Zynga’s newest entry in the ‘Ville series of social game, CastleVille, is now live on Facebook. Here’s a quick look at the first 18 minutes of play, which is the amount of time we were able to play for free before we hit the first energy restriction limit.
The game starts off with players customizing their avatar’s hair, skin color, body type, face type, and clothing (broken into an upper body section and a lower body section). Next, players must help two non-playable characters fight off “beastie” characters called Gloom Rats. One of the NPCs, Yvette, remains in the player’s game while the other, The Duke, returns to his own kingdom to fill the role of default “friend” character that the player can visit.
The player receives quests first from Yvette, who asks to have a house built — which involves clearing stones and trees to gain the necessary building components — and animals bought from the market. Right around here, CastleVille begins to introduce gameplay mechanics new to the ‘Ville series, including the mechanic of fighting off beastie characters in friends’ kingdoms and the concept of increasing the player’s castle level in order to unlock new areas of the map. CastleVille continuously prompts new players to unlock more map by panning over to undiscovered sections of land where new NPCs await the player should they unlock that section of land.
All in all, the first play session of CastleVille is pretty standard for role-playing game tutorials on the Facebook platform, which incidentally were standardized by FarmVille and FrontierVille. The CastleVille-specific features that stood out most for us during this time, however, were the detailed animations in chopping down trees, the orchestral music, and the search and organization functions in the Market. There’s also a transparent “Zynga HD” logo that appears along the bottom of the screen when viewing the game in full screen mode (see screenshot below). Additional features — like crop irrigation and the use of Reputation as a currency rather than a static level — were also evident, but not as attention-grabbing in the first session of play.
At about 18 minutes, the player hits the first real wall in energy consumption where they must post a Request to friends or more or spend Crowns in the Market to buy an energy potion. The player’s level should be between 4 and 5 and their Castle level should above 10 at this point in gameplay. Around this time, there is also a quest to invite friends as crew members for a Maiden Tower structure placed in the player’s kingdom as part of a quest. The Invite Friends tool currently allows players to select all friends, but a separate Invite Friends prompt sorts the player’s Facebook friends into those already playing CastleVille or other Zynga games.