Seven dwarves left the Mountainhomes to start a new settlement in a world full of gods, monsters, and stories from the past. Even though they are small, these dwarfs are the heroes of our story. Short, strong people who like to work and drink. In their cleverness, they will make amazing artifacts, fight great evils, and build a citadel that will last for centuries. Or, they will dig too close to a volcano and flood the whole place with lava. Then you’ll make a whole new world with new gods, monsters, and old stories, and start over.
Dwarf Fortress: Description
All of that and more happens all the time in Dwarf Fortress. This game, which is one of the most famous cult classics, has been making stories of triumph and tragedy for almost 20 years. For a long time, its incredible depth was hidden behind a barrier of text-based ASCII graphics, complicated keyboard controls, and a confusing maze of fan-made mods and tilesets that made it easier to play. And while that admittedly high wall was already worth climbing, its premium release on Steam brings new graphics and a bunch of quality-of-life improvements that make this amazing game even better for the next generation of storytellers.
Even if you’ve never gone into these scary tunnels, you’ve almost certainly felt the effects of Dwarf Fortress somewhere else. With its first release in 2006, Bay 12 Games created what we now call the “Colony Sim” genre. It paved the way for games like RimWorld and influenced a lot of others, and it’s still a good example of how procedural generation and rules-based, reality-driven simulation can be used to create unique stories on the fly. Even today, among its many successors, nothing creates a world and populates it with interesting characters as reliably as Dwarf Fortress. It is a beautiful thing to watch this simulation of a world work as you take part in it.
Dwarf Fortress: Pros and Cons
- Deep and complex gameplay
- Immersive world-building
- Endless replayability
- Steep learning curve
- ASCII graphics
- Lack of accessibility
|Processor||Dual Core CPU – 2.4GHz+|
|Operating System||Windows XP SP3 or later (64-bit)|
|Memory||4 GB RAM|
|Graphics||1GB of VRAM: Intel HD 3000 GPU / AMD HD 5450 / Nvidia 9400 GT|
|Storage||500 MB available space|
|Additional Notes||Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system.|
Dwarf Fortress: Striking the earth
Dwarf Fortress is a settlement simulator at its most basic level. You leave the Mountainhomes with a small group of dwarves to claim a plot of land in the wilderness far away. It’s up to you to build a strong, long-lasting fortress from the ground up or, in typical dwarf fashion, from the top down. Winter will come in a few months. Start digging.
At first, Dwarf Fortress looks easy, but that’s not always the case. It might be hard to control, but when you’re drawing lines for tunnels to mine and trees to chop, it seems easy enough. Within minutes, you have three menus open and are trying to figure out labor details and work duties, assign administrative positions, name burrows, and organize stockpiles of food, gems, finished goods, and valuable cave wheat ale.
Meanwhile, your animals are fighting because you put them in too small a pasture. Your lone huntsdwarf is being chased home in a panic after angering a giant capybara with their last crossbow bolt, and your best farmer is in a downward spiral of depression because your dining hall doesn’t have enough chairs. And all of this is before your first goblin attack.
Putting aside the tricky balancing act of running a fortress, the most noticeable changes in the Steam version are visual. Up until now, Dwarf Fortress was an ASCII-based game, and you needed mods to see anything other than a letter “D” facing you in a fight. Dwarf Fortress now has its own beautiful graphics based on tiles. Your dwarves’ sprites, which show their bodies, are cute enough to look at. Along with the changes to the way things look, the game’s soundtrack has been expanded. The music moves between the rough warmth of dwarven work songs, sad acoustic plucking, and eerie atmospheres. It really captures the mood, which is sometimes silly, sometimes harsh, and often doomed.
Dwarf Fortress: Fine quality
We hope that, now that Dwarf Fortress is available on Steam, a new generation of players will share their fortress stories. Overall, it works out well. But Dwarf Fortress doesn’t make a smooth transition into its new era. For me, the UI translation lost something. Once you got used to it, the classic version’s keyboard-driven interface made sense and kept the play area and menu information clear from each other.
Compared to the old interface, the new one seems messy. More things can be clicked on and accessed, but their placement doesn’t make much sense. Even after a few dozen hours, the amount of visual noise can be too much, especially in a fortress with a lot of people. Overall, I thought it was worth the cost, but I doubt I’d do it again.Moving to Steam also means that Dwarf Fortress’s roguelike Adventure mode is gone for now, but it will be back in the future. One of the most important additions to the Steam version, the tutorial, is where we have the most doubts, though.
It’s the first attempt at a Dwarf Fortress tutorial, showing you how to do the most basic things to get a fortress up and running. There is a short but useful guide to how to use the controls, and there are also help menus in the game that give more information. But even though no Dwarf Fortress tutorial could ever be complete, I can’t help but feel that its explanations and warnings are a little too vague and few.
If we could only play one game for the rest of my life, it would be Dwarf Fortress. I don’t think I’d ever run out of new and interesting things to do in the 50 to 60 years I still have left, according to statistics. This is the perfect world simulation and building management game because you can explore it for as long as you want and find something new every time. Until now, its beautiful worlds were hidden behind hard-to-read ASCII art and a complicated interface that only a few dedicated people could understand.
But the new Steam version has better graphics and sound, as well as modern controls and a proper user interface. This makes it possible for a whole new generation to enjoy the game’s wonderful story engine. What’s inside is a genre-defining achievement that has a place in museums, academic texts, and the hearts of many fans. It also shows how amazing can be when a developer has a clear goal and works hard to reach it, even if it takes decades.
Dwarf Fortress might be the most difficult and complicated game ever made. It has more of a learning cliff than a learning curve. Everything is up to you, and there are always new things that need your attention.
Text-based graphics, a (very) hard learning curve, a procedurally generated world, and an advanced simulation have kept players interested in Dwarf Fortress for almost 20 years, even though the game never really got out of alpha.