The term “role-playing game” tends to get thrown around a lot when classifying many games. Typically, the average person will classify anything with quests and a story as one. However, in its purest form, the RPG literally has users taking on the role of someone or something they are not. Unfortunately, they rarely incorporate all the aspects of being that someone or something. Well, Playdom seeks to rectify that qualm, at least to some degree with its latest title, Big City Life.
If you hadn’t guessed by now, yes, this is another Facebook RPG. Right now, many people are probably thinking something along the lines of “another mafia-style game,” but they would be only half right. Playdom actually takes all of the familiar elements of your standard RPG, stuffs them into a cannon and fires them onto the social network, using them in new ways.
You see, the objective is to get by in the “the big city,” but as people who live there know, it can be hard. You have jobs, friends, travel, fashion, and all those other things that make life worth living. Actually, that’s a lot like anywhere else.
The game is broken up into three major sections: Play, Work, and Style. Play is going to be the most familiar to Facebook users, as this is your quest (activity) section. All the standards apply: Do an activity, repeat until you’re a “master,” earn experience, money, and random rewards, and buy items needed to actually start them. Of course, guns, swords, and militias aren’t exactly commonplace in metropolitan areas, so if your activity is to work out at the gym, a pair of sneakers will suffice.
Now, this is where the game starts to get interesting. Before doing an activity, you must select a friend to do it with. The game gets you going with a non-player character called Emma (who is the tutorial NPC), but for more, you’ll have to invite your real friends. Doing an activity with them will increase how close a friend they become. Basically, they will start as a “New Friend” and the more you do, the more they will level up, until they become the maximum, “Best Friend.” This becomes extremely important later on when it’s time to use the Work section.
Obviously playing in downtown isn’t going to earn a whole lot of spending money, so like any budding individual in a place like, say, New York, you need a job. Players can start down one of four tracks: Science, Medicine, Entertainment, and Creative. Each group starts the user off as an intern, and they must do X amount of work to unlock better jobs. As an example, a Creative Intern will be able to start unlocking the Apprentice (craftsmanship) and the Blogger (writing). Unfortunately, these are the only two trees – in fact, all categories only have two trees – available at this time. More options on the tress will slowly become available by both doing random tasks under your current job title and having X amount of friends at Y level.
Once the player has met the requirements of the new, upgraded job, they can start doing tasks pertinent to that career move and even earn bonus such as “5% experience increase for Drinking events.”
As for the tasks themselves, these will earn a significantly larger amount of income than the different friend activities. Based on the level of your job, better tasks can be assigned for better money. Initially, only four can be scheduled at a time (though more unlock as you level up), and they each take a period of time to complete. Of course, do actually do them, you need to allocate enough stat points (earned every time you level up), which include Smarts, Charm, and Fitness.
The other three statistics are Energy, Health, and Stamina. The former is your typical gate to limiting how many activities a player can do during a single session, while the latter two are involved in a feature called “Run-Ins.” This appears to be your typical social feature involving other player versus player, but unfortunately, you have to unlock it, and we have yet to do so.
Of course, what’s all of this without a little style. Since players aren’t investing into weaponry or illicit arsenals, their “gear,” as it were, is some stylish clothing. To that end, players are granted a simple looking paper doll-type avatar in which they can invest a wide variety of fashionable apparel that will grant added bonuses to their character. Hmm, fashionable and functional. That’s rare.
A few other elements of Big City Life worth mentioning are that the game actually does have a story mode that players can run through. Granted, it’s not some epic adventure, but it’s still nice to have. Moreover, players get to see, on their profile, all the gear, rides, clothing, and other “stuff” they’ve acquired while playing. The profile also has stats on everything you’ve completed, and friends can even drop comments as they see fit.
As it stands, this new Playdom app only has three areas of activities to work with: Downtown, Uptown, and a Warehouse. However, based on the map, there are plenty more coming (seven, to be exact). Thankfully, the three existing ones should be more than enough to provide decent longevity for even the most dedicated players.
Overall, Big City Life is an excellently made RPG. It does nothing so drastically different as to scare away your average user, but it still feels distinct. That in mind, however, it is unlikely to appeal to as wide an audience as something like Mobsters, and all of the social management with friends and the “drama,” so-to-speak, that comes with anything involving the “big city,” doesn’t interest everyone. Consider it a Facebook game of Sex in the City, and that’s probably a good guesstimate of the audience that will be attracted to this app. Of course… that’s a pretty hefty demographic anyway, and with the game as well built as it is, it probably won’t make a single bit of difference in the long run. Perhaps this will capture people’s attention the way another city-living game, The Sims, did earlier this decade.