In an age where it feels like many big-budget projects are falling victim to 'FOMO mechanics' and stricter price schemes, it can be refreshing to play a game that focuses on simplicity, like Dorfromantik. Here you have a puzzle game that doesn't chase after complex mechanics, cutting-edge design, or intense action; Dorfromantik is simply about building warm, rural countrysides at your own pace. No pressure. No noise. And though it sacrifices some of its long-term appeal with this approach, we commend Dorfromantik for committing wholly to the peaceful atmosphere it endeavors to create.
Based around a simple score-based puzzle, you start off with a single hex tile floating in space and your goal is simply to build out a countryside as far as you possibly can by adding to it. Each hex tile in your stack has a collection of things like houses, forests, or rivers on its various edges and you get points for each edge you can match to an already placed tile.
You start out with a limited amount of tiles, but you can occasionally top these up by fulfilling quests that randomly generate as you place the tiles down. These are easy enough to fulfill, with tasks ranging from building a river that’s eight tiles long or making a forest that’s worth over two hundred points. Once you complete a quest, you’re given a big point bonus and a few extra tiles are added to the bottom of your stack. Quests can keep you going for a while, but you inevitably run out of tiles, at which point you’re given a score and the opportunity to start over. Dorfromantik is not the kind of game that pushes you too hard to optimize your playstyle and this more laid-back approach can make for a nice change of pace. You could agonize over every tile placement and ensure that every edge lines up perfectly, it feels like you’re just expected to do your best and occasionally produce an imperfect landscape.
There’s something wonderfully meditative about emptying your head and just focusing on building out little villages and railways in quiet forests while the relaxing and chipper music plays softly in the background. The downside to this, however, is that Dorfromantik proves to be relatively shallow in the long run. This is very much a ‘one trick pony’ of a game, and once the initial concept has worn thin, there isn’t much else to keep you engaged. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a light puzzle game that you dip into here and there for brief 15-minute sessions, but those hoping for more may be left disappointed.
Things do develop somewhat with time, as you slowly unlock more tiles and biomes from just playing the game and getting in-game achievements such as placing over a thousand tiles or getting a village that’s worth at least six hundred points. The new tiles don’t really change up the gameplay much, but they do let you build a more varied landscape. Meanwhile, the achievements give you something to shoot for beyond just maxing your score; you can set out for each new landscape with a different goal in mind as you’re building.
There are also a few additional modes that change the rules slightly, such as a creative mode that just lets you build infinitely or a hard mode that puts more emphasis on placing tiles carefully. If you’re the competitive type, there’s even a leaderboard that shows how you rank compared to other players around the world. Though the gameplay may intrinsically feel rather shallow, we appreciated the reward structure present here and the alternative game modes help to round out the experience more by showing a few different takes on the standard rules.
Dorfromantik may not have a ton of staying power, but it offers up a satisfying and chill puzzle experience that we feel is worthwhile in the end. If you’re on the lookout for a game that doesn’t expect much of you and fits well for those late-night sessions just before bed, we’d recommend you give this one a look if it sounds interesting.