Tile Lands is a tile placement puzzle game with a city builder theme that rocks a crisp and clean visual design. It has several layers to its gameplay mechanics that require skill to master but on the flipside, it also requires an awful lot of luck too. Perhaps a little too luck is required much for its own good…
You are presented with a 7×7 grid of blank tiles with three monuments randomly placed on the board. Monuments are starting points to lay down your habitat tiles such as town, farm, ocean, mountain or forest tiles. Monuments also have a special trick of sucking all the tiles that surround it into the monument and converting them to points. The goal of Tile Lands is to score as many points as possible by laying down tiles in a way that scores as many points as possible. You gain more tiles through your actions but mainly through levelling up and getting a new batch of 10 tiles when you cross a score threshold. The gaps between levels grow over time meaning you’ll eventually run out of tiles and place your score on the omnipresent online leaderboard.
Scoring comes from a few different tactics. When you place a tile down, placing certain tiles next to each other can make them score bigger. Touching forest tiles score way more for example, or barns next to farmland help the hay get stored and score points that way. This ties into tile upgrades. Place 4 town tiles together and they become a city. Place a wasteland tile next to a mountain and every 5th turn it rains, turning it into an oasis which scores way more. Naturally there is never enough room for what you want to place so it becomes a game of playing the tiles you are dealt and thankfully you can see the next few tiles to plan ahead a little.
Whilst this is in the players controller, some of the more critical elements of Tile Lands aren’t – workers. Various settlement tiles generate works (sometimes) and these workers move at random around tiles until they run out of stamina and stay where they are. You can then use these workers to upgrade various tiles like meadows to parks and mountains to mines. Each of these upgrades earns passive points or materials needed to unlock the better scoring tiles. The problem with all this is that its RNG generation on top of RNG movement on top of your tile placement and so its a step too removed to feel like you are in control of the workers. I kept tapping out at almost the same score constantly over and over because I’d just not got lucky with a few of the workers running out of stamina where they were useful. As the games tutorial is extremely limited, I may be missing something here but the online leaderboards show most players tapping out at a similar point with only one player scoring significantly more points than everyone else. If we are all missing a point, that’s a poor tutorial. If we aren’t missing something, then luck plays too large a role in the gameplay mechanics.
Its a shame because the vibe of Tile Lands works so well. Its clean, crisp, pastel colours and graphics are a treat and its unrushed approach to turns means you can ponder over each move. Ultimately the worker element then undoes most of your plans though so its early game fun turns to late game annoyance. Maybe a bit of rebalancing could turn this into a high recommendation but for now, I’d give a tentative one if you don’t mind the luck element dictating a large portion of your gameplay.
Tile Lands has a lovely theme and aesthetic but its lack of player agency and control hampers the overall experience.
Nails the relaxed, pastel, homely vibe.
Lots of different ways to score points and build your city early on....
... but the worker upgrade tiles are far too random to feel satisfying.
RNG elements means that everyone seems to game over around a similar point suggesting some balancing may be needed.
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