Be a homesteading pioneer in FrontierVille

Zynga is trailblazing in more ways than one with the pioneer-themed FrontierVille, the company’s newest Facebook game. Even though the very first thing you’re shown how to do is tend crops, the game is not just a reskinned version of FarmVille but something that takes social gaming in a few interesting new directions.

So many games love to explore the gun-toting Wild West, but FrontierVille looks at another aspect of that era: pioneer life. You start out with nothing but a plot of land and a covered wagon, and from there you have to establish a homestead. This takes time and a lot of hard work: you have to clear away brush, rocks and trees; buy crops and livestock and build pens to put them in, construct your house, and scare away threatening “varmints” if they appear.


Performing tasks is as easy as clicking on them. In return you’ll earn resources (wood, coins and food) that can be used in different ways. Wood is needed to build, for example. Food replenishes energy, which in turns allows you to perform more tasks. Once your energy runs out you can’t do anything else, but unlike some other games, you aren’t stuck waiting an entire day to be able to continue playing. You’ll replenish energy – albeit slowly – over time if you’re patient enough to wait. (You recharge 1 energy for every 3 minutes of real time).

It of course remains to be seen if FrontierVille will become the next big Facebook hit – maybe big enough to unseat FarmVille at the top of the charts. So far, though, it looks like it has the potential to do so. Aside from the fact that the game looks great, there’s a lot to do aside from the core mechanic.

Collections are one example. Every so often, a rare artifact drops along with the usual coins and experience to pick up. If you collect all of the artifacts in a series (such as the “Snake” or “Flowers” series’) you’ll earn bonuses. (The Mule Collection, for example, gives you 10 Energy, Five free hay bales.) There’s also a crafting system in the game – something that will be more familiar to traditional MMORPG players – where you can combine base items to make more sophisticated ones, such as wood and cloth to make a fire.


Facebook friends who have also added the FrontierVille app become neighbors and can visit each others’ homesteads and pitch in with chores. Doing chores might not sound like much fun, but you earn extra resources from them, as well as special hearts that increase your reputation.

There are also regular quests to complete, which gives the game a more focused, goal-oriented feel than some of its peers. For example, in the “Prepare the Harvest” quest you have to buy a fruit tree and a pig from the market, and plant seven crops. There’s also an overarching “main story” as well, where you have to get the homestead prepared for your impeding family. We only saw hints of in during the time we spent with the game for our preview – in the form of love letters from a sweetheart who’s preparing to join you on the homestead – but Zynga has confirmed that one of the big draws to FrontierVille will be the ability to start a family and have kids… lots of them!

FrontierVille may not literally be FarmVille 2, but it certainly feels like a spiritual successor. Based on our first impressions there’s a lot to keep players coming back, and it will be interesting to see how the game evolves over the next few weeks and months.