CityVille 2 follows on FrontierVille design philosophy

After a slight delay brought on by Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast, Zynga’s CityVille 2 goes live today.

The game is a citybuilder not unlike the original CityVille or SimCity Social. Players are tasked with constructing a thriving metropolis by adding residential and commercial buildings to a preset grid, unlocking more available land as the buildings generate resources for the player to spend. CityVille 2 diverges from other citybuilders mainly through a daytime/nighttime mechanic where different events and certain resources can only be seen or collected during specific times of day. A camera feature allows players to view their city from several different pre-set angles, which resolves a common issue in other citybuilders where players lose access to buildings behind larger structures. CityVille 2 also follows SimCity Social’s lead in introducing a concrete narrative where the player (as the town’s Mayor) must discover the identity of an arsonist that blows up the mayor’s mansion during the game’s tutorial. Like FarmVille 2, CityVille 2’s graphics are full 3D.

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CityVille 2’s design takes several cues from FrontierVille, which also came from the Zynga East studio. That title took the successful FarmVille and layered on additional mechanics  such as the “bonus bar” system — a meter that provided additional bonuses based on how fast a player clicked on dropped resources like coins and experience points — and created a new gameplay experience. We see similar mechanics in play in CityVille 2 with oscillating progress bars that appear whenever the player interacts with an activity (e.g. clicking on a burning building to put out a fire with fire trucks). A shaded-in portion of the bar is the “sweet spot,” where the player tries to land a marker with a well-timed click for an additional scoring bonus. This creates a more engaged sense of gameplay than the original CityVille in much the same way FrontierVille felt more active than FarmVille.

Another component layered into the core gameplay experience is the concept of “districts” that unlock as the player’s city levels up. Each district has unique buildings and graphics, allowing players to customize their city more thoroughly than the original CityVille currently allows. Districts also level up as a whole, unlocking new perks and bonuses as the player progresses. Because each district is different, the idea is that no two CityVille 2 players’ cities will look exactly alike.

The game monetizes much the same way as other social games — with premium items and the ability to unlock higher-level items without meeting the level requirement.

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Many have high expectations of CityVille 2. It’s the first Q4 2012 release for the embattled social game giant after a highly publicized reorganization closed Zynga’s Boston studio. It’s also Zynga’s third-ever big name sequel after Mafia Wars 2 — an embarrassing flop on Facebook released last year — and FarmVille 2, which is still in its infancy on the platform. Finally, CityVille 2 is a sequel to Zynga’s largest-ever game on Facebook, which is a tough act to follow. Not even SimCity Social with all its high quality graphics and brand recognition could come close to reaching those numbers — and it may be that no game ever will with all the changes to Facebook’s game ecosystem.

Play the game for yourself here and keep an eye out for our full review later this week.