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Calm Down, Everyone: You Can Play Farmville 2 Now

I know you - probably better than anyone else. Yes, you. Everyone else thought nothing was amiss, but I could see it. Underneath your cool, put-together exterior, you were sweating bullets. "Maybe Farmville 2 will n-n-n-never launch," you fretted through a mouthful of chewed-off fingernails. "Maybe recent financial woes and legal troubles will improbably bring Zynga to its knees over night! Nooooooo." Now, though, you can rest easy. Farmville 2 has descended upon Facebook in all its Flash-powered 3D glory. But before you rush off to tearfully reunite with your secret shame, let me give you an idea of what you're in for.

First up, despite the new coat of paint, this is definitely still Farmville. You plant crops, wait, and then bust them open like leafy pinatas. Meanwhile, friends still make the farming world go 'round, so don't be surprised to see a renewed influx of spammy messages. That said, Zynga's made tons of tiny tweaks to its all-consuming formula that - dare I say it - sound kind of... promising.

For instance, friends' avatars now appear and work on your farm, fewer aspects of your farm are guilt and pressure-driven (no animals becoming sad due to neglect, for instance), and - perhaps most importantly - the kingpin of all obnoxious social features, the "energy" system, is gone. Granted, every action now requires water - with a limit placed on how much you can collect per day. That said, you can up it by spending in-game currency on wells, so there's no longer an utterly arbitrary playtime cut-off point looming over your every action. If nothing else, it at least makes sense. Kind of.

There's also a crafting system in place to hook folks who are looking for a bit more depth, though it's still just a means to the end of selling off slightly different items. But you can make omelettes now. Who doesn't like those?

It'll be interesting to see whether or not Farmville 2 ends up being the cash cow Zynga's been in such desperate need of lately. It's a fairly conservative effort, certainly, but it doesn't seem nearly as exploitative or abysmally rote as previous Zynga efforts. I'm still not a fan of the company or the franchise by any means, but steps in the right direction are worth commending - no matter how slight they might be.

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