Before there was Minecraft or even Infiniminer, there was a game called Dwarf Fortress. It’s not pretty, and it isn’t for the feint of heart. The cult following it originally established has grown larger over the years – even now the official forums of Bay 12 have 2244739 Posts in 83450 Topics by 31334 Members.
Reviewing a game like this is difficult because it attracts a certain type of gamer – namely, the truly hardcore gamer. When I say this, I don’t mean the console variety that screams into the microphone during shooter games, and I am not referring to the rpg fanatics that begin to lose themselves in their virtual worlds. This particular type of gamer is the type that enjoys “Nightmare mode” in gaming or plays things on increased levels of difficulty because it brings them more satisfaction. If these things don’t appeal to you, than this game may not be something you’ll dive into.
The learning curve needs to be mentioned. Dwarf Fortress, or “DF”, is nearly impossible to simply begin without research. Like Minecraft, you will likely need a wiki or a tutorial to get started and get your bearings.
As everything begins, your world is generated. This process takes a good deal of time – the game doesn’t just generate landscape, but it generates a complete and unique history for your individual world. As you watch, thousands of years are passing, and heroes rise and fall.
Unless you have modified the graphics of the game, you will see all of this happening as a representation of ACSII art. It’s in color, but it will require a lot of understanding and imagination before you will really see what is going on. For a better representation, many players will download alternative versions or modifications.
The gameplay itself can only be judged once a player understands what they’re doing and how to control each of their dwarves. When you begin the game, you will need to tell each of them what to do and assign different jobs for them to master. They will require food and water to survive, but these are simply the basics.
Farming, brewing, fishing and mining are some of the basic skills that dwarves will be able to immediately accomplish. As they practice, they will increase in skill level and proficiency overall. There will be a consistent need for basic materials such as wood and various types of stone, and what is available to you will be completely randomized by your given world. Aside from games more similar to Rogue, true randomization is hard to come by. In this respect, Dwarf Fortress excels in amazing ways.
The commands are given though the keyboard. Before long, the combinations of keys to assign tasks will become second nature. There is no way to “win” the game – it is almost simply about survival and creating a prosperous civilization for your new dwarven family. As you progress, certain characters will need to be recognized and promoted into various roles such as “Mayor”, “Sheriff”, or “Captain of the Guard”. While time goes on, new dwarves will also appear to join your tribe – immediately, you will need to care for them and utilize them to the best of your ability.
If you’re lucky, you tribe won’t expire too early. You delve deeper into the mountains and explore to reveal new materials and riches while being sure to defend your fortress against the threat of attack from monsters. Eventually you will need to create a functional army that works in shifts to protect your civilization.
Because this game is almost a simulation in this mode, and has a very specific type of player, it’s difficult to judge with an overall score. If I’m forced to attribute a number to the game, I would give it a 6/10 for more casual players, but a 9/10 for the types of players it was designed for. Things that keep away a wider audience will be overall complexities in things like controls and a complete lack of graphics without proper modification. It is, however, completely free to download and play. I urge you to try it for yourself – you have nothing to lose.
This game is compatible with (intel) Mac, Linux, or Windows systems.
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