Browser games are nothing new and with so many on the market, most people's go to question is probably something along the lines of: "why would I want to try one more?" I have noticed that all of these games are essentially the same and after a few hours, or rather half an hour, I’d end up bored, returning immediately to my sizeable list of Steam games. I found something a bit different as of late, and it is one browser game that I might stick with for many years to come, assuming it lasts that long. Enter Elvenar, the most interesting city building game I’ve ever come across in my browser.
Elvenar starts as many browser games do, with a plot of land and an advisor telling you a lot of things that you probably already know from playing similar games. As you move past that, however, you will find yourself dealing with the meat of the game, and from here you have two choices. In the beginning, you can place buildings as you see fit, or you can simply follow the quests to gain more gold, more production, and ultimately expand your city faster. Really, it depends whether or not you’re in a hurry but I will say they have designed the game so that you burn through the gold and production points you earn from quests the moment you get them. As with all games of this type, the more money you earn, the more you need to spend. Is that a deal breaker? Not really, the game is still quite fun. Also remember that each time you place a building, you will need to make sure a road is built so that your workers can reach it and complete the work, otherwise the building will remain in a perpetually unfinished state.
So what is it exactly? What sets this game apart from every other city building browser game on the market? Most of which you’ve probably tried. I can assure you there are quite a few differences. First of all, this may be because the game is sitting in open beta right now, but it does not seem to shove the cash store in your face. You DO need to buy diamonds if you want to progress further, but you don’t have to. There is also a distinct lack of PvP. One of the biggest problems I’ve run into with virtually any other game like this is the fact that other players can use their father’s credit card to get ahead of you, and then use their bought and paid for forces to invade your new town, leaving you with no resources and often forced to start over. This is why so many people prefer to play single player strategy games, and I can agree that Sim City is kind of fun. Elvenar, however, offers up something a bit different than the average online city builder in that it IS actually a city builder. Rather than fighting your neighbors, you will have the opportunity to help them and make sure that their cities thrive. This is definitely a new take on the online city builder, but what about combat?
As I mentioned before, there is nothing in the way of player versus player combat but there is a barracks at which you will be able to train your troops. Instead of fighting other players, you will fight bandits and NPC enemies for control of territories dotting the outside of yours. For each province, there are a number of territories that you will need to conquer, and with each one you can choose to either negotiate or fight. If you choose to negotiate you will simply lose production points, and you will be rewarded with the relics found in that area. All relics go back to your town center and provide you with certain benefits, meaning you can never have enough, but it becomes more expensive each time you rush out to claim a territory.
In the event you do not have enough production points to claim a territory you can always choose to fight, and this triggers what I would consider the best part of the game. Instead of simply providing you with the typical automated fight with a foregone conclusion, choosing to go to the battlefield will actually present you with a turn based hexagon field on which you can play out your battles. Think of it like King’s Bounty or Disciples 3. The units are stacked, but you can control where the stacks go and even tell them to attack, adding a tactical element to the game that I have never before seen in a browser-based setting. This alone made the game worth playing, and there are at least four different types of soldier you can train at your barracks. Of course, in the beginning, you will only be able to train and deploy small forces, but as you explore your research tree, you will find that you can easily increase your squad cap, among other things. In addition to winning relics, conquering territory will actually give you the ability to expand your home city, meaning you can place more buildings and expand beyond the original borders. As you progress across the world map however, you will need to conquer territory at an increasing amount in order to unlock more expansions for your kingdom.
Exploring the research tree will give you access to new technologies and new buildings. You research these technologies using research points which are accumulated at the rate of one every hour, or you can earn points by finishing provinces on the world map. Once you spend the appropriate amount of points on the research item you will be free to unlock the item using gold. Once that is done, you will be able to proceed with using the technology in question.
There are several other aspects to the game, for example, you will need culture in order to receive additional bonuses. Most culture is obtained by building monuments within your city, but you can also increase it by asking for a bit of help from your neighbors. Each time you are helped, you will receive a notification in the upper left-hand corner of your screen. In turn, you can head out to the world map and help your neighbors to raise their culture, making it a system that sort of pays for itself. This is not a new mechanic by any means, but it is nice to see it implemented in this game.
As the trailers for this game became more and more complex, I can’t help but remember one where a human and an elf were shown running through a field where buildings eventually sprouted and an entire city developed. The funniest thing I saw in the comments regarding that trailer, was the fact that viewers somehow mistook it for a WoW clone. I am here to say, ladies and gentlemen, that this game, is not a WoW clone. It is a city builder. I repeat, it is a city builder. It is a browser based city builder, and it requires a bit of time to develop anything, but it is still a city builder, and it is a fairly good one considering the state of browser games today.
Because there are two races in the game you may want to try both, and the game certainly accommodates that. Logging in, at least at the moment, gives you the opportunity to create a second account, and you can even choose to login with Facebook if you don’t want to spend your time filling out the registration form.
When it comes right down to it, this is not a game for those who would consider themselves hardcore. There will be no epic battles to the death with other players, though after the beta, there MAY be some limited PvP, which I would welcome so long as it does not affect your city proper. Given the type of combat, I would certainly welcome arena based PvP just to see who had the strongest troops, and yes, it would come down to how well you managed your economy. As you play the game your city will become larger and you will be given access to newer and more complex technology. In my opinion, there is a lot to enjoy here, and now that the game is in open beta, you can certainly expect it to progress further as it moves toward full release. While it might not be your main browser game by any means, it will certainly be something that you want to play in the background, and maybe even something that you choose to spend a little money on if you get tired of waiting for the next big upgrade. So what are you waiting for? Your city awaits!
-Slow build speeds after a while
-Research point queue is capped