Sawbuck Gamer

The Ville

Home Improvement

Zynga’s The Ville takes aim at The Sims Social and misses.

By Samantha Nelson • July 19, 2012

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap ($10 or less) game.

Zynga has arguably made its fortune taking ideas from other game companies, doing them better, and driving their competitors under. If you’re going to make a clone, you should at least make it well, but when stacked up against Playfish’s The Sims Social, Zynga’s The Ville falls apart like a cheap knockoff purse. 

Like The Sims Social, The Ville has players spend their time improving their house, earning a salary, and socializing with neighbors (who are a mix of Facebook friends and pretend friends). Performing mundane tasks like mowing the lawn, or watching TV causes your ersatz Sims to ejaculate tangible success in the form of cash and smiley faces that indicate happiness. Many quests offer challenges that require you to get plenty of friends involved, like throwing a party. Others just remind you you’re playing a Zynga game by making you farm corn.

The need to call on your friends is an area where Zynga could shine. Many Zynga games offer a tab of friends who are already playing. Not so for The Ville, which only offers suggestions of friends who play games on Facebook, putting recruitment over convenience.

The Ville is simpler than The Sims Social. You get rewarded for taking care of basic needs, but you’re never punished for neglecting them. Interactions with other characters can only be positive, and you level up your character rather than individual skills. This structure makes the game less of a juggling act, but it also removes the challenge and much of the feeling of incremental progress.

The game is riddled with bugs. Some are just annoying, like your avatar disappearing. Others are infuriating, like a workstation that can’t be used because the game refuses to acknowledge you’ve put a chair next to it. The Ville could have been a serious competitor, but luckily for Playfish, it’s just a sloppy imitation.

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1,505 Responses to “Home Improvement”

  1. Shain Eighmey says:

    You know, I’ve never really understood the appeal of these types of games.  Might I sincerely ask what it is? I mean, you log in and join people to do what seems like nothing to me. 

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      Honestly, they all sound remarkably similar to WoW to me. Also Diablo. I really don’t get the appeal of super grindy games like that. Meh.

    • Chivo Classic says:

      It’s for people who want the “all-consuming addiction” and “alienating friends” aspects of a heroin habit without actually having to meet any heroin dealers.

    • blue vodka lemonade says:

       My mother, my sister, and I all play Sims Social. It’s fun enough (though it has been on steady decline,) but the other appeal is that it gives you a reason to talk to Facebook friends you might not otherwise be bothered with–cousins, classmates from old schools, etc.

      The customization/decoration aspect is also satisfying, if you like a certain kind of creativity. Like, I decided to decorate my house in the game in a Victorian style, so I’m always working to get more points to spend on furniture and decor that fits the theme, and then fiddling with it to make attractive rooms.

      I don’t know about other social games because I don’t play them, but Sims Social has a lot of the same appeal as The Sims. You take care of some virtual needs, foster virtual relationships, and buy stuff to decorate your house and clothes for your Sim. It’s all very basic, but it also only takes a few minutes a day to remain rewarding.

  2. Chivo Classic says:

    a mix of Facebook friends and pretend friends”
    So…. all pretend friends?

  3. Aurora Boreanaz says:

    I boycotted all Zynga games except Words with Friends when I realized they were all based on the same stupid, pointless formula:

    1. Click on something.
    2. Get a popup asking you to either A) share your supreme skill in clicking on something, or B) invite your friends to also click on something.
    3. Rinse and repeat, but add in an artificial timer (“energy”) to prevent you from actually accomplishing a task without waiting, paying or getting friends to play.

    At least games like WoW have actual stories to play through before the game becomes all mindless grind.  Zynga games are nothing BUT grind from the first click.

    • jellybeanpill says:

      Somebody made a game which deconstructed FarmVille, it was called ‘Cow Clicker’ (you can infer from the title what the gameplay consisted of). Although it sounds like the height of tedium, it actually became somewhat popular.

  4. HobbesMkii says:

    The Last Stand: Deadzone is the only one of these I play. Zombie survival Farmville!

  5. dreadguacamole says:

    I’m kind of surprised they didn’t name it Villeville

  6. Travis Stewart says:

    I hate to be ignorant, but what does “Ville” actually mean? It sounds like a shortened word in the same way “hood” is for “neighborhood”, but I’m not sure what the longer word would be. The only thing that comes to mind is “village”, which would somehow make the title even more idiotic.

    • Merve says:

      “Ville” is the French word for city, which ultimately comes from the Latin “villa.”

    • Matthew McGrath says:

      Ville is French word that currently means “city”.  During the middle ages, it was derived from Latin “villa rustica”, which was used to denote farms.

      I hate to be a jerk, but Goooooooooooooogle.

  7. Jared Bellow says:

    The Sims Social was absolutely riddled with bugs, just in the interest of fair play. It wouldn’t even let you sign in much of the time when I played it. I hit the level cap and quit caring.