The Facebook gaming scene has been in dire need of The Grinns’ bright smiles

Had enough of Zynga’s cutesy big-headed social avatars? Line up, homeslice. Better yet, just forego the farm next time you pop onto Facebook and play The Grinns Tale instead. The Grinns’ wide, gap-toothed smiles are kind of horrific, but we mean that in the most endearing way possible. Make no mistake though, there’s nothing unsettling about the gameplay that powers The Grinns Tale. Frankly,Nexon’s mix of city building, strategy, and role-playing raises the bar on Facebook games.

Once upon a time, there was a big tower. The tower was a source of magic, but it was also a breeding point for monsters. A hero eventually took on the tower and sealed the evil inside, but the monster cull also took magic from the world.  Of course, evil-sealing dealies are never permanent. Nasty creatures are spilling from the tower again, and magic has made a return. You need to climb the foreboding structure, slay the monsters within, and restore the seal. Use better caulking this time, not the cheap no-name stuff.

The Grinns Tale

Taking on the tower is a big job, though, and not one you’re expected to rush into with a sword and a battle cry. The Grinns Tale is about building up your hero as much as it’s about fighting monsters. You build a party to fight with, and different classes are at your disposal, including warriors, clerics, and archers. But your allies don’t come into being out of thin air. You need to build up your village and attract new settlers by constructing sweet new homes for them to populate.

Assembling a small army is no small task, and a chunk of your village needs to keep producing all the good stuff that will help you conquer the tower. Pubs produce armor: bakeries produce food: and item shops produce healing potions among other candy-colored necessities.

When you’re ready to fight, you travel up through the tower floor-by-floor. Each level is teeming with baddies, and beating them up often yields building materials that are necessary for bringing your village up to snuff. Fighting battles involves clicking and dragging your warrior to a monster, or to a fellow party member (for healing and buffs). As soon as a monster is slain, you need to re-issue commands so that your warrior doesn’t stand there with his or her gob hanging wide open while he or she gets pummeled by the monster’s mates.

The Grinns Tale

In an age where developing a social game usually means stealing from Zynga (or Zynga stealing from everyone), it’s awesome to see Nexon produce a Facebook game that’s so well thought-out (not to mention graphically compelling in its own gothic, papery way). The writing is good, the characters are fun to play with, and the monster designs are imaginative—especially the screen-filling boss characters.

The action does tend to get a bit confusing at times, since you really have to keep on top of what your character is doing in battle. There are also the requisite sessions of the waiting game: you need to hang around while your shops are built, your products are developed, and more. You can assign villagers to the task to speed things along, which is definitely a welcome option, but don’t expect instant results unless you want to cough up some hard currency.

These are insignificant problems compared to the finished product, though. The Grinns Tale is a top-tier social game and worthy of your heroics, warrior. Just…maybe…well, maybe you’d like to find a dentist with all that gold you’ll be picking off monster corpses, you know?