This free to play Zynga game starts you out in a sinister patch of the woods surrounded on all sides by darkness—the Gloom, to be exact. We find our wandering hero (that would be you) as he or she stumbles upon a damsel in distress. Sound original so far?

Gameplay:

It’s a click-interface game that uses many familiar and better aspect of other Zynga games. Everything is straight forward and easy to understand. After fully customizing your character right down to the colored ruffles on her dress, you jump right in to vanquishing the Gloom!

Martha and I chat about how to make a shank cozy that looks good in any season.

Your main tasks include beating down wicked creatures, crafting, harvesting, exploring, building a smorgasbord of customizable buildings, and befriending strangers in the woods… as creepy as that last part sounds, it’s a lot of fun. With maidens, pirates, wizards, dragon slayers and more, each individual character you meet has their own totally independent storyline and quirky personality. The devs also included surprise holiday visitors to stop by and pester you with their (fun) problems. Even Martha Stewart showed up for Easter! And no, none those quests included breaking her out of the slammer. Once you discover these characters and offer them a safe place to live, they will take up residence and wander your city. Along the way you will stumble upon more characters—good, bad, and some definitely ugly—to continue the main and individual storylines.

There is a crafting system in place that’s not as monotonous as most, and enough quests to not overwhelm.

Collecting gold to buy items is accomplished the old fashioned way by harvesting, collecting, selling, or beating beasties into oblivion. Sorry PETA, this won’t be pretty. Throughout the game you will be beset on by nasties of all sorts and pummel them with a club or other weapon of your crafting. Wolves, trolls, rats (what fantasy game isn’t complete without a rat or two?!) and more are lead by Faugrim, aka the Gloom Lord.

A reputation system in place consists of earning hearts by visiting neighbors and encourages social play. Your friends can visit your kingdom and speed along crafting or assist in collection, which is handy. Reputation hearts can be used for special clothing items, crafting, and decor.

Energy is regained over time and those action points accrue as you level up.

Experience is earned by completing the various quests and with tasks around your empire. In addition to experience are your castle nobility points. The score raises each time a building or certain decoration gets placed. That score, in conjunction with some crafting, enables you to open up a new section of the shaded areas and expand your empire. Sounds complicated but most quests keep all your scores on track.

I’m on the hunt, I’m after yooou…

Graphics:

The game has cute (yes, cute) cartoonish figures, bright colors, and a simple yet fun art style. Nothing fancy but it works well.

Sound:

Incessant sounds of tweeting birds and looping music might make you go insane. Just save yourself the trouble and turn the sound off.

Concerns:

As you may have noticed, most anything with a “ville” in it entails tedious farming of some sort. For those of you, like me, who can’t stand toiling in the digital dirt for hours, the game still has enough to offer for temporary enjoyment. CastleVille is not centered around colossal harvests of time sensitive crops. Although there is need for some farming, the game doesn’t come with the same mania that you may encounter in Farmville. Yes that’s right Facebook gamers, I too have, panic stricken, dashed to the nearest computer only to find my 200 plots of soybeans withered and dead. But have no fear digital farmers! If planting those crops is your thing you still get to watch them grow, although you are limited to a number of plots as you level.

Money:

Vi-king of the castle!

The beautiful thing is you don’t need to spend a dime. Crowns can be purchased in game and can be used—if you are impatient—to progress through a quest or to purchase exclusive items. You start out the game with a handful and will earn one per level, but they aren’t necessary to play. I blew mine on customizing my character. Additional gold can be purchased also but you will find money comes easily.

Annoying:

Some of the time sensitive holiday quests can be a bit of a pain. Luckily there is enough going on in game to not be crushed if you didn’t send that plucky little St. Patrick’s Day leprechaun back to his magical home. I never did finish his rainbow in time. So sad.

Unfortunately you do need friends to progress in the game, but once you convince them to join in, they too will be hooked (at least for a while). As with all these games you do have to beg for items amongst your fellow Castlevillians. Your empire needs Nobility points in addition to Exploration crystals to illuminate those darkened areas of the map. And if that wasn’t complicated enough, here is where the begging comes in. To gain crystal shards you need to be either extremely lucky when killing a monster or receive them as a gift from your kindhearted friends. That small dependence can stop your funfest dead. I was a bit perturbed when couldn’t progress the story for a few days without a heap of  fairy wings and a goblins ear. Eww. You are definitely at the mercy of your fellow players, so play with friends or prepare to be frustrated.

 Bottom line: 

Like Farmville but with much better graphics and the ability to truly customize. Best of all, it has original characters that you actually like and an enjoyable storyline with playful personality. This game makes me miss my old Kings Quest adventures. Give it a shot. Why not! Its free!

About The Author

Amy Gardiner lends her talents to content editing. She has also agreed to play all those silly Facebook games for us, and we are equally amazed and awed by her resilience to do so. She suffers from a slight point-and-click video game addiction and is always looking for a new fix.

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