You’ve probably heard of King’s games, all with ‘Saga’ in the title, whether it’s Bubble Witch Saga, Papa Pear Saga, or the obscenely popular Candy Crush Saga. King have become an inescapable part of web and mobile gaming, and today’s release of Farm Heroes Super Saga is their latest to try and grab your attention during idle moments of time killing.
Of course, King were recently acquired by Blizzard Activision, but that’s done little to change how they work and the kinds of games they make. James Nicholas, Executive Producer at King’s London-based team for Farm Heroes Super Saga said, “It’s early days for us at King with them, but we’re super excited about the partnership, to be honest. For us it’s really about focussing on what we can do well and what we can do well together.”
You do have to wonder just how different one match-3 tile swapping game can be from another, and yet King have trained themselves in the art of making changes and adding new twists on the gameplay design to keep things interesting. Farm Heroes Super Saga pulls the same tricks, taking the premise of Farm Heroes Saga and adding a smattering of new ideas to keep things interesting.
“I think in terms of why we’re successful, it comes down to the quality and the attention to detail,” James said. “Whether it’s the art, the level design, the game design, it’s about really focussing in on the detail and making sure it’s the best it can be in terms of quality.
“And then, it’s talking to our players a lot. We do that a lot and it’s about really understanding what our players want and what they’re looking for, whether it’s a new feature in an existing game like Farm Heroes or whether it’s a new game like Farm Heroes Super Saga, it’s about bringing that experience and that innovation that they want to see in those types of games.”
Of course, it retains the same saccharine sweet art style and the anthropomophic fruit and veg that you know, and these characters are front and centre in the art for the game and the adverts. There’s new Cropsies, like the “awkward tomato”, “excitable banana”, “sassy pear” and several others. It’s all a bit inconsequential, but it makes for a vibrantly colourful game, and King have worked to make it really pop with lots of new 3D animations.
The clue to the game is really in the name, with the ‘Super’ referring to the new Super Cropsies – the saccharine sweet anthropomorphic fruit and veg that you match together – that you can create by combining four of the same Cropsies in a square of four. Each level has various targets for collecting particular types of Cropsies in various quantities, and these Super Cropsies can either add significantly to those counts or be counted separately in Growth Mode.
That’s far from the only new addition or twist to the game, and I was actually quite surprised at how challenging some of these twists manage to make the game. Wind can be used in a level, meaning that, instead of new Cropsies dropping onto the board from above, they’re added in whichever direction you swipe to match a trio. Nut mode places nuts on the board, with a squirrel named Fidget that will pick up nuts that come within a one square radius, before running off the board once it’s collected them all. Then there’s Rancid the Raccoon, the returning nemesis-like character, who can now appear more randomly to periodically chuck tin cans onto the board to get in the way and disrupt your plans.
In tandem with some returning elements, like buckets, eggs, and flowers, combined with some rather devilish level design that can feature water gaps, moving lilly pads and plenty more, it all adds up to a game that can be devilishly tricky at times, as you’re forced to try and think several moves in advance.
James said, “Personally, I think it’s more challenging based on the modes. In terms of the player experience, we definitely have a bunch of players in Farm who are very skilled and come in and play the game, and we want to make sure that they’re happy, but in the same way, the great thing about Super Saga’s launch will be the new players as well. So we have to balance it out.”
He continued, “One of the core pillars in Farm is really about that strategic thinking, and we do want to maintain that for our players. Because large portion of our audience will play both games, that’s what they’re looking for, but the challenge has to be upped to some extent, and that’s what I think Super Saga does.”
Of course, you’re doing all of this in a free to play game. It’s easy to see where the game can get its hooks into you, with fairly strict move limits before it’s game over and the loss of a life, or you have to buy a handful of extra turns using microtransactions. It’s possible without, though a little dependent on a smidgeon of luck as you play and using some of the boosters that you can earn through playing the game to give you a leg up in certain situations.
However, there’s a new and more social aspect behind Super Saga, with a leaderboard that’s clearly visible as you view the map, tracking you and your friends’ progress, as well as the new Country Show, which entices you to keep coming back and playing regularly withe promise of rewards for progress. Running for one, three and five days at a time, earning stars and playing levels feeds your potted Cropsie, which grows bigger the more you complete, with five potential stages. It’s another way that you can try and get one over on your friends who are also playing.
James explained, “The country show, depending on how well you grow your Cropsie, it will give you a certain number of coins that can be used to buy boosters. So it’s about giving you rewards to then use back in the levels.
“The other interesting thing with the Country Show is this focus on social comparison and where you are against your friends. You can have someone who really focusses on three starring all the levels, and they get a fame bonus for that now, a number against their name that says “look, I’ve completed this many Country Shows”, whereas someone else might be further ahead in levels while you’re further ahead in fame. So it’s bringing an extra kind of social currency in that you can compare with each other.”
In all honesty, I’m not terribly familiar with King’s games and the world of free to play mobile gaming can feel alien to me at times, yet I can see the appeal to Farm Heroes Super Saga and how it can grow on players (pun intended). There’s just something about the simplicity of the match-3 formula and how it’s being twisted and adapted from something that you idly swipe at into something that demands some deep thought, care and attention in order to succeed.