By Shondra Kayd
When I was younger, I was madly addicted to Asheron's Call, so it should come as no surprise that when the game's lead-designer paired up with Big Fish Games to come out with a different kind of MMO, I would end up madly addicted to it too! Warning, if you are like me and have an addictive gamer personality, this game will suck you in and keep you there.
Unlike many MMOs, this is a non-violent, adorable eco-friendly MMO. In the game, you collect and raise cute little animals called fauna and are tasked with destroying the evil pollution that is making their world inhospitable. You are given your own little world, where you can grow food that certain species love or hate, depending on their dietary preferences. You also find different building blocks to construct your faunasphere, and can shape the environment in many ways by adding terrain such a beautiful, lush garden, or a frigid, icy arctic. Your faunasphere can assembled any way you choose as long as you have the appropriate building blocks, which are found all over your landscape.
The critters of the game, the fauna, remind me a lot of Ren and Stimpy, but with better animation. Personally I love this quirky look to the game. To start you can be a Scooter (turtle), Sniffer (dog), or a Hoofer (horse). These come in only a couple of pre-defined looks. However you quickly procreate, laying eggs, and these species can have a variety of baby types that are born with a random colour and have a distinct look to them. Not only is there a large variety of babies, but thanks to gene food you can change the looks of the animals you already have, as well as give them new and exciting abilities, like being able to survive in the harsh icy climates of glaciers or fiery lava pits.
The community aspect of this game is one of the best I've seen in a long time. Early on you are shown how making friends, and lots of them, is good for you. To encourage social interaction, each player is given a totem, which is a structure that creates items to help build things in the world. When a friend visits the totem in your personal faunasphere, it can give them useful items and also makes you lots of Lux (the in-game currency). You can also buy items from your friends' totems to help you advance in the game. Not only does that help you rebuild the world and advance you financially, but by having friends you can also trade eggs to get even more pets. Personal advancement isn't the only reason to get into the community, since the game places a strong emphasis on building a fun and playful community.
The controls are easy to get into, and all tasks can be completed by just using the mouse. The graphics are quirky and fun, especially for a free-to-play MMO. The concept is unique and interesting, and gamers of any age can get into this game thanks to the non-violent and addictive, eco-friendly presentation. Best of all, you don't have to download anything since the game is browswer-based. If you want you can buy Bux, another game currency, to add interesting extra goodies to the gameplay experience, including more fauna and a bigger personal faunasphere, but the game is amazing even without those extras.
The game is still in beta right now so what few glitches are will likely get resolved when the game releases this August. If you're looking to dive in and play the demo, visit the Faunasphere website here. As for me? I'm going back to play some more.