As a huge fan of Dorfromantik, I’ve had my eye on Pan’orama since I found it on a previous Steam Next Fest. Pan’orama is a hexagonal tile city builder and this very niche sub-genre plays more like a strategy puzzle game than a city builder. By placing tiles in certain positions and satisfying criteria and rules, you’ll create a beautiful looking city at the end of it. Whilst that is identical to Dorfromantik, a few of the rules of the game are different, and dare I say it, it makes Pan’orama a bit easier to get into, making it more accessible early on.
You’ll start with a pile of tiles and they come as different types. Forest, crop field, town, rock, water and flower. They’ll score a point each time a tile is placed down but if you can place two or three of the same tile together you’ll get two or three points. Some tiles have multiple attributes and that can also increase the score of the tile too. Flowers work slightly differently from everything else as they “level up” tiles as well providing the basic scores. This is crucial because star tiles pop up regularly and these are clusters of tiles that come with bonus points to collect. These clusters of tile will have a tile that needs say 3 or 4 of the same type of time surrounding and touching it and if you manage that either straight away or later on, they provide 23 or more points – very helpful. The key difference here with tile types compared to Dorfromantik is that all tile sides carry all attributes so you don’t have to worry about spinning things around and being cohesive (apart from making things look nicer). That makes picking up Pan’orama easier initially although the ultimate skill ceiling is lower too.
Why do we care about points? Well, points mean special building blueprints and special buildings top up your tiles when completed. They’ll be a group of 7 tiles with a certain pattern and the harder the building, the more fragmented the blueprint is. These buildings also come with perks when built too and are categorised into small, medium and large areas of influence. Some will grow 10, 20 or 30 tiles of a certain type, others will double all points in the future in an area and blimps allow you to place tiles with a tile gap and not always just on the perimeter of your city. Each building you choose is picked randomly from three selected and there are 52 in total. They are quite evenly spaced out at around 300 points each and so the game plan is to maximise every tile to get enough points to reach the next building and build it before you run out of tiles.
I managed this quite comfortably on my very first try and it took me just over 4 hours to complete, although the procedural generation was unkind at the end. It refused to give me a rock tile for the last 15 tiles I had and leaving it to the very last tile and making things feel hairier than they should have been. Whilst I was a bit surprised I won first time, I had an absolute blast building out my city and watching it grow. Random animals spawn like a hidden object clicker game that you can dive into for extra points too but ultimately I didn’t need to. There are plans for a challenge mode to be added in about a month’s time and I think that will alleviate my concerns about replayability as Pan’orama’s ease of access also means repeated 4-hour runs of the same thing may get stale quite quickly. Outside of the main mode (with no difficulty options), a diorama mode allows you just to get creative and it is a lovely addition because Pan’orama looks sublime. The lo-poly pastel colours work a treat.
Whilst I had no problems with the main game, I have two minor gripes. The tutorial broke when I played it as it let me place something by accident and wouldn’t move on. The other gripe is that the city in Pan’orama is constantly rotating. This makes the game look lovely but when you are trying to place down tiles in a very precise location, it’s a bit annoying. When laying down building blueprints or star tile clusters, you can’t zoom in or out and often you need a wide zoom to see where to put something. You line it up… and the city has moved you onto the next tile. Undo options are here thankfully but I just want an option to turn that rotation mode off.
Pan’orama is distinctive enough from Dorfromantik to be a worthy purchase. For me, this isn’t an either/or option. Both games are excellent and excel at different things. Pan’orama is far more relaxed, chilled and a zen-like experience as you don’t have to look out for as much or worry about tile edges being different per edge. Its building mechanics are easier to use too and the fact I only intended to play for 30 minutes and found myself in a 4-hour session says a lot. An excellent addition to a growing and engrossing genre.
Pan’orama is out now on Steam.
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