Faunasphere: A Casual MMO from Big Fish Games

FaunasphereWith the evolution of the massively multiplayer online game, we have seen the space shift more and more away from a subscription model to one of a more “casual” nature. With the genre more popular than ever, comes the newest casual contender, Faunasphere, from well-known developers Big Fish Games. Littered, pun intended, with concepts of environmental care, the Seattle-based developer has created an attractive, free, Flash world of highly intelligent, DNA altering, laser-wielding, and pollution zapping animals.

The game starts the player off in an isometric, almost sci-fi looking world of highly saturated colors and cutsie animals. You’re what’s called a “Caretaker” and once you have selected from a list of three animal types (dog, horse, and turtle) you go off into the world to fight strange forms of pollution that have appeared all over the place. Yes, “strange” – some of it has eyes… don’t ask.

What is most surprising about Faunasphere, however, is that there is no avatar customization when you first start out, only a small selection of different color skins for your character. But, this seems to change a little later in the game once you get your first “goal” (quest) referring to genetics.

The way goals work, players progress through the game using a simple quest system. Generally speaking, these are fairly basic collection quests, but a handful have some curious objectives, like genetics. Players can customize their character to have different and unique attributes that give it an advantage in certain areas. In the initial genetics quest, for example, players can modify your character to function in the cold. In fact, further modifications can be created when you level up as well and “lay an egg.” Unfortunately, due to general leveling speed and some vague player direction (more on that later), it was difficult to confirm just how much genetic manipulation could be accomplished.

Frankly, leveling does feel a tad slow for a casual game, so it is difficult to say what level of gene modification can be done with eggs. However, it does look like you can get some rather bizarre features and even other animals — but this is where another issue comes into play. From what it seems, everything that you need for these goals is garnered through digging up items under rocks, picking roots, or zapping pollution. That’s it. And this limitation is probably the single most frustrating thing about this game.

pollution boss fightYes, Faunasphere is pretty to look at, but half the time is spent running around doing the same exact thing and hoping to find the item you need. There just is no real direction and players end up floundering about trying to figure things out (not to mention your inventory doesn‘t have item names and your quests don‘t track which items you‘ve collected for it all ready). Even in one of the tutorial quests, it said something along the lines of “to learn the advanced techniques, go to X area.” Well, “X area” turns out to be an awfully big place and with no specific point to go to within the area and no map markers for it, it wasn’t exactly easy to find. Truth be told, the location was not found at all.

On the plus side players do get to create their own virtual space; their own Faunasphere, if you will, which is fairly entertaining and one of the mitigating factors of running around zapping everything. If you don’t get the item you’re looking for, at least players can get pieces to use in their own personal spaces. Unfortunately, so early in the game, it is hard to see what sort of potential really lies in this.

Overall Faunasphere is a good-looking game with a pretty hefty amount of things to do. Unfortunately, the volume of goals to accomplish becomes rather frustrating when you end up searching aimlessly for what is needed to finish them — while never really knowing if you’re doing what you’re are supposed to correctly or not. In the end, Faunasphere has a lot more capability than its current state is giving it credit for. Mostly, it is just the goal system that needs the most work. That said, even in its current state, the entertainment value was still there for at least an hour or so, and if Big Fish can get players to come back at a daily regimen for that amount of time, then this casual MMO should do just fine.