Developer: EA2D

Platform: Facebook

Release Date: Like a week ago

Content Warning: Blood

Link: http://apps.facebook.com/dragonagelegends

          Wait a second, didn’t I just say I was tired of Facebook games a couple weeks ago? Well, this is the sacrifice I make for you, dear readers. For those who may not be aware, Dragon Age 2 – sequel to BioWare’s extremely popular Dragon Age Origins – was recently released, and EA has released a tie-in Facebook game with the promise of unlocking extra stuff in Dragon Age 2. I should warn you right now, I have never played Dragon Age Origins and have no plans of getting Dragon Age 2, so the bonuses are completely lost on me. However, I still had high hopes for a good game given BioWare’s strong reputation and the fact that I enjoyed Dragon Age Journeys (the flash tie-in game for Origins).

          Legends is a traditional turn-based RPG on Facebook where you create a custom hero and battle your way through hoards of enemies to find out what happened to the son of Viscount Ravi. Each area has a series of battles and events you must go through to reach the next story objective, and in order to proceed you’ll need to compose a party of your friends’ heroes and some NPC heroes for each battle. Along the way, you’ll receive items that you can transfer to your DA2 party, assuming you have that game as well. As you level up, you can progress heroes along several skill trees based on their class as well as build your own castle where workers will make items for you.

 
 
Note: Now that things have calmed down a bit, I should be back on a normal weekly schedule. However, I'm switching my reviews to Mondays so that I have the weekend to work on them.

Developer: Sarahnorthway

Platform: Flash

Release Date: 2/12/2011

Content Warning: Blood and Gore, Moderate Language, Minor Sexual References

Link: http://www.kongregate.com/games/sarahnorthway/rebuild

          After all of these casual social games lately, I’m in the mood for something a little more hardcore. Nothing says hardcore quite like doing battle with hoards of the undead, so I was lucky to find Rebuild recently. It’s not quite what you’d expect from a zombie game, though. Instead of your usual affair of picking up the nearest shotgun and blasting some patrons out of Chateau d’Sweetbreads, Rebuild has you managing a colony of survivors after some unexplained zombie apocalypse decimated the world. Your goal (beyond simply surviving, of course) is to rebuild society by any means necessary. In order to do that, you’ll have to give orders to survivors, manage their food, shelter, and happiness, and conquer surrounding blocks so that you can barricade them against the undead.

 
 
My apologies for the late post, things have been a bit crazy lately. My kitchen's in the middle of remodeling and been out of comission for the last week. But rest assured, I haven't forgotten about my readers (all two of you).

Developer: The Casual Collective

Platform: Facebook

Release Date: 6/30/10

Content Warning: Cartoon Blood

Link: http://apps.facebook.com/backyardmonsters

          Since my review of CityVille last week, I’ve been putting a lot of thought into what makes a good social game. I don’t just mean good in the sense that it makes money, Zynga have already proven the best way to do that is to fill your game with more spam than the British army circa 1941. I mean an actual good game, one that allows people a wide range of creativity and makes them feel fulfilled by playing. I don’t claim to have all the answers, or I’d be out there making this magical game and getting paid the big bucks. But, as an avid game player, I have discovered a few things about social games:

1.      The perfect game is impossible. The desire to create a high quality game and the need/desire to make money are in direct opposition. People hate being bugged to pay money in a game that’s supposed to be free, but in order to support the costs of running the game, it’s a necessary evil. However, people should not be prevented from seeing content without paying and should not feel pressured to give money. Rather, they should have the option of paying and getting things sooner that they could still get without paying.

2.      Players should be encouraged to express creativity and have lots of customization options.  I think this is part of why Minecraft has been so successful – though it might not be a true social game, it has no system of advancement other than making something that looks cool. Most social games require players to use the most efficient way of reaching higher levels rather than playing to suit their personality, or else risk getting left in the dust by their friends.

3.      A player should not have to view their friends as a resource rather than a fellow player. This is something that I took particular issue with in CityVille. There’s no problem with people giving “gifts” (in quotes because almost all social games pull whatever’s being given from the ether instead of actually taking it from the giving player) to each other, but it shouldn’t result in truckloads of gift messages, and people shouldn’t be required to get their friends to play in order to see advanced game content.

4.      If there is an energy or level system, it should be meaningful, not just a way to show off or prevent players from continuing playing unless they wait or pay.

          I created these points with some help from Backyard Monsters, which I’m pleased to report is much better than any generic spam-ville game Zynga has ever farted out. Much like Travain and Evony, Backyard Monsters is mainly based around resource production and management. Your goal is to raise an army of hideous mutant creatures and smash the crap out of your friends’ yards while building defensive structures to stop them from returning the favor.
 
 
Developer: Zynga

Release Date: 12/2/10

Link: http://apps.facebook.com/cityville

        Before I begin with this review, I want to make an important distinction. For those who may not be aware, Zynga does not have a very good reputation among some gaming circles. They’re by and large the most successful game company on social media sites, but they’ve also been the focus of more than a few controversies. Many of their games have been at best “inspired” by other games, and at worst been copied wholesale. After all, their most popular game (until the release of CityVille, anyway) was Farmville, an almost direct copy of Slashkey’s Farm Town, which was itself similar to the Harvest Moon game series. Zynga was even sued over their game Mafia Wars by the makers of the similar Mob Wars and had to settle out-of-court for about $8 million. They have also been accused of creating large amounts of spam for players’ friends, overuse of exclusive in-game currency that costs real money to obtain, and making low-quality games that all have similar rules and mechanics. In short, they’re the sort of company that would be the villain in a James Cameron movie.

        The distinction that I want to make before I actually talk about CityVille is that Zynga’s reputation and the actual quality of the game are two completely separate things. My goal is to review this and all games that I talk about on their individual merits, regardless of the developer’s history. To that end, I’m going to pretend I don’t know who made CityVille. Now that that’s out of the way… hey look, it’s SimCity!

 
 
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    Every week, I bring you the best in free video gaming! Flash games, Facebook apps, free-to-play MMOs and more every Monday!

    Got questions, feedback, or games I should check out? Contact me on Facebook or Twitter below, or send an email to TheFreewareFanatic
    @gmail.com!

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