WeTopia | Review

WeTopia Review

By: Jasmine Henry | Mar 30th 2012
Everyone from America's favourite lesbian, Ellen DeGeneres, to singing teen heartthrob, Justin Bieber, is talking about this game.

This is the Facebook game that gives you all of the warm and fuzzy feelings from doing good without any of the effort or the decrease in your income.

'This', is WeTopia.

WeTopia is a social game developed by the charitable optimists at Sojo Studios and its primary goal is for you to win. At life, that is.

Unlike countless other social games where you are (solely) goaded into racking up points and earning ego-inflating in-game titles (popular food-em-up Cafe World, for example), WeTopia puts the focus on giving back and making the world a better place, with levelling up made secondary, helping you to understand that doing good is the priority and levelling up is just one of the vehicles to get you there.

Boasting over 790,000 players (edit : the figure had increased to a whopping 800,00 players the day after that was written) you and your fellow 'WeTopians' are each given a plot of land on which you can build and develop your own village, which aids you in gaining a steady flow of luxury income in the form of 'Joy' (standard income is that of gold coins - called 'GoodWill').

Joy is the metaphoric bread-and-butter of WeTopia - it is an in-game bonus that you can donate to various well-deserving causes such as the Whitney Elementary School, in Nevada, where the faculty work hard to provide food, clothes and even toys to their children, of which approximately 80% of them are on free/reduced meals and a fair few are homeless and/or living on sachets of ketchup from the school cafeteria because they simply have no other access to nutrition. Other charities that the game supports are Save The Children, Trees for the Future and DIG (Development in Gardening) and to date WeTopia has already donated thousands of pairs of shoes, thousands of winter jackets, hundreds of thousands of hot meals and just recently, WeTopia's Joy managed to fund the building of an entire school, setting more children in the poverty-stricken country of Haiti off on their path to education, which is, of course, very important.

Working your way up to gaining a substantial amount of Joy will require you to earn the ruidmentary level of GoodWill coinage needed to develop your WeTopia world, which will in turn produce more Joy and save more lives. Coin gathering can be done in a handful of ways, the simplest of which is to build plenty of houses for your WeTopia citizens to inhabit. As is the case with the real world, they line your pockets with rent money (as well as Joy and experience)- starting at 10 coins per 5 minutes from a basic bungalow, with you being able to build more costly types of housing as you level up and unlock them (e.g the 'cottage' which you unlock by reaching level 2 provides you with 60 coins per hour). These houses do cost money to build which is why the bungalow is your first taste of landlordship and at just 150 coins to build, this is a quick, easy and incredibly beneficial develpment for new players.

While it is important to build up your WeTopia village's population through the construction of houses, as reaching certain numbers of WeTopia citizens will unlock more buildings (e.g the optician's office which becomes available to build at 40 citizens) or the specialist Joygrounds - such as the Play Park - which provide you with a substantial amount of Joy over anything else. Other vital buildings such as the bakery, the farmer's market and the musical instrument shop, among many other vibrant places for your people to visit, supply you with 'Goods', Goods being the lifeblood of the service buildings - you give them goods to sell, they sell them and provide you with more GoodWill coins, Joy, epxerience points to aid you in levelling up, as well as energy.

Second to Joy, energy is perhaps the most important of all the in-game currencies, as you cannot collect any resources from your buildings without it. It regenerates over time (1 energy point per 5 minutes) but it does provide a challenge (albeit a lenient one) in an otherwise relaxed game, making you a returning, game-playing do-gooder. You receive energy after most completing most activities but you will want to make sure that you hold onto it as to gain the most benefits and be able to help more people in the real world.

Not wanting to exercise your patience (this is a game that can be played idly in your lunch hour, after all) and wait for your energy to regenerate or for your WeTopia citizens' rent to be due, you have another way of earning GoodWill, Joy, energy, Goods AND experience points without clock-watching ; quests. These relatively simple tasks are sometimes no-name tutorials or bonuses - planting trees and flowers to beautify your WeTopia village are a regular occurence - but more often than not, they are provided to you by your new friends - Keiko the Community Manager, Abe the Parrot and his similiarly named (but probably not related) pal, the Abester Bunny - there are more friends, each with their own specialities whom are introduced to you as you progress. The aforementioned Abe is the first WeTopia character you meet and his first set of tasks serve as a helping hand to ease you into WeTopian society. Abe's introduction also highlights how useful and hasty this game is, with you being able to make a difference in the real word in such a short amount of time that within 5 minutes of following Abe's instructions, you will have already donated several lots of Joy (you can donate in rounds of 100 Joy) to a good cause of your choosing. Keiko encourages home building and citizen increasing tasks, offering coins, Joy etc. as expected and Abester sets you off on the limited-time-only WeTopia Easter egg hunt, in time for the big event (Easter), which, as of writing, is just over a week away. Other friends dedicate tasks to the collection of Goods, like Miguel the farmer or optician's office-specific tasks, as is the case with Dr. Brooke.

The other speedy way to boost your energy levels (other resources can be boosted this way too) is to pay for them. As in, purchase Facebook credits with your real money and then use those Facebook credits to buy energy, Goodwill or new buildings (some of which, like the Health Hut, are dedicated to things like donating vitamins to children and can only be bought this way) - the only thing you can't buy is Joy (perhaps this is both a nod to the real world saying as well as an incentive to keep playing, either way, you should keep it in mind before splashing your cash). Upon opening an in-game tab that suggests that I should pony up some cash to fund my energy level (as well as my now blossoming WeTopia addiction), I am educated on how the Facebook credits-for WeTopia resources system works - it informs me that 50% of the profit made from the game is put towards the causes (Save the Children, Development in Gardening, Whitney Elementary School etc.) that it supports and at least 20% of the revenue is donated. Revenue and profit being different in that the former includes all money made and profit only includes the leftover money after bills, wages and the like have been paid.

The other alternative is to find Facebook friends who play the game (or those who you can encourage to start playing) and visit their WeTopia villages. If their Joygrounds need aid or if their rent money needs collecting, you can do it for them - it will not cost you a single energy point and instead will use up an allotted amount of energy that you receive upon your arrival to your friends village(which is only redeemable in that village) - and you will get GoodWill and/or Joy (depending on what they needed you to do) in return. If you are without WeTopia playing friends, there's always the option of visiting WeTopia's very own Abe at his WeTopia village - which is maginificent and a marvel to look at by default - to encourage him to share the love, or rather, to share the 'Joy'.

While your pals are helping you to earn your resources organically or you are lamenting the existence of your non-WeTopia playing buddies, your Joy is sitting dormant with nothing to do. The whole point is that you have to donate it. I have already highlighted a few causes, but there are a myriad to choose from. As of the time of writing, these only include causes in the United States of America and Haiti. Understandable, as the former is where the game is primarily marketed and the latter is a country that has been hit hard in recent times, though I'm informed that WeTopia are working on allowing players to donate to more worldly causes from a variety of countries outside of these two. Once you've selected your causes, you get to send off the 'Joy Balloon' which travels with your Joy and disappears to a far off land to make a difference, dropping energy, GoodWill and sometimes even 'SuperJoy', (my name for it) which amounts to approximately double the amount of Joy you'd usually gain from a harvest, on the ground for you to pick up, as a thanks for your donation.

The other way that you can make a difference is by planting the lovingly titled 'Giving Tree'. The Giving Tree can be accompanied by the Hot Meal Tree, both of them resulting in a single hot meal after about 18 hours - you do not have to do anything other than harvest the meal after the time has elasped but you still feel elated at the fact that you have just helped a starving child to get a hot meal - something some of the children that you're helping might have never been accustomed to before now.

It's really difficult to hate a game which allows you to experience the fun and wonder of a social Facebook game whilst getting you involved in doing good, from the comfort of your own home. When a game like WeTopia, which is so fun and so simple, allows you to take a small slither of your time and change the world, you know that that's the sort of thing that you would happily spend an entire day playing. We're lucky that we are both afforded the benefit of being in the position where we are able to help as well being able to do that via a game that is genuinely enjoyable to play. Besides the slightly tedious mechanic of having to hoover up the resource icons once you've clicked on a building, I honestly find it extremely difficult to fault this game. Between the game and world changing aspects of it, the ease of it all and its stupendous ability to eat up all of your time yet give you a pat on the back for procrastinating, this is almost the perfect game. Yes, 'almost' - the one thing I have an issue with is that it plays a lot like Farmville. Farmville is a great game, but unfortunately, much of the gameplay (Joy donations aside) is identical to that of the popular Zynga farmyard sim. The majority of this game is very original and hasn't been done before which is why it gets a high-scoring 9 out of 10. It's just a shame that WeTopia couldn't be completely unique, though it is undoubtedly a game that everyone needs to be playing.

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