FarmVille English Countryside first look!

farmville english countryside logo
FarmVille, now Zynga's second largest game on Facebook, is still, well, mind-numbingly popular despite the fact that it has been around since June 2009. Some other fun facts about FarmVille: 14 million people checked into their virtual farms yesterday, the game's Facebook page has 30 million fans (that beats out Justin Bieber's Facebook page, with 22.8 million fans) and there are more tractors in FarmVille than there are in the entire world. Not bad for a farming simulation that some (cranky) people hesitate to classify as a 'game.'

Now FarmVille is getting ready to release its biggest update in its two-year history -- the FarmVille English Countryside. Zynga gave a first look at the new expansion, which will give players level 20 and up access to a brand new farm in England. This second piece of virtual farmland will have new crops, new activities (like breeding sheep and running a pub) and a new, more directed game experience culled from other popular Zynga games like FrontierVille and CityVille.

"This is a whole new idea of giving people a fresh start, rather than just adding more space to their current farms," FarmVille General Manger Todd Arnold says." It's also a great way for friends to re-sync their social game experience together. Friends might be involved in different aspects of the the game, but [the English Countryside] will give all players a fresh start, and allow them to reconnect with friends who are also playing FarmVille."

Probably one of the biggest changes you'll notice in the English Countryside expansion is what I'm calling the "Frontierville-ification" of FarmVille. Put simply, this add-on will include more characters, more missions and a more in-depth storyline.

When the English Countryside launches, you'll be introduced to 'Duke,' who needs help repairing his airship. After collecting crates from friends and growing cotton, among other things, the airship will be up and running, and after throwing a Bon Voyage party, you'll be able to take your first excursion to the English Countryside. Once your there, you'll undertake a series of missions to return the farm to its former glory.
farmville english countryside quest map

As for syncing up with friends, the new game will have a brand new 'Quest Map' that will let you a visual representation on your FarmVille friends' progress and enable you to jump in and help them (and vice versa) with whatever missions they might be currently working on.

In addition to a more formalized mission structure, Arnold says that the expansion will still have some of the free-form gameplay from the original FarmVille. You'll be able to grow and master crops (faster than before), you'll have a sheep pen that will allow you pair different breeds of ewes and rams to come up with "endless" varieties of sheep. There will also be a English Pub, which will be a new form of crafting building, and you'll be able to make cheese, etc etc.
farmville english countryside sheep breeding
Once you venture into the English Countryside, you will be free to visit your original farm via airship whenever you please. The two areas, will mostly offer separate experiences, so that means you don't be able to use items you might have in storage in England and vice versa. Your avatar will look the same (with more decidedly English wardrobe options), though, and you will have access to certain items in your gift box in either location.

But you won't exactly be starting the game over from scratch. For those of us who remember the pain of building and upgrading our horse barns and combine tractors -- the expansion will show players mercy, says Arnold. Instead of building another new combine tractor, he says you'll "restore the old combine on the farm." Similarly, the horse barn will be "a little bit broken down, and you'll fix it up." Phew.

farmville english countryside uk sheepVisiting friends farms will also change a bit. When you decide to visit a friend, you'll land on whatever farm they tended during their last play session. So, if my friend Sharon was working on her English farm most recently, then when I visit her, I will land on her English farm. If she worked on her original farm last, then I would land on her original farm.

For international players who might have been miffed this week about missing out on the FarmVille Stouffers promotion, Arnold assures me that will not be the case with the expansion. The FarmVille English Countryside will roll out internationally. People who play FarmVille primarily on iPhone or iPad will not have access to the new expansion, though Arnold says it's a "possibility" sometime in the future.

After getting a demo of all these features yesterday, I have to say that I going back and tending my regular farm didn't seem nearly as exciting, and it was impossible not to daydream about my brand new farm. I'll guarantee this new expansion will -- at the very least -- reignite players' passion for virtual farming far more than any other add-on we've seen in the past few years.

Check out the rest of our FarmVille English Countryside coverage right here.

Well, what do you think the about the FarmVille English Countryside? Which new features are you (if any) most excited about? Sound off in the comments below.
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