- Release Date: May, 2014
- Publisher: 6waves
- Developer: 6waves
- Genre: Sim
If there’s one type of game that defines Facebook gaming, it’s the farming sim. Farmville put Zynga on the map in 2009 and enjoyed a healthy stretch of time where it pulled in more users than any other game on the platform (it peaked at over 80 million players per month). Since then, we’ve seen all kinds of variants and spin-offs trying to cash in on that success. There’s even a direct sequel in Farmville 2. Maybe it’s not so surprising that simple games with peaceful settings and constructive goals have mass appeal, but tons of these games have found success on Facebook and I’m certain there will be lots more over the next few years.
Many companies have tried putting their own twist on the genre by moving Farmville away from the farm. The magical forest setting is exemplified by the Smurfs & Co. games, but there are plenty of other examples. 6waves tried their hand at it with last year’s Fantasy Garden. Clearly, Fantasy Garden was a success for 6waves; they’ve teamed up with Fantasy Garden developer Enixan Entertainment again to create an aptly named sci-fi counterpart, Cosmic Garden.
Cosmic Garden follows three charming aliens after they crash-land on an island in the middle of the ocean. They’re trying to get back home, and it’s up to you to help them. That entails building up a home on the island, exploring nearby islands, trading with the local tribes, and repairing their ship.
Cosmic Garden looks and sounds… polished. It’s the kind of middle-ground where the presentation isn’t going to blow you away, but it’s not going to scare anybody off either. Despite being set on Earth, the island quickly takes on the foreign look of its caretakers. It really sells how alien the protagonists are — the more they make this island their home, the more it looks like it doesn’t belong on Earth. I appreciate how, more than most sims, the stuff you build is distinct from the environment so you can easily judge your progress based on how the island has transformed. The buildings you construct and plants you grow are consistently cute, but also a bit weird — they have plump, organic shapes and vibrant, shiny textures.
It’s worth mentioning that sci-fi is kind of a niche genre, especially in the casual market where it goes up against magic, food, candy, and cute animals. You can see that this is about as cute and whimsical as sci-fi gets, which is a smart move for pulling in as many players as possible. 6waves knows that despite their best efforts, Cosmic Garden will inherently attract a smaller audience. They’ve wisely taken the opportunity to make Cosmic Garden just a little gamier than its magical forest cousin. While it’s still very much a casual farming sim, the addition of some treasure-finding randomness and a bit of light action go a long way to making the experience more enjoyable for me.
The core of the game involves collecting resources from your island and turning them into buildings and trade goods. As you click around the game, the aliens will help collect resources and their robots will help construct and upgrade buildings. Having three aliens means you can have three collection tasks in progress simultaneously. Likewise, the more robots you get, the more buildings you can construct and upgrade at the same time. Early on, you’ll gain access to the Workshop and the Trading Post. The Workshop lets you combine the basics (wood and stones) into all kinds of other goods like high-tech torches and scanners. These specialty goods can then be converted into coins and experience at the Trading Post, used to expand the island, or used on little exploration missions.
Special buildings around the island can be explored by your aliens. Each mission requires you to send in just one of the aliens with a particular trade good. Missions always reward experience, coins, and aether (energy the aliens spend when they collect resources and the robots spend when they begin construction). They also have a chance of rewarding various specialty goods. Each mission rewards different goods and each of your aliens has different odds of finding each one. Looking for feathers in particular? You should probably send in Lia.
The rest of the game is very much like any other sim you’ve played. A list of quests appears on the left side of the screen. They ask you to do things like collect 5 stone, build a certain building, and plant a particular aether-generating flower in your greenhouse. Each mission you complete rewards you with experience and other goodies. Leveling up, of course, provides access to more buildings and decorations. There are several sections of the islands you can unlock with gold and trade goods, as long as you meet the minimum level requirement. The one little action bit I mentioned earlier is trying to click on the creatures that roam your island and the golden satellites that fly overhead. They’re not especially hard to catch, but it’s definitely possible to miss them before they leave your space. Successful catches reward a handful of coins and experience. Nothing groundbreaking, but it gives you something to do when all of your aliens and robots are occupied.
The game monetizes through the sale of its premium currency, crystals. Like most of these games, crystals will let you instantly skip timers as well as buy extra robot workers. The bundles of crystals are priced on par with other Facebook games. In other words, a little pricey, but nothing that’s going to break the bank if you want to give your island home a jumpstart. I appreciate that crystals are attainable even if you never spend a cent, albeit at a very slow rate.
If you like relaxing “farming sims” where you grow plants, feed pets, expand your base, and decorate your living area, Cosmic Garden is going to be right up your alley. It leans heavily on the casual side of the spectrum, but it’s got a few minor touches for players who like to take small risks or click a moving target before it gets away. Given, these touches are a small part of the overall game and they’re probably not influential enough that you should drop your current game if you’re playing something similar (unless of course, you’re a big fan of aliens). I like Cosmic Garden alright, but I wish it tried harder to be different from Fantasy Garden. Some more commitment to the action and strategy sides of gaming could have resulted in a really nice blend that bridged the gap between Farmville and Clash of Clans.
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