I was surprised by how sophisticated this game was for a Facebook title, although it doesn’t hide the fact that as a new player to the game, it is rubbish to play.
Visually City of Wonder is very impressive, looking fairly similar to the likes of Settlers, AoE etc from about 5 years ago. I don’t think people would be particularly disappointed with the graphics if this was a full release title. The depth of the gameplay is also very impressive as well with a massive range of building types, a complex economy to manage and a “legends” system.
When looking at what is present in the game you can’t help but feel “this is up there with many games you’d buy from the shops!”. Unfortunately this is where the game falls down. It is still a facebook game. It has waiting times for anything to be performed (of course you can pay for means to avoid this), which takes you out of the game. As such you don’t get the city building experiences that you’d get from an off the shelf title. This leads to another drawback. There is a lot of micro-management involved, more than most similar style full priced games, and this requires you to be very active with the game. I soon found it quite tiresome to harvest everything and manage just one or two actions to develop my “city” when dropping by.
Another gripe is that it is visually very cluttered. At the top of the screen you have a large Playdom banner advertising their games and a large banner trying to get you to spam your Facebook group. The game itself has two reasonable large buttons on the left to send items & invite friends with rather large icons forthe buildings. The menu system to select which building to build, access your inventory and view your friends etc is rather large with an advert below that. I appreciate that they want you to virally advertise their game but far too much of the screen is devoted to this. In order to provide a meaningful screenshot I had to crop quite a lot of the banners!
After some substantial playing time it does become a lot easier to manage and play. Times can be in hours, or days, allowing you to have a little tinker when getting back in from work and after watching your favourite shows then setting it up to be ready when you get back. I have grown to like it, no doubt due to the fact t hat I can now set up my goods to be ready the next day. I don’t have to keep checking back in every 30 minutes to an hour in order to avoid ruining batches of goods. It isn’t just the goods though. The markets, research times and homes all have a longer timer on them. Another major factor is that there is a great technology tree that will take a substantial time to explore.
As you start to feel as though you may be nearing the end of the tree and hitting an “end point”, you unlock Colonies. This allows you to effectively start over on a new island but involving new technology, new buildings and a new economy. With greater experience at the game, you can hit the ground running and start building a new “cities”.
However having more depth and improving gaming, unlike say Soccer Tycoon, doesn’t redeem its dreadful initial experience. Why should people have to fiddle incomprehensively at the start? With a new game you want to be given the freedom to learn and explore it, not have to deal with the most complex time during the progression arc.
City of Wonder is technically very impressive but it finds itself stuck between being a full fledged game and something that you casually play when dropping byFacebook. Early on you can’t play it for a “session”, even a short 15-20 minute one due to the timers and as a casual game it is far too complex and involves too much micromanagement to really get into it. If you give it a lot of time it does become a solid casual game but somehow, I think that misses the point!