Village Life is a solid life sim, but only truly social players can count on advancing.
If reality did a neat little flip and all the virtual villages and cities on Facebook suddenly popped onto our plane of existence, every inch of the planet would be covered in layers of half-built houses, buildings, skyscrapers, and dance halls. Almost every social city-building game revolves around throwing up as many structures as possible, which makes it all the easier to eventually abandon those soulless grey monoliths. But while Village Life for Facebook is yet another game about building up a community, its focus on people makes it a compelling social experience.
Village Life gets you involved with its characters’ lives within the first few seconds of starting up the game. You view a cinematic of a (renamable) married couple lost in the woods, and the pregnant wife is minutes away from popping. Well, there’s nothing like getting back to nature, but you obviously can’t let the poor woman deliver in a wolf’s den, so you immediately adhere to the tutorial and build them a shelter. The babies (also namable) are born and then you find a couple more villagers, and the game gets underway in earnest.
Building up an existence for your villagers in Village Life involves tasks like fetching water, building fires, gathering food and resources, building structures, and crafting tools to help you get your jobs done. Each adult villager has an energy bar that depletes with every task performed, so obviously the more villagers you have under your command, the more stuff gets done.
This is why Village Life puts emphasis on relationships. The game lopes along slowly if you stick to your original band of merry men and women, but the real fun is in meeting characters from other villages (your Facebook pals), marrying, making babies, and raising them until they’re ready to join the workforce.
The men and women in Village Life are capable of aging, but they do so very slowly. In other words, if you’re really dedicated to growing your family and your village, getting your friends into the game is mandatory for finding of-age mates within a reasonable amount of time. Otherwise, you’ll be using Depends by the time the youngsters in your default crew are grown up and ready to raise their own families.
This “forced” social interaction is Village Life‘s greatest failing. What’s especially disappointing is that the game is hosted on Zynga.com, but you can’t ask like-minded players to join your village. No, you need to rely on the archaic practice of prodding Facebook friends who probably want nothing to do with your social game hang-up.
It’s a bit hypocritical to criticize such a character-intensive game for being too social, but a game as cute and immersive as Village Life deserves more socialization options. It’s enjoyable enough if you play solo, and you can certainly advance with some patience, but you never shake the feeling that you’re missing out on what the title has to offer. Still, it goes without saying that you should give Village Life a go if you can find a few like-minded friends to play with you.