Screenshot: The Block
If 2022 is going to be the year of anything, it’s been the year of the city-builder, a strategy sub-genre that has exploded in popularity recently, especially on the PC. While most efforts are focused on sprawling urban landscapes and Viking outposts, and others make city-builders with even more systems, The Block is going in the opposite direction.
If you have ever seen or played Townscaper, or Dorfromantik, The Block has a similar idea: strip city-building back to its bare essentials, and let the player do nothing else but drop stuff on a map and be happy with whatever comes out of it.
The Block strips things even closer to the bone, though; while those two games simulated a village, or at least a village’s surrounding countryside, The Block is interested in only a single…block. That’s all you get. There are no guidelines you need to follow, either, you just get a very small space and can built whatever you want on it.
At the start of each game you’re randomly assigned a style (like European and Middle Eastern), can choose the size of your block and then given a map with a single tile pre-filled with something. From there you’re given tiles of your own and have to build out from the centre, laying down a new structure (or park, or street) only when it’s touching an existing one.
The Block – Official Launch Trailer
That is entirety of the experience. No clocks, no meta, no optimal build paths, no power needs, no public transport, no traffic congestion. It’s almost more of a plaything than a game, like a LEGO architecture set or a box of wooden blocks, because there’s no right or wrong way to build anything here.
I was mildly critical of Ixion last week for its repeated interference with the thing I love most about city-builders: the zen-like experience of nurturing something and watching it grow. Here that’s all there is, and while this is a very basic thing (and priced accordingly, at just a couple of bucks) I love The Block for its clarity.