Elf City is a solid but forgettable social game for Android

Elf City looks and plays a lot like early Facebook games. It’s a management sim where you build a little settlement of your own and earn money from operating the local market. The plot of the game, such as it is, somehow involves Earth being destroyed. A handful of human survivors are rescued by elven spaceships and taken to the elven homeworld for a chance to build a new civilization. In practical terms this means you get a plot of land to fill up with buildings, leveling up and unlocking new items as you gain experience.

Most games like this offer you some sort of discrete in-game goal, like growing your population or keeping you people happy. To achieve this goal, you’d be guided toward what to build by a series of quests or missions. Elf City does neither of these, though. You begin the game with only the briefest of tutorials and are then set free to build whatever you want, limited only by a hefty amount of starting cash and the unlocks available to you at your current level. You seem to gain most of your experience from operating your markets, which basically amounts to waiting out a timer and then collecting money.

Elf City

Elf City

The lack of direction in Elf City is a blessing in some ways. You’re allowed to build a highly customized city much sooner than in most games. On the other hand, there’s not a lot of structure to the game and playing it feels a bit rote. It’s so easy to level up that new unlocks aren’t very meaningful as rewards. This makes the entire game feel a bit dissatisfying, despite how well it ran on the test unit. Elf City does have social features, but they’re no different than the usual “visit friend, share benefit” mechanics you typically see on similar Facebook games.

Elf City is an attractive game, with large building icons and a variety of plant decorations. Your starting area is relatively small, but can be expanded. There are items that cost real money in addition to the typical “gold coin” items, but there’s no real pressure to buy them. A frustration in playing the game is that it appears to be localized and not especially well, with a lot of typos and what appear to be typesetting errors. There’s not a ton of in-game text, granted, but what is present can be incredibly distracting.

There’s not a lot to really recommend Elf City, though it’s not an especially poor game, either. It would be solidly average if it wasn’t missing basic features like quest trees or just a basic point to the game. If you really get into the “miniature village” aspect of social games, you can probably have a lot of fun with Elf City. The game ran well on the HTC Incredible used during the test period and doesn’t have any features that call for especially high-resolution or high-spec phones. Still, there are a lot of free games available for Android right now with much better reasons to play them.