Plugged In

5 Facebook games that can compete with consoles

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Fed up with repetitive, time-sink Facebook games? Is your farm going nowhere, your city a ghost town, and your mafia a morgue? Fear not: there's a lot more gaming to do on Facebook.

Led by big-name publishers like Sony and Electronic Arts, social network entertainment is getting bigger and better while remaining free to play -- and some of Facebook's new breed are nearly ready to take on the consoles at their own game. Here are five of the front-runners:

Dragon Age: Legends

Dragon Age: Legends - EA

Top of the list is Dragon Age: Legends, recently released by publisher EA to support its critically acclaimed PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 role-playing epic Dragon Age 2. Hand-drawn Legends isn't as graphically rich as its big brother, but it's still packed with gameplay. You'll meander your way through a storyline tangentially related to the console game, fight an assortment of suitably burly foes, enlist the assistance of your friends, and level-up your character. You can even build your own castle, filling it with workers who'll produce power-ups and items for you while you're offline. Best of all, as you play you'll earn extra items that can be delivered, via your account, straight to your Dragon Age 2 character. It's enough to make even the most embittered of Facebook skeptics take the plunge.

Dungeon Overlord

Dungeon Overlord - Sony Online

Many games let you take an intrepid team of heroes into a hostile dungeon. Dungeon Overlord, though, turns the tables -- instead of all that goody-two-shoes heroic stuff, it lets you build your own underground lair, populating it with various hideous monsters and liberally sprinkling it with traps. (Seasoned gamers may be reminded of classic Bullfrog creation Dungeon Keeper, to which Overlord owes a significant debt.) Once you're happy with your dungeon, you can strike out to pastures new in search of advanced resources, more construction space, and new strategic options. Unusually for a Facebook game, you can also raid other players, killing their creatures and stealing their hard-won loot. Overlord is still rocking the "beta" tag, meaning downtime isn't unusual and high-level gameplay isn't as fleshed-out as it needs to be, but if you like to be the bad guy -- and who doesn't? -- there's more than enough here to kill a few weeks.

Madden NFL Superstars

Madden NFL Superstars - EA

Although Facebook isn't exactly the ideal platform for a football game, it works beautifully for this management-style spin on classic console series Madden. After creating your own NFL team -- manned by real-world players you purchase -- you'll organize offensive and defensive line-ups and take on either AI teams or those of your friends. Succeed, and you'll level up and progress; fail, and...well, you can just try again. It's the perfect way to prove your coaching superiority over your buds. Oh, and if your taste is more for the other kind of football, check out FIFA Superstars instead: same deal, different-shaped ball.

Galaxy Online II

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Galaxy Online II - IGG

Currently burning up the social networking popularity charts, over a million Facebookers have logged onto month-old Galaxy Online II, a strategy/city-builder with a clean sci-fi theme. Although at first it might bear a slight resemblance to Farmville and its many clones, rest assured there's far more beneath the surface. After you've set up your home planet with mineral extractors, skyscraping residential developments and shipyards, you'll forge out into the wide black yonder, designing your own ships with which to conquer the stars. First on your galactic agenda will be testing your mettle on some of its single-player missions, but ultimately Galaxy Online II will pit you against your fellow man (and woman). Good luck -- you'll need it.

Kingdoms of Camelot

Kingdoms of Camelot - Kabam Games

If you think all social network games are simple, give Kingdoms of Camelot a try. One of the older of the "real" Facebook games, it lets you play out your King Arthur dreams by dropping you on the throne of a medieval kingdom, complete with peasants, knights, and castles. But beware -- your realm's future is threatened not by dragons or evil wizards, but by a horde of other players with their beady eyes on your gold. If you're used to Farmville's happy-go-lucky atmosphere, where the worst thing that can happen is a withered tomato or two, Kingdoms of Camelot will give you a wake-up call. In a good way.

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