Family Farm from Chinese developer Fun+ presents players with a bold claim on its permissions page: that it is “better than Farmville.” But as the farming genre reaches saturation point and players move on to other styles of play, does this claim have relevance today? More to the point, is it an accurate one?
Family Farm has actually been around since October 2010 on the German social network VZ Netwerke and, according to the developer, since June 2011 on Facebook. Our tracking service AppData is currently only showing user figures back as far as February of this year, however, and Facebook has recently been listing the title in the “Newest” section of its games and apps discovery page, so it’s worthy of some attention, particularly as it appears to be gaining some traction at present.
The game, as it suggests itself, unfolds in a very similar manner to Farmville, though the player does not have a custom avatar under their control and instead oversees things from an omniscient isometric perspective. Players plant and grow crops in order to earn money and experience, and may then use these crops to produce various other products. This “production chain” feature is what distinguishes Family Farm from its numerous competitors.
In the initial tutorial the player is introduced to one such chain: growing clover, feeding it to a cow, collecting milk and turning it into cheese. This tutorial moves a little too fast, if anything, bombarding the player with a lot of information in rapid succession without taking the time to explain anything in great detail. The player is told to put fertilizer on their crops, for example, but they are not directly told that this immediately causes growth time to be reduced by 25 percent.
The game then unfolds through a series of quests. Like the tutorial, though, these quests don’t always explain exactly what effect the things the player is doing will have. For example, one quest requires the player to purchase some “super fertilizer” using provided hard currency, though it is not directly explained that this causes crops to immediately mature and be ready for harvesting. Astute, experienced players will figure this out for themselves, but if this happens to be a person’s first encounter with a farming game there’s a chance for confusion.
Family Farm looks very dated, with its prerendered visuals and limited animations looking like a PC game from the late 1990s. There is also a complete lack of sound effects, with only a very short, repetitive music loop playing. There are also none of the satisfying visual flourishes seen in other examples of the genre — it’s sometimes not clear when players have been rewarded with money or experience since the game simply updates the statistics at the top of the screen rather than seeing items explode with collectible symbols.
The game monetizes well, though, with a wide range of seasonal goods and promotions on offer. Family Farm’s Facebook page also regularly hosts limited giveaways of hard currency and fosters a sense of community by exhibiting player creations of crop art or high-level farms. Despite the fact the game is clearly not, as it claims, “better than Farmville,” it has obviously managed to build up a small but loyal fan base who enjoy its distinctive, if unpolished, take on the genre.
Despite being rather rough around the edges, this farming game carries some good ideas and has built up a small but loyal fan base.