| Casual and yet compelling
Friendly and helpful community
Pro-environment, non-violent gameplay
| Lag can be bad at times
Limited Goal (Quest) Content
Poor pathing can detract from gameplay fun
Community & Customer Service
The community glows so brightly I cannot say anything less than that Faunasphere has created an environment that espouses and promotes cooperation among its players. Folks, it is a social game. Your friends can contain 40 names and you can travel to them if you are trying to do goals together, travel to their Faunaspheres using the Friend Gate in yours and use private messaging to speak to them.
There’s also the Colony Canopy in each of three hubs. These are community building projects that takes a lot of different resources to complete. I’m talking about 5,400 each of wax blocks, glass panes, loam clods, multi-pipes, clay bricks and the like. These resources are generated from Resource Totems that players build in their Faunasphere and players cannot buy from their own Totems. So there is a sub-game here. One of making friends and traveling to each other’s Faunaspheres to buy resources to donate to the Community “Tree,” buying enough to become a patron, leaving each other gifts and a message and returning favors.
There is a market place. Players list items for a fee, and return to pick up Lux or Bux – which ever currency was used to sell the item. However, a large number of them simply ask or trade for things they need or want. One of the early goals is to breed a white Hugger – what the community has dubbed a panda. I spoke to players in game about breeding and received a bunch of random eggs, with one player actually returning to his/her Faunasphere to retrieve more eggs stored there. Then spoke of my failure on the forums. I returned to game to about 8 eggs from 8 different players, was successful on my 3rd attempt and have since returned the favor to other random players.
Customer Service is accessed via the website and a quest item I lost due to lag was returned in 48 hours. The Moderators are evident on the boards as well, answering questions if not actually actively engaging players. Indeed, it is a player created community, with player run contests and the only authorized fan-site, Faunaholic.com is a fantastic resource which is slowly growing.
Depth? Is there any Depth?
Surprisingly, the answer to that question, is a solid “Yes.” The simple looks of the game actually masks the complex interworking of Faunasphere. It is a casual game. That is to say, you do not have to invest large amounts of continuous time in it in order to accomplish something. A player can play the free game and breed 3 fauna, not bother to build up his Faunasphere or interact socially, or participate in the Community building project. Or, they could spend time obtaining the finest materials for their Fauna Dens to maximize energy recovery, grow food trees and combine basic food to create the best happiness foods to maximize happiness recovery.
They could also build and arrange and decorate their Faunasphere and spend time trading for and obtaining interesting items for it. World building blocks are themed according to region that they are obtained. They can be used to extend the Faunasphere to the full extent, stacked, moved, replaced. All actions costs 25 Lux which is a pittance as Lux comes easy as you play the game.
Finally, there is the Breeding Game. For players who want to play with genomes and breed certain traits in their fauna, it is all there for the breeding. I have heard of those that actually keep Excel spreadsheets of their fauna’s genomes and parentage.
Tiered, subscription and micro-transaction based. Players can play for free. For the cost of nothing besides your own ISP costs, players get to level up 3 Fauna. The micro-transaction currency, Bux can be bought to purchase decorative items for Faunaspheres and gene food for Fauna to change their traits or even type.
At $2.49 a month, players get 6 Fauna and a 600 Bux a month stipend. At this tier players can more easily participate in the complex Breeding of Fauna. There are two more tiers, $4.99 and $9.99 which nets 15 & 30 Fauna, and 1,500 & 4,000 Bux a month respectively. As more content is released, it is easy to see players beginning with a low level subscription and trading upwards.
Big Fish has managed to develop a charming, interactive game that appeals to the social and community building “genes” within us. It fulfills our need to create and to build as we bounce around the different landscapes shaking trees and taking dips into pools of water looking for that rare material drop. You never know what you get, but you always get something. It is hard to resist just zapping that one more bit of pollution, shaking that tree to see what it will yield, or hatching that Flapper (Crane) egg you just got with your Hoofer (Horse) to see what Fauna will pop out.
The UI is simple and simplistic. Yet that creates its own problems. In a choice to use cartoony graphics, windows and icons are large and can cover almost your entire screen when open. Recent changes have fixed some of those challenges – allowing players to chat while trading for example – and the next thing players are waiting for is a way to sort their inventory. The inventory window cannot be sized and icons are large – you only see three rows of three – and moving things around in order to sort the food for each Fauna or grouping quest items can be a pain.
Some pathing in the world can be quite horrendous as you find yourself futilely clicking away with your Fauna standing there, unmoving, yet being frothed at by the sentient pollution cube. Sometimes, it takes a zig-zag shuffle onto every world block instead of a straight path and this is most often seen in straight up and down X-Axis movement.
So there it is. Faunasphere. If you are looking for fast-paced game, with combat, this isn’t it. Not one bit. If you are looking for a game you can play while chatting with your friends, or for a few minutes during lunch, if you enjoy the surprises of harvesting, Faunasphere may be just your cup of tea. Just don’t let it suck your life away. It is charmingly compelling.