I decided to combine these two games into one review for a couple of reasons: The main one being that they are both extremely simple and don’t require a lengthy review. The other is that they are both very similar, while being almost nothing alike.
What the hell am I talking about?
The name of the game here is nothing short of beautiful simplicity. Not only are these two games easily played with just a mouse, but they are so conceptually simple that they are both casual, and chill–yet still able to occupy hours of your time if you want them to.
Let’s start with Townscaper.
It actually might be a misnomer to call Townscaper a game. It’s really more of a creative tool that even the developer himself describes as a “toy” rather than a game.
I think it’s far more than a toy, though.
Sure, it’s immaculately simple, and there’s no “game” to be played here. There’s no premise other than to build a town with as much creative freedom as your own mind will allow. But that’s the joy of it. You can think as much as you want about your next step, or not at all. You can just click click click away and turn your brain off until you think it looks neat. Or, you can create a masterwork of intentional design. You’re still never doing anything more than clicking on stuff, or choosing a colour. You have a fair number of undos and redos, as well. It’s like a mini-modelling software, where the only thing you’re modelling is a town, and the details like trees and bushes and benches are filled in for you.
All that is expected of you is to click away. It’s almost therapeutic.
Alright, so what’s the deal with Dorfromantik? It’s pretty much the opposite when it comes to the ultimate “point” of the game, and especially when it is in fact, a game.
At its core, you’re building while trying to achieve a high score. You place tiles in accordance to generating points, as well as increasing the size of your deck. Oh yeah, it’s kind of a card game, too. A very simple one; it uses cards as a mechanic in the same way a board game might. You draw from your deck in sequence, and whatever card you’ve drawn, you must place. So there is a definite strategy. You want to place forest next to forest, and farms next to farms, and houses next to houses, while winding rivers and trains throughout. The game encourages that by giving you bonus points and extra cards for completing what are effectively small “quests”– wherein you connect a specified number of say, forest tiles together, or pass a grand total of river tiles placed.
While there is a fair amount of strategy to it, it’s still built on the rugged simplicity of doing only one thing at a time: pick a tile, place it on the board. It’s never any more than that, yet it’s also so much more than that. The fact that it only ever lets you place the next tile in the deck means you can never play the same game twice, or design the same map twice. Plus, you don’t even have to play the game if you don’t care that much about getting the top score–and there’s even a pure creative mode on the way.
So these games are similar and different in a lot of the same ways. While their differences make them great on their own, their similarities are what make them a great contribution to gaming as a whole. The fact that these two games are capable of captivating the creative juices with only a click is elevating. They are both games you could easily play, stress-free for 15-20 minutes before bed… or all day long, trying to create a rare Pepe, or recreating Minas Tirith. You can play these games with your brain off or on. It’s hard to say that about most other titles.
While they are also both still in Early Access, they are also both expected to release sometime later this year. They are also both extremely inexpensive and playable as they are.
I highly recommend getting them both.