and in this case, there just isn’t, sadly.
Brilliant idea; forgettable, tedious, unadventurous gameplay.