Game review: Virtual Villagers

by Chris Howard Oct 09, 2006

More often than not, one of the true indicators of a good game is whether you start again once you’ve completed it. Civilization, one of the all time greats, is a case in point. Add to that list Virtual Villagers.

By no means in the same league as Civilization, Virtual Villagers is all the same quite addictive and I have already started my second game. This time I’m trying some different techniques. “Real” gamers will probably scoff at Virtual Villagers as a kids’ game but casual gamers will probably enjoy the break it provides.

Virtual Villagers is a real-time game of life where you have to manage a lost tribe of people who escaped a volcanic eruption on their island and fled to another. The real-time aspect means the game never stops - even when your computer is switched off. The next time you run the game it calculates where you would be up to. Consequently, it is not a good idea to leave your villagers alone for too long, especially early in the game when food and skills are limited, as you might come back and find them all starved to death.

The game begins with usually five, six or seven villagers depending on what difficulty level you choose. One will always be a child and children can’t help much until they’re 14. Your first task is to teach them necessary survival skills. There are five skills that you must teach people within your tribe, although each member does not have to learn each skill - just like real life, some people will be better at one thing than others.

The five skills are farming, building, researching, healing and breeding. The two most important skills are farming, which allows the villagers to grow and gather food; and researching, which enables the villagers to accumulate tech points which are used to buy increased expertise in six different technologies.

These are farming, construction, medicine, science, fertility and spirituality. There are three levels within each of these technologies with each level progressively costing more and more tech points. For example, level one of science costs 12000 points and the third level costs 150000. Early in the game with very few researchers and low level of science technology, tech points come very slowly and you think it will take weeks to get the necessary points to complete the game. In all, over 900,000 points are required. Setting difficulty level to easy and speed to double, I was able to complete my first successful game in a little over three days.

Building, healing and breeding also play important part in achieving the objectives of Virtual Villagers which are to buy the 18 levels of technology, and solve 16 puzzles.

Along the way you will encounter island events, such as typhoons; monkeys messing up your research table; and strange boxes and bottles found on the beach - which sometimes are good, and sometimes bad.

Virtual Villagers has a few things that could be improved upon:
- More information on people on the main screen - eg age, nursing status would save flicking between main and detail screens.
- A zoom feature would be useful as you do spend a lot of time scrolling around the playing area.
- Early in the game there are times where you just have to sit and wait, sometimes for several hours. (Of course, on the other hand, that gives you a chance to go do your work.)
- The details screen is ordered by age. It would be useful if you could sort and filter within it - especially as your population grows.

One small mistake the developer made - either accidentally or deliberately - is any woman over 18 can have babies - even at 65! Maybe living on a deserted island without computers or the internet is good for a person’s fertility.

Virtual Villagers is a game the kids will enjoy, and the older casual gamers also. With its real-time aspect, it’s quite easy to become hooked, rushing to the computer when you get home to check on your villagers’ progress. Also, as your villagers grow older you do become a little attached and then sad when they die, and you do find yourself saying “I remember when he was just a kid!”. An enjoyable game for all that is a fun escape from the trials of the real world - and cross platform too. 8/10


  • Ooof… The game updates to include time the computer was off? Bleh.

    I would think that would keep casual gamers away in droves since they might only be able to devote a couple hours per week to the game. To have a village all die off because I couldn’t find time to spend on the computer during a week would piss me off to no end.

    I hope they make that a game preference and not a permanent “feature”.

    vb_baysider had this to say on Oct 10, 2006 Posts: 243
  • VB, there is an option to halve or double the game speed, plus you can also pause it, I always play on double speed. The speed only affects the time it takes for your your villagers to do things - not how fast they move.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Oct 10, 2006 Posts: 1209
  • I really loved reading your blog. It was very well authored and easy to understand. Unlike additional blogs I have read which are really not that good.
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    williamrichard611 had this to say on Aug 10, 2011 Posts: 12
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