Elvenar and Guest Races
Every once in a while I try a new free-to-play, massively multiplayer online Flash game. You know, those games advertised by clickbait, starring Kate Upton’s cleavage. Games that are free to play, but offer endless opportunities to buy in-game currency to speed things along or get a fancy orange shield.
Many of these MMOs are completely interchangeable. They feature inconsequential, badly translated plots and throw in random mini-games to keep you occupied as you wait for your stamina to recover so you can click through another encounter. All in the hope that the incoherent story might, one day, come to an end. The sheer quantity of artwork some of these games contain is astounding, with thousands of weapons and individual pieces of armour available to buff your chosen warrior.
Once in a while, though, a game is interesting enough to capture my attention for a year or more. At the moment, that game is Elvenar by InnoGames. This is fitting since InnoGames’ Tribal Wars was my first MMO back in the early noughties.
Elvenar is a city-building game where the strategy comes from carefully arranging your buildings to squeeze the most resources out of a limited space. Of course, extra space or slightly more productive buildings can be purchased using in-game currency. Fortunately, these are not vital because they are extortionately expensive. Throwing £20 or £30 at the game wouldn’t get you very far.
The game is like Tetris played out over the course of weeks and months as you gradually perfect the placement of your differently shaped buildings. Then you unlock an upgrade and need to redesign your entire city when a key building changes its shape and size! A stand-out feature is how chunky the buildings are. So many of these games resort to tiny, pixellated graphics but Elvenar is refreshingly different.
Of course you have thousands of neighbours building their own cities. You can visit them to polish their buildings and form little Fellowships to take on the weekly events. It’s all very cheerful and unthreatening and, simply put, fun. Nevertheless, the game was wearing thin after a couple of months and I was about to move on when I unlocked the first Guest Race section of the game.
Guest Races invade your city through a portal and force you to build independent subcities producing their own special resources in order to progress. It’s a significant shake up to the game and finding space for the sudden influx of new buildings is a real challenge. A nice touch is that the style of all the buildings in your own city changes to match the Guest Race. Even when you’ve completed the chapter and demolished all the Guest buildings, the visitors have left their mark on your city. At least until the next Guest Race shows up, making new demands!
If this game sounds like your thing, there are loads of online wikis and fansites to help you through each chapter. The most useful resource is easily the Gems of Knowledge website. As well as providing an overview of all the different parts of the game, it contains vital spoilers for upcoming events so you can plan changes to your city in advance.
With this post, I am handing out my own contribution to players. I’ve created a series Google Sheets for tracking your progress through the Guest Race chapters of the game. They currently cover the Orcs to the Halflings (chapter 8 to 11). The idea is to work out how many resources you need to complete the chapter so you don’t waste one resource and run short of another. The spreadsheets are available by following this link. It’s locked for editing, so if you want to make use of it you’ll need to duplicate your own version. Otherise, you can just watch me update the latest sheet as I progress through each chapter!