Dorfromantik is a wonderful city builder game that aims to provide the most calming and relaxing experience possible by keeping the gameplay minimalistic yet extremely addictive. Since ISLANDERS

The core ideas of the two games are the same: you begin with an empty environment that contains an already set default tile, then you build up your landscape by placing down title by tile, expanding in all directions and gaining points by arranging them in an optimal way. While ISLANDERS offers a choice between two packs of buildings belonging to the same type as long as you don’t have enough tiles, in Dorfromantik you are by default given a stack of random tiles, with only the topmost one always being usable. The gameplay is thus simplified a lot, and the decision making shifts towards determining what the optimal spot for placing this tile is, based on the existing configuration.

The tiles are randomly generated mixes of five different elements (houses, fields, trees, water, railroad), featured in various shapes and amounts, but most of the times it’s a combination of 2-3 different elements, with the water and railroad bits being more difficult to handle than the rest. Some of these tiles give you a quest when they’re placed on the map, requiring you to connect a certain amount of tiles to them.

The core gameplay basically consists in domino-ing these in such a way that they form separate areas, in preparation for upcoming quests which are essential for game progress. Completing quests is what gives you survivability (they add new tiles to the stack) and increase the score, together with placing tiles in optimal spots for bonus points. Just like in ISLANDERS, you might want to group related tiles together even outside quests, building up those points in preparation for the moment when you receive a quest tile that you can place down nearby for instant or almost-instant completion. However, one crucial difference between these two games is that the placement of building in ISLANDERS is done based on the radius of the master building, while in Dorfromantik the tiles can be chained together over any range, as long as the elements keep the connection among two adjacent tiles. In ISLANDERS, gathering points is done through pixel-perfect placement and cramming together the maximum amount of buildings of the same type, both horizontally and vertically, while in Dorfromantik the hexagonal grid expands only in 2D, allowing only a strict placement but the points can be collected from any amount of linked tiles.

There are two types of quests: those that require you to have a minimum amount of elements in the connected tiles, and those that ask for an “exact” number. While the ones from the first category are pretty easy to complete initially, those that appear mid-game towards the end game have considerably increased requirements. For example, the first quests are connecting 10-30 trees – easily doable with only a couple of tiles, while later this value scales towards several hundreds, requiring you to already have connected several tiles with the same elements. The quests that require you to have an exact number of elements linked are substantially more difficult because you will need to wait for the right tile to drop. That’s where you truly become a slave of the RNG, praying that you get a tile containing not 5 houses, but 2 only – because that’s what you need in order to complete the quest (and connecting a 5-houses tile would ruin it). For some of these quests, there’s an optional requirement to close the opened edges, which further complicates things due to the fact that you’ll need to preplan the positioning so that you can easily close these off for extra tiles.

Completing quests will not only award you points, but also add new random tiles in your stack – and without tiles you can’t progress further. Therefore, finishing as many quests as possible should be your main priority, in order to generate the maximum amount of tiles in the stack. In practice though, because the RNG is what controls your gameplay (more or less), you’ll end up having several quests that can’t be completed and in the end you’ll just run out of tiles, while waiting for those fitting ones. Unlike in ISLANDERS, where you need to reach a certain score in order to progress to the next island, here you can start as many game sessions as you like, with the score having an influence only on the additional challenges that you get in one gaming session. There are always 3 random challenges attributed (like building a water chain that is 50 tiles long or reaching 5000 points) which are made available in a progressive manner (as soon as you complete one, you unlock the next tier of the same challenge). Additionally, special tiles exist on the map – if you expand enough to reach them and complete their quests you will receive a random reskin for an existing tile.

In my opinion, one thing that is missing from the game is the ability to undo your moves, even for a limited amount of times. It happened more often than not that I misplaced a tile, thus breaking my existing configurations, and there was no way out from that. Several other people requested this functionality but the developers agreed to take this into consideration only in a later update. Also nice-to-have would be the ability to postpone some tiles for later use, thus saving some of these randomly generated tiles for quests with exact requirements, instead of wasting them on the current configurations. However, the devs are inclined to keep the gameplay unchanged, in order to not overcomplicate it with such features.

The game can be played with the mouse only or with a combination of mouse and keyboard that you use to rotate the tiles and the camera. The quest requirements are visible
on the map above the quest tiles and are instantly updated when you hover a potential placement spot with the currently active tile. This way you can easily see if you can get progress towards a quest by placing it on that spot, plus, all the tiles connected to the current one are highlighted. The opened edges are also highlighted on hovering the quest tile. The game makes it as easy and comfortable to you as possible and gives you all the information you need, leaving you only with the decision of where to place the tile.

In terms of achievements, prepare to spend at least 40-50 hours in it, if not even much more. The achievements are awarded for completing the challenges which grow exponentially in difficulty as you progress through the game, plus several challenges (reaching highscores for example) will have to be completed multiple times.

Dorfromantik is a game worth playing and playing again. It never gets old, there’s always a new goal to pursue and with each new gameplay there’s a soft nudge towards bettering your strategies, while still keeping everything casual and chill. It’s a game in which you can lose yourself for 20 minutes or for hours, in short bursts or in lengthy sessions, and you can play it as casually or as hardcore as you choose. Also, a Creative mode is in the works – I for one am excited to see how that will play.

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