Where do you go once you’ve been to space? Last time we heard from Playfish we were blasting evil robots and aliens in a Worms style shooting type game, and before that, we were recruiting friends to help us serve in restaurants. Both were excellent games, and really showed a new level of quality, so when their latest games sounded of the farming genre, a cringe couldn’t be helped. Nevertheless, Country Story turned out to be surprisingly refreshing.
Farming games have been immensely popular in China for years, and are now catching up in a big way in North America. Just in the last few months, we’ve seen the release of myFarm, Farm Town, and FarmVille.
Country Story has the player taking the reigns of an anime-style, teenage-looking farming character that can be customized to the users’ liking. The customization seems to be a bit limited at the moment, but hopefully that will change. Regardless, once a character is made, it is time to pick out a house and get to work.
Like the other farming games, this app has you digging up plots of land, planting seeds, watering them, and harvesting for money. Doesn’t sound too different does it? Here’s the thing though: Wher as the other farm titles dump you into the world with a brief tutorial, Country Story creates a context to learning through a quest system reminiscent to World of Warcraft and other more modern MMOs.
Each thing that you do in the game is part of a quest (at least at some point). Sometimes it is “water six plants” – other times you are gathering building materials. Every time a quest is completed, the player earns some money, rewards, and experience towards leveling up (which actually determines how much land you can plow for crops).
Unlike most MMOs, however, there is a limit to how much a player can do at any given time. Each action requires an amount of stamina and the only way to replenish it is through food that can only be garnered through spending you hard earned game cash and quest rewards. Additionally, quests don’t have you just standing around your farm in one spot. Players actually run around their, and friends’, plots of land in order to complete them. All actions require some form of movement through the world; whether it is just running around and picking up rocks or visiting the well to fill up your watering can.
The game also takes some key elements from other successful Playfish titles. The two most prominent ones seem to be Restaurant City and Pet Society. Like in Restaurant City, the more gold you earn, the more you can decorate your land, and as expected, with a few different styles (which will most certainly increase). Players can also, like in Pet Society significantly enhance game play by adding friends to your village and caring for their land. You can water their plants, clean up their place, and even care for their animals.
Yes, there are animals. However, unlike past farm titles, these animals seem to have a point. Players can actually use the animals for their respective products, meaning that cows can be kept for milk, chickens for eggs, and sheep for wool. This adds a significant amount of value to these creatures other than pretty eye candy. Unfortunately, they are a bit pricey early on, so don’t expect to use them too soon.
Unlike the other farming games, Country Story only allows you to interact with your Facebook friends playing the game. Perhaps one of the nicest features in Farm Town was that you could actually visit a marketplace that held a big compilation of players currently on the server, allowing you to interact with them and their farms.
All in all, it seems like Playfish has done a pretty good job. Rather than simply plopping the player into a world with a brief tutorial, the player had goals and context for their actions through the new quest system right from the start. Furthermore, the combination of popular Restaurant City and Pet Society features add a great deal of appeal to the game.
Does it have all of the positive elements of its farming predecessors? No, but it does avoid many of their faults and make up for them with new mechanics. Is it as good as previous Playfish games? Difficult to say. It is indeed a good game, but Restaurant City and Pet Society still seem to be the best. Granted it’s not a competition, but it never hurts to try and top your said best.