SIMON BUTLER FALLS IN LOVE ALL OVER AGAIN, COULD THIS BE THE START OF SOMETHING WONDERFUL?
Stepping boldly out of my comfort zone, I first encountered this beautiful cross between Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan in Demo form some months back and fell under its spell almost immediately.
Puzzle games are not my usual fare. I can count on one hand those I have played over the last five years. Here is something that I will openly admit: the game caught my eye primarily due to the graphics. With no risk attached to a free demo, I took the plunge, never thinking for a second it would wind up on my wish list with its release eagerly anticipated.
I snapped this up once it hit Steam, and
I can honestly say it is a purchase I have not regretted for a second as I have dipped into this gem at least once every day.
To reduce it down to the basics, it is a worldbuilding game pure and simple. Using hexagonal titles that you rotate to maximum effect, you place matching edges and build up forests, rivers and lakes, wheat fields, train tracks and villages.
Certain tiles show how many other matching pieces you need to connect to fulfil a task, and for every completed task, you are awarded extra tiles.
That, in essence, is the core of the game — you start with forty tiles, and by completing tasks, you earn more tiles ad infinitum.
The ad infinitum part of the game eludes me; my old brain doesn't work systematically, and I rush into placing something to make a pretty environment.
This method works for a short period, but if you want to create something massive, you need to get into the habit of placing continual ‘perfects' to amass points and tiles.
‘Perfects' are tiles that match their connecting partners on every one of the
six sides, a tree to a tree, and a field to a field etc.
So careful planning and thinking ahead of oneself is required, which isn't how my head is hardwired, so the high scores and vast tracts of land elude me to date.
However, I shall persevere, because regardless of the frustration that does creep in when you realise you have not been paying attention and botched up a huge point scoring area, Dorfromantik still has a strange zen-like feel about it.
The graphics, which were the initial selling point for me, are simple and naive with a charm all their own. Everything adjusts to a new connection with lake edges moving to accommodate adjoining pieces and stylised terminals allowing both streams and rail tracks to pass through.
Deer wander slowly in the shows of the trees and chubby little trains move across the map.
Fishing boats bob along the waterways and seagulls slowly through the skies glide over your creations.
The soundtrack is almost subliminal, hovering at the edge of silence, interspersed with the sound of the countryside, the lowing of the cows and quiet birdsong.
The whole game is well thought out, and part of the attraction is the deceptive complexity in the mechanic. It lulled me into a false sense of security and taught me many severe lessons regarding haste and consideration. My advances have been slow, but steady; I still make rash decisions and fail to inspect the wider horizons while concentrating foolishly on one small space. Nevertheless, it is my abilities or lack thereof that frustrate me, never the game.
My failures are my own and it is simplicity itself to quit and restart without feeling any real loss, but with a zeal for bettering one's performance. It has a calming addictive quality about it. Dorfromantik is a beautiful game; that truly merits the epithet ‘easy' to learn yet difficult to master” and one that deserves as wide an audience as possible.