Dwarf Fortress Review: legendary colonial sim gets a welcome refresh for Steam
How do you rate? Dwarf Fortress? Just like the procedurally generated world that appeared at the start of each game, there was a huge pile founding legend and history out there since 16 years it’s been around. It was like being asked to revisit The Lord of the Rings. It’s a vast undertaking, and there aren’t any friendly eagles present to overcome its dense legends. Prior to its release on Steam, I spent several dozen hours on what is now known as the classic Dwarf Fortress (which is still available for free from Bay 12’s website), divided into various time periods. Thing is, I’ve never really gone very far. I would find a good guide, lose a few forts to terrible mistakes and then really be set. But then I got distracted by the reality of everyday life and when I came back to it I forgot everything and all my resources were hopelessly outdated because of all the updates. Detailed, awesome. Then the cycle will start again.
The good news is that this new version of Dwarf Fortress released on Steam has done an admirable job of making the game significantly more accessible. I was nervous at first, but then something happened and I lost the first of many afternoons over the past two weeks, safe in the knowledge that when I finally stepped out of the giant hey, i’ll be able to go back without feeling a thing. overwhelmed and had to start all over again. It’s still good ol’ Dwarf Fortress, but it’s the most accessible game ever while still being poignant, demanding, and a legend worthy of being engraved on a cup with mudstone.
These are the basics. Dwarf Fortress is a colony simulation in which you join a group of seven colony dwarves and aim to build a fortress. While you might start out with a hastily dug hole for shelter, like everyone’s first Minecraft house, your end goal is a huge city that’s just a fortress like way Moria is just a mining pit. Along the way, you must take care of the needs of the colonists, tell them where to dig, and help them interact with nearby settlements both friendly and otherwise.
It’s a simple concept, but Dwarf Fortress has two things that set it apart from its predecessors and the games it inspired. First, the level of detail is absolutely astounding. From the aforementioned world generation to the individual organs in a dwarf’s body, everything is simulated with ridiculous fidelity. There are wheels inside the wheels combined with incredible complexity, creating many memorable moments. In the past, however, that was largely hidden by its elaborate, grandiose interface, with its world rendered in minimalist ASCII graphics and nested menu layers and countless complex keyboard shortcuts. complex requires several wikis to penetrate. This level of detail often feels like Dwarf Fortress has a hostile resistance to actually being played, and it is this sense of friction that has defined my relationship with the game in the past.
Thankfully, this new Steam version of Dwarf Fortress is much more accessible. Charming pixel dwarves and buddies, as well as the caves they inhabit, are much easier to analyze at first glance, requiring a simple hover to tell you exactly what you’re looking at. Combined with a proper point-and-click interface and menus that you can browse through at your leisure, the first barrier to entry has been completely broken.
Charming pixel dwarves and buddies, as well as the caves they inhabit, are much easier to analyze at first glance, requiring a simple hover to tell you exactly what you’re looking at “
No more deciphering abstract code like when you’re watching the Matrix, making the early stages of the game something you can drop into. Your dwarves will need food, a bed, a place to meet and work. It can still be a bit awkward to use at times, but its improved instructions will keep it easy for you in the long run. You might find that a dwarf needs a bed, and it’s a given that building one and then digging a room to put it in. Admittedly, there’s still room for improvement (how to actually designate and assign bedrooms isn’t nearly so obvious), but it’s a very welcome step in the right direction.
Making the game more accessible also shows what a weird monster it is. Without struggling to figure out how to complete the most basic quests, it turns out that surviving in Dwarf Fortress isn’t particularly difficult. The game features you being able to make it through your first winter, but lacks digging a river and flooding your entire fortress or something (which I never did, to be honest). ,), doing so is easy.
This is the weakest Dwarven Fortress, especially compared to RimWorld, which I can’t help but compare with. While the latter’s AI storytellers give you a steady stream of events to react to, you need to be proactive to get the most out of Dwarf Fortress. The wonderful details produced by the motor whirring under the hood, such as the description of the engravings or the intricate thoughts and needs of each dwarf, are not obvious and you need to take your time. Carefully study the game’s menus to find and appreciate them.
Likewise, systems capable of generating tales of the most hilarious disasters, such as building elaborate traps or smithy powered by water and lava, require the player to find and interact with them. They are not necessary in any way, so if you are not actively looking for them, you will not experience their joy.
“While the latter’s AI storytellers give you a steady stream of events to react to, you need to be proactive to get the most out of Dwarf Fortress.”
It doesn’t help that this is where the game’s frequent complexity and confusingness really affects you, even now. While the tutorial covers the basics and there are some help files in the game that provide a bit more detail, it can still be really hard to figure out how to complete many tasks. I feel this will be a defining or breaking moment for most players. Soon you’ll come across something you don’t know how to do, and despite clicking through all the menus and help text, you still feel confused. Again, your only choice is to fire up your search engine of choice and consult its vast network of wikis – and the speed and speed at which you’ll find yourself diving into them is almost certain. will annoy much of the new Dwarf Fortress.
I’ll be honest, if I had played this game from scratch, this is probably where I would have given up too. And that’s fair enough. Dwarf Fortress won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But if you can get over its long-standing reliance on wikis and fan-made tool tips, this is where the real game begins. For example, during one of my escapes, I was suddenly attacked by several waves of migration. I grew from about 30 residents to over 100 residents quickly. Everything that I had built, from the bedroom, to the kitchen to the storeroom, suddenly became extremely lacking and I had to hustle to cope with the influx of settlers.
It was great.
I suddenly have a request set for me. Dwarves want temples and guilds. I was asked to choose a baron, who immediately requested a nicer bedroom and tomb of his own and began asking to build some goods. It hit me that this that’s what I should have spent the first 12 hours preparing for, instead of scrambling to build ten things at once. Of course, I’ll know better next time, and thanks to this new Steam release, I know there will be sure is a next time now. Despite your settlement’s humble origins, Dwarf Fortress is really a game about managing a bustling underground metropolis with hundreds of inhabitants. Survival is easy; The challenge is in achieving prosperity. I still have a long way to go, but I’m excited to give it a try. I still spend half my time reading the wiki, but that’s because I want to learn all the details about the game’s system, not because I don’t know how to get something as simple as sand anymore.
Dwarf Fortress is a long-term investment. Playing it is a skill you need to hone, it requires research and planning. It is almost a hobby in itself, requiring time and effort. Even in this much more accessible form, it’s still not a game for everyone, but for a special taste of colonial stew, it’s catnip. It’s massive, messy, and beautiful, and now I can put it down while I’m engrossed in Star Wars or the next big Marvel movie, and not have to worry about starting over while shooting. back to it later.