After a Sandy Delay, CityVille 2 Launches Today

Hurricane Sandy's reach extended far beyond the real world, causing the unexpected delay of the millions of potential virtual towns of CityVille 2. Originally slated for launch on Monday, Zynga's brand-new 3D city-builder goes live today.

The Baltimore-based Zynga studio working on CityVille 2 wanted to kick off this week with a flurry of city building, but Sandy had other plans. Greater Baltimore was crippled by the storm, with more than 200,000 without power Tuesday morning and downed trees clogging the streets.

As the city of Baltimore slowly gets itself back up to speed, Zynga's Maryland crew is cleared for launch.

So, what's new in CityVille 2?

For starters the game features a full 3D engine with the ability to pan and tilt, which gives developers the ability to make buildings taller than ever without worrying about obscuring smaller elements.

There's a day/night cycle, with certain elements of play tied to specific times of day. Don't worry about waiting for the sun to set though; there's a switch in the user interface that lets players swap times at will.

Clicking on a building to collect resources or cash is somewhat more exciting, thanks to a moving meter with a sweet spot in the center-sort of like active reload in a shooter. Hit the right spot and you'll earn bonus money or resources. Or skip it, if that's too much action for you.

CityVille 2 also introduces districts, themed areas of the city that level independently. As districts level players unlock perks and bonuses akin to the technology tree of a real-time strategy game.

Vehicles play a huge part in CityVille 2. If there's a fire-and there will be fires-you send a fire truck to put it out. If the power goes out, power company vehicles are there to respond.

CityVille 2 is also much more story-based than its predecessor. A cast of colorful characters, each with their own tale, unlock as the player progresses. The game itself starts with the player's home exploding-a mystery that unfolds as your city evolves.

The game is also much more social, in a good way. Players can chat with their friends in real-time via an in-game chat interface. When your friends are offline they can use their city's message board to leave notes-don't forget to water the fires, that sort of thing.

There's even a check-in system akin to the popular Foursquare. Visit a friends' district often enough and you'll become a District VIP, earning better rewards for clicking there while showing your friends how much you care.

I'm looking forward to bugging the hell out of you all once CityVille 2 goes live this afternoon. (Update: It's live!)

After a Sandy Delay, CityVille 2 Launches Today

After a Sandy Delay, CityVille 2 Launches Today

After a Sandy Delay, CityVille 2 Launches Today

After a Sandy Delay, CityVille 2 Launches Today

After a Sandy Delay, CityVille 2 Launches Today