The Mafia Wars design reminds me a bit of a coffee cup: it can be tall or square, made of ceramic or glass, hand painted or textured… and sometimes just to spice things up a bit, there might be a funky handle. But still, it’s just a coffee cup. The original Mafia Wars concept has been used for zombies, pirates, gopher pirates, vampires, horses, aliens, alien zombies, and every manner of fantasy RPG. Too often, unlike the metaphorical coffee cup, the biggest change has just been the paint.
I first experienced the Chronicles of Herenvale on Hi5 where my social network is limited at best. It struck me as a charming text RPG; a rather decent translation of the Hero’s Journey.
I was more than three chapters into the title before I realized I was playing a modified Mafia Wars design. Herenvale has recently come to Facebook bringing with it the same look and feel that made it an appealing RPG on Hi5.
The title, which still has just a small amount of traffic on Facebook, according to our app tracking service Appdata, is classic RPG fare. The player creates a character, battles creatures, purchases the best possible weapons and armor, assigns skill points for an optimum build, chooses a faction… all the while completing the quests in the various chapters.
Player-versus-player is available as one-on-one duels or in timed tournaments. Raids against boss monsters spawned by GMs occur throughout the day; these enable the less affluent player an opportunity to obtain premium items. All of the familiar tropes of the fantasy RPG are there.
What sets Chronicles of Herenvale apart from other, more derivative titles is the execution and polish. Rather than the standard rows and columns, developer Mososh has quests and sub-quests laid against corresponding artwork in patterns that complement the images. The writing is in character; the item descriptions apt and often amusing. And though only 10 chapters exist in the current storyline, duels, tournaments and raids keep the player occupied.
It would be easy to dismiss this title as derivative and in many ways it is; but in the search for The Next Big Thing in social gaming sometimes it is forgotten that doing what has been done before, just well can be enough.