I liken much of Dorfromantik’s appeal to what also made 2019’s ISLANDERS a lot of fun. Both titles are relaxing city builders on the surface, and challenging puzzlers underneath their cute exteriors.
Toukana Interactive began Dorfromantik as a small prototype on itch.io for Ludum Dare 46. It was released last year as part of the Racial Justice and Equality Bundle where it caught some attention, and now the developer is bringing the game to Steam as a fully-fledged puzzle game.
The Steam version expands on the ideas brought forward by the prototype, but as an Early Access title still doesn’t quite feel like it’s ready to be enjoyed as a complete experience. Content updates over time will bring new biomes to the game, as well as more unlockable tiles and options to collect points among other numerous improvements.
So what exactly is Dorfromantik?
It’s a game about growing idyllic village landscapes by placing down hexagonal tiles on a board. Each tile contains different features, such as some buildings, a river, or trees. Matching up the edges of each tile with another using the same features will yield points, and it’s a challenge to see how far you can go before running out of tiles.
It’s a simple concept but things can escalate fast. Some tiles give you special quests, such as a train track that wants to connect across ten spaces, or a forest that wants to expand by a hundred trees. It can overcomplicate things as you only get a certain number of tiles to begin with, and you can only gain more pieces by completing these quests. This emphasises the need to plan your landscape carefully, using strategy and logic to ensure you’re placing them in the right spot.
Dorfromantik uses procedural generation to determine which tiles you have to use next, meaning the next tile you place down is randomly assigned according to an algorithm. It’s done in such a way that it never feels unfair though, as there’s always enough wiggle room to improvise even if you get some bad RNG. In the end, anything that goes wrong in your playthrough will occur because you didn’t plan ahead for them rather than because you were dealt bad hand.
As for what will change over the course of development, Toukana states that it won’t be making any big changes to the formula between now and the full release. This is great news, as the essentials are already in place. The core gameplay mechanics are robust and, with a couple of extra layers, will feel like a complete experience.
Right now it feels like some of the late-game runs are bland due to the familiarity of the biomes, so one change I’d like to see in a future update is the addition of new biomes which are introduced later in each playthrough. There are plenty of opportunities for new locations, such as mountains, deserts or snowy plains, so I have no doubt Toukana will be able to deliver on some extra goodies before the full release.
To call back to my earlier ISLANDERS comparison, both that and Dorfromantik are games that emphasise the existence of a calmness in their presentation. Creations you make in either game are presented on the idea of building great worlds from small beginnings in a tranquil way, giving you room to breathe as you forge these worlds without a great deal of stress.
The best lesson it can teach you though is how perfectly okay it is with having to steer off course because things don’t go to plan. In Dorfromantik, you may have to improvise and work around your initial plan, but this can lead to your runs going even better than you’d ever hoped. It communicates this through its robust puzzle gameplay, and is an excellent way of tying in mechanics with the right emotions you want someone to experience while playing the game.
With this excellent presentation, you would definitely find yourself getting lost in Dorfromantik for many evenings without getting bored. While lacking in its biome variety, it’ll most certainly transform into something beautiful with the further content updates coming down the line. I can’t wait to jump back with every new patch.
Tested on PC
Also available on N/A
Developer Toukana Interactive
Publisher Toukana Interactive
Disclosure a copy of Dorfromantik was provided by Toukana Interactive