I don’t know if you have ever noticed, dear reader, but I have a difficult time cultivating peace. I am pretty much constantly stressed all the time and live most of my days in a state of (generally controlled) anxiety that keeps me on my grind and goal-oriented. Rare are the times when I can actually relax or unwind. Usually all I can manage is an adjustment of the tension that’s on me, not a decrease. There are a lot of reasons this is the case, many of which have to do with the difficulty of my life in general and the last three years especially, but I’ve also never really been good at it. I have a few things I can turn to for relaxation, depending on the scenario and how I’m feeling (puzzles, video games, and music), but they all typically wear out their welcome eventually.
Recently, though, I’ve been playing a game called “Dorfromantik.” It combines all three of those things into one, and is both exciting and incredibly relaxing. The basic idea of the game is that you have tiles you can place with different types of terrain or pathways on them. Forests, fields, rivers, train tracks, etc. You go through the randomly generated set of tiles until you run out, gaining points as you go based on the compatibility of the tiles you’ve placed next to each other (and you can only place a tile adjacent to an existing tile), quests (to combine tiles with the same type of features), and various other small challenges. I’ve played several hours at this point but without any real goal oriented pursuits.
The huge global leaderboards on this early access (done for funding and gradual release rather than to use the players as a means of testing the game) show that there’s a pretty big gap between players. The top of the 200 player leader board has almost three million points from a single game. The bottom has about one hundred fifty thousand points. Some of this variance is based on luck, of course, as it is entirely possible that the random tiles and quests you get might lend themselves to better opportunities for points, but the nuances of this game and how the points are earned for each tile placement make it clear that while luck might have some influence, skill does as well.
This game falls into that wonderful zone for puzzle games of “easy to learn, difficult to master” that keeps people coming back to it as they always feel like there’s more to discover or learn. And the delightful visuals of peaceful little towns, villages, fields, windmills, boats, trains, and more mean that not only is there a score to keep in mind, but also the aesthetics of layout. Some pieces look better together, and some layouts can be far more visually pleasing. You can do your best to earn a lot of points with huge sprawling maps that leave gaps on the interior because they’re worth more points to place on the outside, or you can fill in the map with an eye for design and layout, trying to make the most visually pleasing map. If you’re really good, I bet you can do both.
It’s such a relaxing game to play because there’s very little detail to it. No villagers, no resources to manage, no need to think about anything other than points and visual pleasure. Helping this relaxed mindset is calm, peaceful music that never changes from the moment the game launches to the moment you quit. There’s no menu music, no way to pause the game (and no need to since there’s nothing to interrupt), and nothing to break the peaceful sweep of the music and bird song that accompanies the quiet click of selecting a tile’s location and placing it. It has some of the best audio I’ve ever experienced in a game.
Currently, the game is only available on Steam in early access, though the developer has said that it should be fully released sometime this year (2022). There are rumors of additional platform releases eventually, but the developer has been quick to point out that they are only rumors and such ideas will be evaluated once the game has been fully released on PC. I hope it eventually comes to mobile or the Switch. I’d love to just have this game on me at all times to kick back and enjoy. It sure beats the pants off Sudoku and the various tower defense games I play on my phone. Nothing can match that perfect, relaxing combination of audio, video, and strategy.