Dorfromantik review: a game of epiphanies

Dorfromantik by Toukana Interactive is a game that abides to the old adage of being whatever you make it.

I went into it under the impression that it was a charmingly relaxing digital board game – something that tickled my fancy, because quite frankly, life lately has been the opposite of that. You’re given a random set of hexagonal tiles that have villages, rivers, forests and more bordering each side, which you must match with previously placed tiles. These tiles gradually build up to create a charming little world seen from a bird’s eye view.

At first, that’s all I did. Without any particular strategy, I just had fun building my own diorama landscapes, heeding the need to match tiles, but not really trying to topple a high score. I just went into full-on creative mode, and it was a delight. At my age you forget how to play – I mean really play, without any goal or meaning. But using Dorfromantik as a toy, combined with a healthy dose of imagination, kept me engaged for hours as I made interconnected pathways, streams and bustling bergs. And when I used up all my tiles… I just started again. There were a few nights where I’d pass the Switch to my wife, and we’d take turns building on the same world just for the hell of it. It somehow had morphed from this creative experience to a cooperative one.

After a few days, I inadvertently unlocked a new tile by reaching a goal set by the developer. I didn’t even realize this was a thing until it happened. This triggered my brain into entering another enjoyable gaming side hobby – unlocking stuff. I soon found a list of achievements I could accomplish, and I switched over from just dinking around with Dorfromantik to willfully “gaming” it to see what other tools and doo-dads I could get. The unlocakables don’t add a tremendous amount of anything that radically changes the experience, but at the same time it’s fun to have more options to choose from, be it new tiles or themes. By all means Dorfromantik was still a soothing experience, but with an added dose of completionist motivation, it became something that pleased me from two angles.

Then I discovered the joy of keeping score.

Obviously there are certain score criteria needed to unlock things, but when I see this kind of stuff in other games I tend to dismiss it and enjoy whatever trips my trigger. But here… it became infectious enough that I kept dawdling with Dorfromantik well beyond its ability to give me fresh unlockables. Suddenly I went from relaxingly building worlds to min/maxing my way towards an arbitrarily “perfect” world. I didn’t even need a leaderboard to try to rise above; beating my own personal best was satisfying enough. After being someone who turned their nose up to games about score chasing, I marveled at the realization that I not only “got” it, but that I was thoroughly engaged in it of my own volition, and loving it.

In a game that I first thought was meant to be this soothing, meditative thing.

Even if you don’t have the same epiphanies that I did, I can say that there’s something in Dorfromantik for just about any type of player, and I truly mean that. You really do get out of it what you put in. Thankfully for me, I put my whole heart into it and came out with some unforgettable memories and an undying respect for the developers that helped facilitate that.

Dorfromantik was developed by Toukana Interactive, and it’s available on PC and Switch. We played the Switch version.

Disclosure statement: review code for Dorfromantik was provided by Toukana Interactive. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.

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