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Ravenwood Faire

“Furry friends frolicking in a fair flanked by fantastical forestry” is an odd premise for a game created by Doom’s John Romero. Ravenwood Faire’s lush, cartoon, Victorian simplicity is a far cry from gory, demonic dungeons and twitch gameplay. Still, the transition from core to casual succeeds and even smuggles a hint of past darkness. Inspired by the ever-popular FrontierVille, Romero and Lolapps took core social game concepts, modified the dynamics, and infused a magical, fantasy theme.

In the midst of an unruly forest, players are given domain over an amusement park. Trees are cut, rocks are smashed and monsters are walloped to make room for games and food carts. Rewards jet wildly from each action, providing an income of coins, experience points and building materials. Buildings are erected and positioned by aesthetic inclination. Facebook friends act as neighbors, allowing additional playscapes to explore. Side quests provide instruction and persuasion, directing progress incrementally.

The art is suburb. Each illustration is rich with charming detail. Quaint, sporadic animations keep the viewport energetic and exciting. Adorable, anthropomorphic animals in Gilded Age garb populate Ravenwood. As the fair grows, the cuddly community also increases. The merrymakers are endearing, vulnerable, possess unique identities, act independently, and have desires that open quests. Patrons elicit a nurturing compulsion to protect them by placing safety totems around the fairgrounds and thwarting would be predators. Beating a bug-eyed bear isn’t cruelty, it is defense.

Ravenwood Faire provides difficulty through play limitations. An energy bar dictates available interaction: disabling events upon depletion and refilling automatically over time. Grander attractions are locked by neighbor count, level progression, and rare item requirements. There’s a chance that unique materials will be awarded upon tree chopping, critter bashing or special bonuses but this tactic is unreliable. Players can request and send materials as gifts but this tactic relies on popularity (of the game among associates). The only guaranteed to acquire every resource is real-world purchases. Overall investment is up to the individual.

Two noteworthy features distinguish Faire from competitors. First, the experience is consistently updated with new themes, new rewards, new characters, new stories and new challenges. This results in abundant replayability and wildly diverse items littering each park, scribing players’ loyal appreciation of Faire’s eclectic design. Secondly, in April 2011, Lolapps released the expansion, Ravenstone Mine. Mine opens a new area with rocks instead of trees and workers instead of visitors. The additional gameplay is beneficial for those who have exhausted the resources and real estate of their fairs. Also, materials are shared between Faire and Mine, affording prolonged (free) building items. Energy is also shared so time allocation is at user discretion.

While admitted derivative, Ravenwood Faire boasts enough polish, personality and possibilities to lure players back into its clutches time and time again.

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