Social Networking Game Review: Mafia Wars 2

Zynga has been good at creating social networking games that can turn people into gaming addicts as they click their way through levels and acquire virtual items. Often times these social network games like “FarmVille” equate to second jobs. The release of their new game “Mafia Wars 2″ that is also their first sequel aims to keep gamers glued to Facebook clicking their way through the seedy world of the mafia.

“Mafia Wars” was a simple game ripped based off “Mob Wars.” Players would complete mafia missions, recruit other players into the game, equip their gang, and fight other players with simple clicks of the mouse. Those wanting to advance faster or have better stuff would convert real money into game currency or perks. Like most Zynga products, “Mafia Wars” is the social network gaming equivalent of crack that is easy to get into and difficult to quit. Just ask the millions who signed up for it on Facebook.

While the simple clicking game play and enticements to spend real money are the same, “Mafia Wars 2″ is a brand new game with almost no relation to its predecessor. A richer graphic interface adds depth to the clicking as you see buildings rise and character avatars fight each other. A story unfolds in motion comic form about your mafia character cleaning up the bad blood between families. Recruiting other players to join you is still a huge element of this social network game as they upgrade buildings, complete jobs, and allow Zynga to advertise to more people. City and avatar customization is now a part of the game where the building choices determine city production and avatar items determine character strengths. The game as a whole sidesteps ripping off borrowing “Mob Wars” if only to now be a clone tribute to another mafia themed city building social network game “Crime City.”

It is funny that the biggest graphical improvement over “Mafia Wars” is also possibly the biggest problem of “Mafia Wars 2.” The great thing about social networking games like “Mafia Wars” is that its simple interface allows for quick gaming. Anyone could just log in, click a few missions, and log out. Now the graphics of “Mafia Wars 2″ require loading times to get into the game and travel between cities. The huge maps make finding the actual missions hard to find. Then instead of the instant gratification from its predecessor, “Mafia Wars 2″ requires players to watch the animated actions of the avatar performing the mission before reaping the rewards. And all the graphics may be moot if a simpler computer like a netbook can’t even load them to play.

Then there is the big concern of “Mafia Wars” players. That game already has millions of daily players. And some of them are gullible loyal enough to pay actual money to play the game. They are likely stick with that game due to their financial investment in it until Zynga closes it down. Then those gamers may resent the sequel as a shinier version meant to attract new gamers. Valve had that issue with “Left 4 Dead” when it released “Left 4 Dead 2″ so soon. While the new game may capture a new audience, will the loyal players of “Mafia Wars” switch to the sequel?

If you’re not into social networking games, “Mafia Wars 2″ won’t really change your mind about them and you can continue ignoring requests to join. But if you’re already maintaining farms and cities while playing words with friends, taking care of a mafia family will be a familiar addition to your plate.

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