Dwarf Fortress

Dwarf Fortress is under development by Bay 12 Games, which is made up of the two brothers Zach and Tarn Adams. They started development of the game back in 2002, and are still developing the game today. Despite it’s state of development it is very playable and very fun!

There are two different modes of play, fortress and adventurer mode. In fortress mode you manage a group of dwarves creating their own city/outpost. You have to manage the problems that come with survival in some of the hostile terrain, and manage to make good with which to trade. Adventurer mode is a lot like games such as hack and rogue, but expanded to fit the dynamically created worlds and complex simulation within the game.

The game follows many of the traditions of rogue, one of the first dungeon crawling games that became very popular. It has ASCII art style graphics and user interface with minimal sound much like rogue. Dwarf Fortress takes a new spin on perma-death in that when your fort is destroyed or adventurer killed, the world in which they exists continues and you can play again exploring your abandoned fortress, or seeing the consequences of your adventurers actions.

I personally play fortress mode the most, and have found it very addictive! The first challenge is setting up your initial fort and getting enough food and water for your growing population. This can be difficult depending on the environment that you chose to begin with. Some locations may be lacking particular materials, you need to find ways to cope with this at least until a trade caravan arrives with the supplies you desperately need.

The supplies aren’t free however, you have to have something of worth to trade in order to buy these supplies. You’d normally do this by crafting objects in your workshops to sell. The easiest material to come by is stone usually, and will be the first thing you use for craft work that you will trade.

As your population grows you need to afford them some more comfortable quarters. If you dwarves start becoming too unhappy they will throw a tantrum and start slapping people and destroying furniture or buildings. This can lead to something called a tantrum spiral where by everyone eventually dies because they are all too busy slapping each other! It can be very comical at times.

Once your city/outpost gets big enough, other civilizations will start to send raiding parties and will siege your fort stopping all trade. You have to have a good secure entrance that you can close off so they don’t come into your fort and kill everyone. You can achieve this with a variety of different methods, such as flooding the entry way, or having a drawbridge. You can arm your dwarves and have them fight back, but I’ve found this seldom works against a large siege force.

I prefer to construct large machines to trap enemies either drowning them, capturing them in a cage, or squishing them under a stone. Machines can be large, complex, and are generally powered by water wheels. In one of my forts I created large storage containers of water so I could flood areas and enemies very quickly with water under pressure. It proved to be quite effective at blocking an entrance and even drowning a few enemies. This required the use of many screw pumps powered by water wheels to lift the water up high enough.

There isn’t a winning condition in the game, so eventually every fortress will fail for some reason or another. Losing can be quite fun surprisingly as many funny things often happen leading up to the collapse of a fort. I’ve often accidentally dug out a section and flooded my entire fort. Once I hit an aquifer and couldn’t dig bellow the first level of my fort.

The graphics being in the ASCII style (it’s code page 437) can be difficult to understand at first, but become more intuitive the more you play. The user interface is good for the basics but can be a bit of a learning curve especially when it’s dealing with some of the more complicated parts of the game. The only sound in the game is some guitar music which is nice, but can be a bit repetitive. You can turn the sound off and play your own music however as sound is not an important part of the game.

Dwarf Fortress is very much a geek game at it’s heart, it has such a great depth of game play that no one game will ever be the same. The learning curve is incredibly steep, but you will be rewarded. If you’re not a fan of the ASCII style graphics there are options in the form of graphics/tile sets that will make the game a lot easier for inexperienced players. There are also many articles and other information available on the Dwarf Fortress wiki.


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