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Dorfromantik Switch review - village romanticisation

The calming landscape creation of Dorfromantik should be a perfect fit for the Switch, and, while it sort of is, some control issues get in the way

A scene from Dorfromantik showing dense trees both yellow and green, various rivers flowing through the land, and some reddish houses in the front.

Our Verdict

Dorfromantik is the perfect digital toybox for anyone who wants to build something and not worry about much other than its beauty. Some fiddly controls definitely need a rework, but they are the lowest obstacle to enjoying the experience. Everything’s lovely, and that’s good.

Dorfromantik is a game about building a landscape. Developed by Toukana Interactive, made up of four students studying at HTW Berlin, it’s a calming experience that PC players have been enjoying since April this year. Now it’s come over to Switch, it seems like the perfect fit. And it is… sort of.

The gameplay is simple puzzle construction done in a beautiful way. You have a hexagonal grid and a stack of hexagonal tiles to fit together. They can have a mixture of woods, houses, plains, fields, and other things on either of their six sides. The aim is to match the same side with the same side.

It’s like Civilization VI’s adjacency bonuses, except instead of some detailed number crunching, it’s as simple as doing a jigsaw puzzle, at least at first. The only question is: does this hexagon’s side fit all the sides it’s now touching?

This simplicity hides, as all great games do, a deeper well of interesting things to do and create. Sometimes, you get a little mission – make these woods a certain size by connecting up numerous wooded hexagons, for example – that net you extra points in the process. This keeps the high-score hunters happy.

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The presentation will keep people happy too, with the beauty of your creations growing as you progress through the game. Different coloured land, autumn trees, and all manner of slight colour palette changes keep everything visually stimulating.

At first, your creations will be small, consistent affairs. Later, though, they can be surprisingly spectacular, with varied colours all complementing each other perfectly. (Also, you may notice in the screenshots that ‘Classic Mode’ covers the score in the top right corner — this disappeared as soon as I tried a different mode, don’t worry!)

A scene from Dorfromantik showing various bits of cartoony land, water and rivers, a large structure and a train track.

The only proper issues come with the hardware itself. Performance-wise it’s pretty perfect, other than the occasional stutter, but using a controller to navigate the hexagonal map can be a tad finicky sometimes, especially as your sprawling, bucolic scene expands. This can take away from the peaceful nature of everything.

This might be nitpicking – or just due to the fact that I’ve played almost a thousand hours of Civilization VI on Switch – but I think the control scheme is all wrong. And, worst of all, you can’t customise it.

You rotate the camera with the d-pad and the tiles with the triggers. This should be the other way around, at least that’s how it feels to my fingers. Also, there’s no easy way to jump to the tile that the camera is hovering over without the touchscreen. There should be a button – like pushing in the right stick – to jump to where you’re currently surveying to put down a tile.

A scene from Dorfromantik showing stoney land, red and yellow fields, autumnal leaves, and other bucolic features.

Without it, a lot of time is spent moving the tile around the map a little haphazardly. It can leap across landmasses to the next blank tile, or crawl tile by tile with each repeated push of the left stick. It just feels a little clunky for such an idyllic and peaceful game.

These nitpicks aside, however, the game is still a wonderful experience, perfectly suited to anyone who loves to kick back and build something beautiful. It has the essence of building a train set or painting Warhammer – it’s a quiet, personal experience.

There’s also gorgeous sound design that reminds me of Dinosaur Polo Club games like Mini Metro. They plink and plonk in a satisfying way, as calm synths rumble underneath everything. In terms of presentation, Dorfromantik is absolutely spot on.

A scene from Dorfromantik showing various autumnal trees, a looped river, red and yellow fields, alongside various icons.

Certain people might struggle with the more gamey bits. You can’t always match up every side of your tile with the ones already placed, which then stops everything from being exactly perfect. That occasionally annoyed me at first, too, until I stopped worrying about it and started to breathe in the peaceful beauty of it all. If you want to chill out even more, then just try one of the different modes. Creative mode is particularly chill.

And I think that’s the key thing to take into consideration before picking up Dorfromantik. What do you want? If your brain is slanted towards Cities: Skylines-type creation, you could run the risk of carrying too much meticulousness into the game. This game doesn’t want the obsessive, everything-must-be-perfect attitude. It wants you to chill out.

And if you do, you can construct places of stark beauty. Then, the sound and visuals can match up to that creation of yours. It wants you to play with the train set like a child, yet has enough on the side to keep it from being some plain sandbox. It’s just really lovely.