Yakuza Lords on Facebook: A Review with Screenshots
This gem of an online gangster game is not as well known as Mafia Wars, but is superior in every way. Read on for a thorough review and ample screenshots of Yakuza Lords.
Yakuza Lords Overview
Yakuza Lords, made by LOLapps, Inc., is a crime lord game on Facebook with a Japanese theme. You start at the bottom just after a rival Yakuza lord betrayed your father. As you rise in power, you clash with other Yakuza families, then other mob organizations in cities around the world. Slowly you uncover the conspiracy that killed him and track down those responsible, until finally you can have your revenge.
Yakuza Lords is a button clicking type of game, not a Flash game. Upon starting, you have a choice of three character types: gambler, street samurai, and tycoon. As in every other button clicking online gangster game on Facebook (Mafia Wars and its clones being the most well-known), there's really only one correct choice - the one that recharges your ability to do jobs the fastest. In the case of Yakuza Lords, this is gambler.
Most crime lord games on Facebook offer very little in the way of story. There might be an opening premise in the intro training, but after that it's just names of different jobs that you must complete before moving on to higher tiers with more jobs, with no reason why you should do them other than because you want to level up or need a particular item drop. Yakuza Lords has the same type of job buttons, but each comes with a paragraph that describes what the job is and what story reason you have to do it - how doing it will help you advance toward your goals of amassing power, expanding your spheres of influence, taking out rivals, and ultimate vengeance.
The game is organized in several groups of neighborhoods - first within Tokyo, then Los Angeles, then New York City, then Hong Kong, and finally back to Tokyo. You advance through these in order, and the overall storyline unfolds as you go. Within each neighborhood, the individual jobs are often part of a smaller storyline that build toward the neighborhood's end boss.
As game storylines go, Yakuza Lords has a pretty good one. It adds theme and atmosphere, ties the jobs together well, and certainly makes all the repetitive button clicking (the meat of this and many Facebook games with the same template, like Castle Age) more worthwhile. On the other hand, if you don't care about story, you can also ignore it entirely without hindering gameplay in any way.
Sound and Graphics
As a button clicking type of game, Yakuza Lords does not have music, sound effects, or any kind of animation.
All graphics are static images. While other Facebook apps might acquire their artwork from stock image sites with varying results, Yakuza Lords has all of its own. The artwork is done in a Japanese manga style with an appropriately dark, gangster-like feel. Aside from graphics for various item icons, rites, etc., there are pictures for each neighborhood, each job, and each property, which match their written descriptions and convey the atmosphere of the game very well. The battle results splash page (see screenshot on page 3 where I talk about battles in detail) is also dramatically done. The picture to the right is of one of the many rites you can earn in the game.
User Interface and Navigability in Yakuza Lords
The Yakuza Lords game world has five cities with four neighborhoods each. These are arranged in a horizontal scroll across the top of the user interface, showing one city's worth of neighborhoods at a time. Below it is the picture of your current location and your stats, with links to your profile and rites. Then there's a row of buttons that take you to various parts of the game - jobs, battle area with other players, properties, store for buying items, family of other Facebook friends who've ever added the game, etc. it's very straightforward, especially if you've played any other Facebook games of the same template, like Mafia Wars (another online gangster game) or Castle Age (same type but with a fantasy theme). I didn't see the neighborhood scroll at first, but otherwise I found it very easy to get around.
In a truly well-made game, the interface and navigation gets you around and then stays out of your way, allowing you to focus on playing the game. Yakuza Lords game navigation is outstanding, especially in the jobs and character profile areas.
Getting Around in Jobs
Each job requires some combination of weapons, armor, and/or vehicles. While in other games you might have to memorize a shopping list, then go to the store area to find it, then go back to the jobs area, Yakuza Lords makes the whole process much simpler. Simply click on the icon for what you need (helpfully highlighted in red) and a window will pop up that tells you how much it costs and checks whether you have enough money including in your bank account. Clicking "do job" without having all items will pop up a window showing the entire list. You can also opt to go to the store, where each item is helpfully highlighted to stand out from the lengthy list. After you buy what you need, the game puts you back in the job area.
The profile, meanwhile, puts your stats, bank account (to store your money), and nurse (to replenish health after PVP battles) all on the same page. Other things, like items, collections, and rites, are only one mouse click away - each a link under the main nav buttons (see screenshot to the left). Best of all, when you have skill points to spend, you get a series of toggles to add and subtract where you want to put your points. It's okay to click a wrong button or change your mind in the middle - you can easily undo. It doesn't refresh the screen every time you click something, like it does in Mafia Wars or Castle Age, and it doesn't save until you're completely done fiddling and click the save button.
Managing Yakuza Lord Family Recruits
The one downside is the family area. Sent requests don't disappear from your list, even after the person has accepted. It can be difficult to keep track of who you've already tried to recruit and whether they've responded. On the other hand, this is more than made up for by the fact that people on your friends list automatically become a part of your family when they add the game, even if you didn't send a request. You can benefit by your friends recruiting your other, mutual frends, without having to do anything yourself at all. Definitely a better way way to handle it than in other online gangster games!
Yakuza Lords Single Player: Jobs and Properties
Single play in Yakuza Lords mainly consists of doing jobs and buying properties. Some jobs require a certain family size, certain properties owned, or number of battles won against other players. However, only three jobs per area must be completed before the area boss unlocks and the next area becomes available. It's possible to advance quite far through the game without having to stop and recruit new family every two steps (a severe downside in games like Hammerfall RPG). In addition, there are three levels of masteries. These grant additional skill points, favor points, and special items.
Properties accumulate a separate pot of money with a maximum per day. There is a hierarchy of improvements to get them to pay out more, and each tier gets more upscale than the last (the screenshot to the right shows two of the top level properties). After you've maxed on improvements, you can continue to increase the maximum payout by adding "enforcers" from your friends list. By that point, though, you have more than enough funds to do anything you ever need.
There are also rites to earn, and collection items that trade in for better equipment. Each day there is a challenge from the Oyabun that provides special rewards (money or rare items).
Multiplayer: Family and PVP Battle in this Online Gangster Game
Growing your Yakuza family is much simpler than in other Facebook games. Elsewhere, you have to manually send a request to each friend that you want to add, and they have to respond to each request they receive. In some cases (Farm Town comes to mind) requests must be sent both ways! Not so with Yakuza Lords - any time anyone on your friends list adds the game - whether because you've sent a request or otherwise - they will automatically appear in your family.
Family size is important in battle with other players. Each member gets one weapon, one armor, one vehicle, and one hench, so the larger your family, the more of these you wield. Attack and Defense stats also come into play (check out the screenshot to the right for how that makes a difference). However, PVP (player vs. player) is much better balanced and much less stressful than in Mafia Wars. First, you get more XP and money by hitting large families than small ones, which makes it worth your while to hit as large as you can afford. Second, you can only bring as many family members as your level, which evens things out at the lower levels when most people have only a few. In the other direction, the size of family you can hit is limited by your stamina pool - the larger the rival, the more it costs to hit them. You can put lots of skill points into stamina and spend most of your playtime in battle, but at the expense of attack points, defense points, and energy points for jobs - and you can't access higher level weaponry without completing enough jobs to reach the areas where they are sold. Finally, the part I like best, number of deaths is not recorded in Yakuza Lords.
The end result is that even if you have a small family or an unfortunate "kick me" type of name, you don't get pounded into a pulp every time you dare to set foot into the game. This is a big plus for casual players who aren't interested in joining clans or adding tons of strangers to their friends lists for the sole purpose of playing the game.