Dorfromantik Early Access is a fiendish game as it’ll take up all your time, stealing you away from a Netflix binge or schooling some pre-teens on Apex Legends because ‘you’re that good at it’, and it’ll be time well spent.
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It’s a relaxing strategy game, and while some of the challenges feel a little unobtainable, based on the hand you’re dealt, you’ll be hard-pressed not to love this venture. But there’s nothing wrong with a challenge, and having these goals makes the game much better. Yes, the concept is excellent, and it’s an enjoyable experience, but these objectives of unlocking a new windmill or train, as mundane as it may sound, is so much more rewarding when you get there. This is so moreish. So, what’s it all about?
Dorfromantik Early Access is a charming tile-based game where you craft an animated diorama using random hexagonal tiles. Like most tile-based games, you can move the camera around the map, zoom in and rotate each item you place accordingly. Unlike city builders, all structures come pre-built on a stack of tiles. The bottom right of the screen shows the stack and how many remain. When you’re out of tiles, the session ends, and you start again.
Dorfromantik Early Access Preview
You have to place each of these hexagonal tiles next to an existing tile, ideally matching them in the process to create chains. There will be certain tiles that will have ‘quests’ or objectives where you’ll need to arrange a series of tiles parallel to each other such as to make a forest or match up an existing farm expansion. In completing the quests, you’ll earn more tiles, which in turn, will add to your overall score. Note that there’s an online leaderboard if you’re up for it.
Sometimes there are opportunities to get a perfect score by matching one tile with another, giving it perfect symmetry, but the way Dorfromanik Early Access is designed has me thinking that Toukana Interactive may be dabbling in some witchcraft here. The crops, for example, are like shattered chunks of glass, and for someone like me who likes things to match up and be uniform, I was surprised to see how natural they would appear in my little biome. If zoomed in, you can see where the tiles connect and where the colours and shapes may differ, but everything feels right. I only have two (trivial) issues.
The first is the randomness of the tiles. Yes, yes – that’s the point of the game, but early on, I was trying to expand my waterways and train networks, but there are so many ‘split pieces’, i.e. a river splitting in three, or another track junction when all you need is a straight to complete a sophisticated transportation network. It’s a bit like Tetris in some way then, as you’ll need to strategise (is that really a word?) your efforts in prep for the tile you need, or even better: completing a massive chain to fulfil a quest.
Straying away from my two-part issues, you’ll get a tile that will state the number of similar tiles you need to connect and can often pair that up with an existing tile that has a similar quest. This can save a lot of time, thus extending your playtime as you’re awarded new tiles, but you’ll need to keep an eye on the exact numbers as sometimes you can cancel out a chain, undoing all that hard work. Again, emphasis on Dorfromantik Early Access being a relaxing game, but that doesn’t mean you should place tiles willy-nilly without thinking.
Back to my second complaint: making a mistake. That’s part of life, but that’s why we have ctrl+z – if there was an undo button – even if limited to a couple of uses in a session, that would be marvellous. It’s not down to poor choices that I’d like to see the option, but it’s easy to click in error and place a tile incorrectly. This often happened when attempting to zoom in or out of the map, as you can only do it when the cursor is in the background. Granted, you could use the keyboard, but out of convenience, I’d use the mouse wheel, then inadvertently swivel the tile and place. Ack! We’re all doomed!
As you may gather, both issues are pretty minor, and in short, I love this game. Dorfromantik Early Access is worthy of all the praise it’s been receiving, and the reason why I found out about this in the first place. It’s so calming, enjoyable and downright addictive for all the right reasons.
I must have played an hour or two straight with my four-year-old – that’s a big ask. If you have kids, you know what their attention can be like at a PC. We alternated turns, and after a couple of control freak like commands of telling her where you place it, I left it up to her, and she managed to create some lovely scenes and get quite far – it’s certainly user-friendly. But to be candid, as much as it was nice to be playing together, I was hoping she’d run out of tiles so I could have a turn.
Dorfromantik Early Access is available now on Steam, and I highly recommend you check this out. Preview done, I’m genuinely going to play this now as I’m looking at the menu screen of my last build, and it’s just so enticing!