If you were to examine the toys lying around a daycare, you’d likely find a favorite among toddlers, the shape sorter. The basic concept of fitting the correct pieces and shapes into their corresponding slots is just so satisfying for youngsters, sparking a rush of gratification every time a shape slips into the right space. Toukana Interactive has brought this same enjoyment to life through their casual, zen-like strategy city-builder Dorfromantik.
Dorfromantik‘s Cozy City-Building Gameplay
The game’s premise is simple, instead of matching shapes, we’re matching cute miniature biomes. The objective is to build a stunningly beautiful and ever-growing village landscape by placing down six-sided tiles. Map pieces seamlessly fall into place as you can freely design your world how you please. Developed by four game design students from Berlin, Dorfromantik offers a casual yet truly sensational experience.
Dorfromantik‘s core gameplay drops you into a calm state of flow as you plop down tile after tile, matching the various geography pieces to create a satisfying honeycomb landscape across the world. You start with a stack of 40 hex tiles and only use the one on top of the pile at a given moment. The goal is to carefully merge and connect as many tiles as possible before the stack depletes. Dorfromantik feels like a rogue-lite in some sense, with the player’s “survivability” relying heavily on the procedural generation of the hexes provided. However, the game’s logic that provides your stack is more reactive than a crude random number generator due to the always usable topmost tile. Thus, the decision-making shifts towards determining the optimal spot for placing the tile-based on the existing hexes you’ve put down.
As you progress, mini-quests will appear that either require you to have a minimum amount of elements in the biomes connected or that ask for an exact number. Completing these quests rewards the player with bonus points and extra tiles to lengthen the play session. There are also long-term goals that can be casually achieved, unlocking new special tiles upon completion. Special tiles will appear more rarely in the stack compared with standard hexes. Most of them offer cute visual animations, such as the adorable boat that chugs its way down the rivers you created. Others like the Water Train Station provide value in that it acts as a “wild card,” allowing you to merge waterways and railroads, which are stiffer and more complex in their tile placement.
Dorfromantik is as engaging as it is relaxing. One moment you feel like you’re decorating the top of a cake in an almost therapeutic manner, while other moments will have you plain stumped, wondering to yourself, “Where in the world could this railroad tile possibly go?” Notably, there are no penalties for making mistakes in Dorfromantik. The set rules do offer a puzzle challenge for those who desire one. On the other hand, the game freely lends itself to being played simply for casual relaxation with its mellow, calm music and pleasing aesthetics.
Dorfromantik‘s Sound and Visuals
Speaking of visuals, the game does a phenomenal job with its design in color theory. While most of the screen will be filled with the darker, lush greenery that comes from the prominent foliage on the landscape, the subtle textures of oranges, browns, and reds dotted about the map add a lot to the visual appeal of Dorfromantik. The water will have a turquoise consistency at times while appearing a pure sky-blue during others. Vibrant yellow shades of the fields meshed together with the rest of the environment form a complexion like the color palette of a cornucopia. The background complements all these hues with its calming beige and pink blends we get behind the tiles.
While the soundtrack isn’t anything to write home about, it absolutely nails its job. Coupled with the soft ambiance of birds chirping or cows gently mooing, the lofi tunes will help melt all manner of mental stress. The addictive sounds the tiles make when you plop them down or the audible ring when you finish a quest is utterly enchanting. You can’t stop wanting to hear it over and over again as you peacefully drift away into a dream-like state placing down tile after tile. All these audio and visual elements in Dorfromantik almost create a sense that you’re solo playing a board game in a relaxing café. The devs did a fantastic job with Dorfromantik‘s sound and graphical display.
The game is still in early access, which means there are still a few improvements to be made. One, in particular, is the suggestion of the quality of life feature, an undo button. Even if it had limited uses, the option to undo a simple mistake you didn’t mean to make could relieve a possible headache, especially for those perfectionists out there who probably just start a new game the moment they mess up. Another improvement could be the choice to keep a tile as a reserve for later. Sometimes you’ll have a tile you could use to potentially complete a quest, but you end up having to place it elsewhere due to the next tile being needed immediately in another location. Thankfully, the devs stated that they actively listen to the community about these critiques, so we should see more updates regarding future changes.
To conclude, Dorfromantik is a casual, puzzle comfy-core strategy game that is unwinding in nature but also offers something for the more demanding gamer. Its beauty reaches the eyes and ears and hits all the right marks regarding its addictive Civilization-like gameplay loop. Create your colorful world of cozy houses, fields, forests, waterways, and railroads in the serenely casual city-builder Dorfromantik. Dorfromantik game is available for purchase on Steam and GOG.