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Video Game / Mafia Wars

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Mafia Wars is a browser-based game by Zynga, Inc., available through Facebook. It's the company's second most popular game behind Farmville. You play a gangster who must rise through the ranks of The Mafia by performing jobs, collecting gear, taking over businesses, recruiting members, and fighting with rival Mafias. Through these actions, you earn money and Experience Points; XP is used to advance your Character Level, which unlocks new content and gives you additional points to spend to raise your stats. It's billed as an RPG, but contains no action elements whatsoever; the game's interface is simply a series of screens and buttons that you click on to perform the desired task.

The game has a timing element, in that your Energy (used to perform jobs), Stamina (used to fight and rob), and Health (depleted when you fight) refill on a timer, encouraging you to log in as soon as they are full to maximize your XP and cash income. Similarly, your businesses generate income on fixed timers ranging from every hour to every 72 hours, and many other actions such as gifting, requesting and providing help with jobs, etc. reset on a daily basis.

The social aspect of the game comes into play in that your ability to fight other Mafias is directly related to how many members your own Mafia has; these may consist of friends you recruit through Facebook or "Hired Guns" that you buy with reward points. You can exchange gifts with your Mafia to complete collections and help with jobs, request and receive aid to perform jobs, send and receive Energy Packs, and even go to war with each other for fun and XP. There's also a "Hitlist" challenge where you try to stay alive as long as possible with everyone else gunning for you.

The game is divided into different mission areas, each with its own structure and unique challenges. All players start in New York City (considered the "home city"), and the other locations become unlocked as you gain levels. The current locations are New York City, Las Vegas, Italy, Brazil, and most recently (as of this writing), Chicago. Four former locations, Cuba, Moscow, Bangkok and Atlantic City (The last of which was exclusive to the mobile version of the game), are now closed, with no word from the developers if they will be reopened.

Like all Zynga games, Mafia Wars is entirely free to play, but you are encouraged to spend money to buy "reward points", which can be spent at the in-game Marketplace to purchase everything from skill points to energy refills to "limited edition" loot to additional Mafia members. Otherwise, they trickle in at the miserly rate of one every other level.

There is also a Mafia Wars iPhone app by Zynga, but it's a self-contained version that does not link to the Facebook game.

A sequel, Mafia Wars 2, was released, adding graphics and action gameplay by adding features from other Zynga games such as FrontierVille and CityVille, and Real-Time Strategy elements as seen in games such as Commandos and Desperados. It was later shut down.

This game provides examples of:

  • A.K.A.-47: Lots; if a gun is not given its real name or generic name (like semi auto pistol), then it is given fake names. For example, RA-92 (AK-74) and Garza 9 (Glock 17).
  • Alt Itis: The game is much easier when your fellow Mafia members help you with things such as job help and gifting. The temptation to create alternate accounts to help oneself with these tasks is quite great. This is technically against both Zynga and Facebook's policies, though.
    • More traditionally, some players create multiple accounts simply to try out different play styles (for instance, an energy-driven account based around doing jobs versus a stamina-driven account based around fighting).
  • Anachronism Stew: The Chicago episodes appear to take place in the Prohibition era, while the other cities seem to be in a modern setting. There are also no shortage of high-tech weapons and equipment.
  • Anti Poop-Socking: When you're out of Energy, Stamina, and Energy Packs, you have to wait for them to refill. Of course, you can always get around this by spending lots of money at the Marketplace.
  • Artistic License – History: The second Brazilian 'secret district', El Dorado, was released shortly after Zynga's Adventure World game, which featured El Dorado as a major plot point. Naturally, there was bound to be someone out there who thought that Zynga had invented the concept of El Dorado themselves. [1]
  • Badass Biker: Red Jackson.
  • Boss Battle: Featured on the second, third, and fourth mission tiers in New York, but seemingly forgotten about afterwards... until the Vegas expansion, where they are featured heavily.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory: The game can be played entirely for free, but spending money allows you to buy Reward Points, which let you buy the best items and advance much, much faster than without them. Also, everything can be bought instantly with Reward Points - even building time.
  • Brutal Bonus Level - Some of the earlier bonus missions in were very difficult (at least not without spending premium currency), which often led to complaints from players. Zynga has since toned them down a bit.
  • Civil War: South African Sundown featured the eponymous nation erupting into civil war after the president is assassinated. Completing each section of the event gave clues as to what caused the war, and allowed the player to acquire a few remaining items before South Africa shut down for good.
  • Cosmetic Award: The Achievement system, although you do get a single stat point for each one, and your friends can get nice rewards if you share them.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: When the list of potential fighters is made, Mafia size isn't taken into account. Very good news if you're the one with 501 members, otherwise...
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Getting "killed" merely costs you a bit of XP and cash (if you have any on hand) and increases your death count.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Beating the Mexico bosses 15 times allows you to recruit them as your henchmen.
  • Dragon Lady: One Bangkok level features a gang led by a female oyabun, and you assassinate her on the very last job.
  • Experience Points: As stated above, earned by fighting, doing jobs, and sometimes by helping other players.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Thanks to a bug, Red Jackson used to be pretty much impossible to beat on the Ruby mastery level. Before you can attack her directly, you have to kill her two henchmen. However, it used to be the case that even if you'd killed them, a bug would still cause one of them to register as being alive, preventing you from doing more than a miniscule amount of damage against the boss. And not only that, on occasion she would also inexplicably heal herself during battle. Though Jackson is still very hard, the bug thankfully appears to have been fixed now.
    • Another bug briefly caused some of the Italy bosses to have hit points in the millions. note  This was very quickly remedied.
  • Global Currency Exception: Each region set has its own currency that doesn't carry over between regions, so your $4,000,000,000 bankroll in New York does you no good in Cuba (or Las Vegas, for that matter), and such. In Las Vegas, you can upgrade your vault in order to convert other regions' currency to Vegas money, but the conversion rates are horrible, you can only convert a limited amount of cash per day, and it's strictly a one way conversion - you can ONLY produce Vegas chips this way, nothing else.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: The collections... dear gods, the collections. Some of them give very good rewards, too, encouraging obsessive job farming.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: It is possible to carry around unlimited supplies of weapons, armor pieces, vehicles, and animals. True, only 501 of each are able to be used at one time, but still...
  • In-Universe Game Clock: The game updates in real time. There are no particular consequences for not logging in, except that you may miss chances at additional XP and money, and your businesses can get robbed.
  • Level Grinding: Over, and over, and over, and over, at least partly because of...
  • Level-Up Fill-Up: Your energy, stamina, and health are restored to max whenever you level up.
  • Mad Scientist: Dr. Hank Williams, the boss of Area 51, is heavily implied to be one. His boss picture has him strapped into an experimental armoured exoskeleton, blazing away at the camera with a pair of SMGs and a wild grin on his face.
  • The Mafiya: Featured in the Moscow mission set.
  • Marathon Boss: The San Juan bosses. On the highest level of mastery, they have insane amounts of HP and take tons of stamina to defeat. You're given four hours for the highest level boss fights, and you will need almost every second.
  • Metaphorgotten: The "Embezzle Political Funds: Part 1" mission set has one Michelle Paulis telling you "Basically, we have our fingers in the cookie jar already, just need someone to move the cookies. And by 'cookies', I mean 'millions of dollars'."
  • Mob War: The rationale for the fighting aspect of the game is that it represents skirmishes between different Mafia families. There's even a "War" mechanic that allows for more drawn out conflicts between two players, with each needing to assassinate key members of their opponent's family then kill the boss themself.
  • Money for Nothing: Once you start buying businesses, your cash income increases exponentially. Too bad there's nothing left to spend all those billions of dollars on. The game Lampshades this with achievements for depositing large amounts of cash in the bank, such as $1 trillion.
    • The exception is Bangkok, which features a faction store with some really powerful items you can spend your spare Baht on. The downside is that mission-required items in Bangkok are so expensive, it'll probably be a while before you reach the point where you have expendable cash. Las Vegas also has a very tight cash budget.
  • More Criminals Than Targets: Exaggerated; literally everyone in the game is a member of some organized crime group or another. Sure, the missions say you're doing things like robbing banks, eluding the FBI, etc., but no economy could conceivably survive all this crime.
  • Nebulous Evil Organisation: The Neo-Imperium, a vaguely-defined criminal consortium who operate out of Brazil. They're also the closest thing the game has to a proper Big Bad, being responsible for violently taking over the criminal underworlds of Italy, Cuba, Russia, and several other locations.
  • Nerf: Done from time to time to counteract game breaking tactics or to simply balance the game or keep certain aspects from being too heavily exploited. The most common Nerf is tweaking energy required/experience payout for certain jobs which energy-based players were using to power level.
  • Noodle Implements: Figuring out just WHY you need a $12,000 tracksuit to intimidate someone or why questioning a captured spy requires 30 SUVs can be the most fun part of the game. The Dublin challenge mission might be the funniest example yet, as all of the tasks (rob the bank, kidnap the bank president's family) are somehow accomplished with pints of stout.
  • Point Build System: Character levels, job mastery levels, and achievements give you points to spend to upgrade your stats.
  • Precision F-Strike: Courtesy of Snoop Dogg during the live event leading up to the explosion of an armored truck.
  • Randomly Drops: Jobs, robbing, fighting, the Daily Chance game... most of the rewards are randomized, from gear to collection items.
  • Random Power Ranking: All items in the game have an attack strength (for when you choose to fight another player), and defense strength (for when you're attacked). However, over the years Power Creep has set in pretty deeply, making older items much less useful in fights. This makes sense, until you realise you're in a situation where a unicycle riding auctioneer, who's armed with a set of keys, wearing just pair of knee pads, and carrying a parrot on his shoulder would win a fight against an FBI agent in an armoued car, wearing a full suit of armour, while carrying an assault rifle, and accompanied by a tiger.
  • Shout-Out: While some of the items you can get for fights are original, many are obviously taken from other sources. In particular, the themed mystery crates have often been known to be full of items from other things, such as the blue hedgehog, the chronoton booth, the MNU Suit, or the Mystery van.
  • Switching P.O.V.: Each district of the South Africa and London locations concerns a different character, with their self-contained Story Arcs told through the missions of each set.
  • Temporary Online Content: Many top-level items are only available by doing limited-time missions. Cuba, Moscow, Bangkok, Las Vegas and Atlantic City have been removed from the game. There have been promotions with games that are no longer available, and there was a limited time promotion with 7-Eleven.
  • The Triads and the Tongs: Bangkok featured a unique two-faction mission track, offering the player the choice to side with the Triads or the Yakuza for certain missions.
  • Unflinching Walk: Lampshaded in the Vegas missions.
    Cool guys don't look at explosions.
  • Villain Protagonist: The Player Character starts out as a street thug looking to make their bones with the Mafia, and they only get deeper into crime from there. By the time they finish New York City, they're in control of at least one large Mafia family even before they start expanding abroad.
  • Viva Las Vegas!: Vegas is one of several cities that the player's Mafia can set themselves up in, complete with casinos, bars, and the occasional bit of loan sharking. Subverted following the Lights Out Vegas Limited Time Event, as access to the city was disabled following the event's conclusion.
  • The Virus:
    • Lights Out Vegas featured one as a key plot point, with a rival crime boss acquiring the genetic code to manufacture a highly contagious and lethal virus. After an attempt by the player's Mafia to destroy the code, he used it as leverage to force the player out of the city. When the player tries to sneak back in, assassinate him and destroy the code due to the risk it poses to everyone, he replied by unleashing it on the city, turning Las Vegas into a quarantined Ghost City.
    • The plot of the third District in South Africa revolved around a spy sneaking into a corporation's labs to steal one and sell it to the highest bidder. South African Sundown later referenced this in its third mission set, with the player character nearly being killed by a biological weapon as they investigate why their operations have gone dark.
  • Yakuza: Alluded to in the New York mission set, and featured prominently in the Bangkok mission set.