Preview: Fantasy University on Facebook

Fantasy UniversityFor a long while now, we’ve been hearing about a coming Facebook game from Simutronics called Fantasy University. Tailored towards the “hardcore gamer,” this title is not intended for the average Facebook user. We recently got the opportunity to take a look at the game’s closed beta, and even though not everything was working, the game still came off as a quality title.

Fantasy University is a role-playing game, but don’t let the genre fool you. This is no Mafia Wars. It’s still text-based, but the game is more similar to turn-based RPGs that traditional gamers will be familiar with. The big difference here, however, is that the game is set in a world that pokes fun of everything and anything that is fantasy or pop culture, in the style of The Kingdom of Loathing.

Players start out as a student joining the school of “F.U.” or Fantasy University, choosing from five different character classes such as the Dodgebrawler or Emomancer (these essentially translate into a “warrior” or “necromancer” in classic RPGs). Regardless, players then get moderate character customization control, which was particularly amusing when each hairstyle and facial expression had some satirical wit to them. A favorite was the Dragonball Z hair dubbed “Over 9000.”

MapOnce in the world, the user immediately runs into a parody of Johnny Depp called “Mad Willy Jack” that’s essentially a cross between every character the actor has ever played. From here, players begin the basics, which are the standard for virtually all current MMOGs: pick up quests, complete them, and return to the non-player character for a reward. In this specific example, Mad Willy Jack has Krabs that must be killed… on his ship, of course.

The quests are all pretty easy, and thus far have consisted of either “Find X Person” or “Kill Y Monster.” In the case of the latter, it’s pretty simple, as players use different attacks to fight random, satirical creatures (such as Spongeblobs — that live in parents’ nightmares, evidentially). Depending on the power of the attack, it uses up “Ability Power” (mana) that recharges over a period of time.

As players gain experience and level up, new abilities will unlock, and not all will merely cost more power. Some actually have specific criteria to be met, such as being low on health.

CombatWhen defeating enemies, loot is also collected. This loot can then be either sold, used if it’s a consumable item, or crafted into more powerful equipment.

For now, it’s unclear what social elements Fantasy University brings to the table. Since the game is in closed beta, invites aren’t possible, but parts of the game suggest a party and guild system (we found something called a “Guild Vault” for storing items). The party system appears to be called “BFF”, where users can assign friends to fill class roles and, presumably, play asynchronously together. If someone is a BFF, apparently, they can earn rewards from that friend’s game in addition to their own.

As for the style of the game, it looks fantastic. Satire on virtually every fantasy or pop icon you can think of is here. Just to name a few, the game makes fun of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Captain Crunch, Top Chef, Hannah Montana, and lord knows what else we haven’t seen yet.

Hannah MissourahThus far, Fantasy University inspires no real complaints from us. The real concern comes from the platform itself. With the majority of Facebook users not being hardcore gamers, it leaves one to wonder if Fantasy University will still attract any significant numbers of players. Furthermore, as funny as the game is, it doesn’t feel as fluid as a traditional gamer might like, as every action essentially loads a new “page” in the web browser. Granted, that’s a small problem, but such little things can sometimes wear on hardcore gamers.

Games that have pushed for the traditional gamer on Facebook generally don’t do well, regardless of quality. One such example is the MMOG, City of Eternals. While a decent game in its own right, it too tried to tailor itself around a more traditional audience and has yet to really gain any traction on Facebook. That said, it is a more serious game, while Fantasy University is much more tongue-in-cheek comedy. Whether or not that will make a difference… well, we’ll know once it’s out.