Dwarf Fortress is a highly-acclaimed and complex roguelike game that also combines aspects of strategy and "god" games. There are two modes: Fortress Mode, where you take run a settlement of dwarfs, and Adventure Mode, which is like a typical roguelike game.
from 145 ratings
Date of Release:
Bay 12 Games
Windows, Mac OS X
|Related Links:||Dwarf Fortress Wiki, Mike Mayday's Graphics Edition, Homepage, captain_duck's DF Tutorial|
|Also try:||Noctis IV, Mount & Blade|
|Are we wrong?||
|Mac OS X:||zip 6.5 MB|
|Windows:||zip 5.3 MB|
3 of 3 people found
this review helpful.
It’s hard to know where to start, quite frankly. Perhaps with the legions of dedicated fans who’ve composed a fantastic wiki for one of the more arcane games out there. Perhaps with the incredibly detailed map creator, where no two worlds will ever be the same (and of course each playable map is executed in about 1/100th of the world). Perhaps with the variety of modes available, including Fortress Mode (the one I’ve really played a lot), Adventurer Mode (which is executed in roguelike fashion, and Legends Mode (where you explore the previous civilizations you’ve created to learn of the vast in-game-created history of your people). It’s hard to know.
As opposed to a typical review, which would comment at length on the gameplay, on visuals, on lasting value etc, I’m going to do something different. Certainly, DF’s visuals will be a turn off for many, and the city-builder-esque type of play may not suit everyone. Nor will the difficulty, quite frankly. So let me gloss all of that with one thought: Dwarf Fortress is about losing in interesting ways, about playing out the rise and eventual fall of the kingdom of dwarves, and about having a lot of fun while figuring it all out. In light of that, let me instead present a series of vignettes which I hope will both describe the game as played, indicate the absolutely incredible depth present here, and hopefully mark Dwarf Fortress as one of the greatest games of all time.
Vignette I: PURE SINGULARITY. “Inalacamade 1055, The Foundation of the Age”
At the outset of each Fortress Mode playthrough, you have the option (or requirement if you’re new) to create a new world. DF’s world creator system is by far the most complex world creator I’ve seen. From frosty mountain peaks and volcanoes to oceans and lakes along with deserts and forests, the entire world will be generated from scratch, through a series of computer-run equations which include the type of rock in given areas, physics of water (and magma) flow (so, for instance, canyon creation of water run through softer soils), rainfall patterns, climate, then forestation based on all of that, just as an example. Following that, you choose which tiny square in this gigantic world you want to play in, based on elevation, vegetation, primary rock composition, etc. Then the game creates for you automatically a whole history of your world, legends of your people, entire civilizations who’ve come and gone, as well as other in-game civilizations including Elves, Humans, other Dwarves, and the Goblin Hoards. It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that where you choose to embark on your adventure will have as big an impact on your game as anything else you do in the aftermath.
Vignette II: PURE CONTROL. “Vabok Sokantis (aka Vabok Phrasedstake) Mayor”
DF is all about environmental resources. From the list of about 100 different rocks not to mention 100 different Gems, which are all set down per specific environmental factors, you’ll have a brief glimpse of the importance of resources. As you might imagine, you won’t have much of a civilization if you can’t find the proper ores to smelt into your base metals like Iron, Bronze, Silver, etc. And of course encrusting your crafts with gems will go a long way in trade with other civilizations. But simply finding the stone you need will be the least of your worries, quite frankly. Dwarves will be your most important resource from beginning to end, and figuring out how to manage them well will take time, skill, and focus. Whether you have 7 or 200 dwarves, each will need to be put to work rather like the most complex beehive you can imagine: Miners, Wood Cutters, Masons, Cooks, Hunters, Farmers, Gem Cutters, Silk Weavers, Carpenters, Stoneworkers, Clerks, Soldiers (Marksdwarves, Hammerdwarves, Axedwarves etc), Guards, Engravers, all compose just a fraction of the jobs you’ll need to administer to avoid starving, being killed by the Goblin Invaders, having valuable goods to trade, keeping dwarves happy, etc. With decades of experience, perhaps eventually your oldest and most vetted Dwarves may even become legendary in their labor, which will mean much more production of course. If you make it that far, that is.
Vignette III: PURE DEATH. “losing is fun”
In the 3 civilizations I’ve played so far at 100 hours total (and I’d still consider myself rather a newbie) one civ starved to death for lack of available food or farming technical knowhow), one never made it out of the gates (all the dwarves went crazy from lack of beer and water), and one was crushed at the hands of an epic Bronze Colossus who stormed my mountain right after I’d finally put down a very large goblin invasion. I’m telling you, it’s a grand story every single time, and no two games will go quite the same route. New solutions to old problems tend to confront new problems with few good solutions but to watch it all crumble and try again with a bit more wisdom.
Vignette IV: PURE SANDCASTLE. “casual worshiper of Stristras Balanced the lives of Luxury”
A. The very ability to mine anywhere anything, to carve out whatever structures you want in any way is incredibly liberating. You want a grant dining hall? Design it however you want. Want a mosoleum worthy of the Egyptians, one that overlooks a vast valley though green-glass windows? Go for it. There’s really no limit to what you can create if you embrace the power of creation.
B. In-game-machines. DF allows you to harness the power of the wind and waves to create electrical machines with enough simple components to allow you to design what you want. Some people have made computers with the components or machines that function in a circular manner such that they never stop. The possibilities are endless.
C. Trap Design. Again, with a specific set of buildable components, you imagination is the limit to what you can build to execute, torture, and all around demolish your enemies. Some have created fire pits, others colloseum-like arenas for soldier training or fights to the death, others traps to drown them in gushing water, as well as an assortment of impaling, dropping, crushing, starving, and other more simple means. It’s like playing with Legos, but for grownups: you can make anything you want with the given pieces.
Vignette V: PURE FUNCTIONALITY. “Shorast Rhovadalath has created a Masterpiece!”
I’ve never played a game before where the visual representation is much better stripped down. With the vast amount of types of materials and objects, I can’t even begin to imagine what a developer would do to represent 100 different types of ore, for example, rather than the #V*/X that DF uses. You can, with a little bit of play, look at any object (n, for example) and know not just what it is, but also what it is made of. So let’s say that “n” stands for Chair and “red” stands for bauxite, then when you see n you know exactly what’s going on. It’s rather like in the Matrix, when Neo finally sees the flowing streams of information embedded in every substance. While the latest version of the game does include some designed images to represent objects in place of flowing signs, the effect is still pretty much the same: depth of information at a glance.
I could go on, really, I could. Not since Morrowind have I been this obsessed, this in love with any game. The vast technical knowledge needed, the time of experience required in play, the ability to create the kingdom that you envision, all of it is given to you in a game that presents itself with such modestly. All I can say is play it. Just give it a try, put in a few hours and see what you think. I won’t claim its for everybody, but I can certainly say that this game is like no other out there, and that alone should require it a look.
1 of 1 people found
this review helpful.
Well, that’s a lie, you’ll be very confused at first. Once you get used to the ascii characters, though, you’ll be surprised with how much depth those little smiley faces can have. I feel a lot more sorry for my dead dwarves than I do for characters in glitzier RPGs!
Dwarf Fortress is overflowing with great ideas that are sometimes not so well implemented. It’s always under development, though, and it’s an amazing effort for a game with only one programmer. It’s a fantastically complex game, and you’ll be surprised with how much stuff you can do in it. Don’t think about it, just download it, fire up the Dwarf Fortress wiki, and dive in. Once you know what you’ve got it all figured out, you’ll have a great time!
1 of 1 people found
this review helpful.
Now that I’ve mentioned the bad (and that’s really all that’s bad about it) I’m going to mention the good. Already mentioned is the combat. In Adventurer mode, where you control a single adventurer instead of a fortress, you get to see how detailed the combat really is. It takes into account all internal organs, broken bones, fear, pain, prior wounds, EVERYTHING.
Next is the addictiveness. For two weeks after downloading this game I got home and immediately went to my fortress. After my eyes started to hurt, I told myself I should stop. I couldn’t stop. Now that my fortress died (and your fortresses WILL die) I’ve reached a bit of a lull until I start my next one.
The last is the biggest one: Creativity.
Now, because of the INSANE complexity, there are many problems. MANY problems. And the best part is the game doesn’t give you answers. It’s not like in other games where if you want to make people happy you give them this item, although there is a certain amount of that here. Mostly it’s up to YOU to solve problems. The entrance to your fort unprotected? Well, you could build a wall, moat, a long passageway lined with traps, a magma chamber that activates on your command, and anything else you can come up with. The game doesn’t let you just say “put a dining hall here and the bedrooms over there.” you have to select and mine out every room and try to arrange it in the most efficient way possible. The barracks should be close to the entrance to fend off attack, but dwarves don’t like to sleep near noisy workshops. How close will your workshops be to your stockpiles in the limited space available? WHY ARE YOUR DWARVES PARTYING WHEN THEY SHOULD BE HARVESTING!!!
My final word is that this game is addictive. About as addictive as it gets. It’s fun too. It makes you think while you play, and crafts a living breathing world around you. It’s gonna take a while before you see what I mean, but soon you’ll find that you’re thinking about the game when you’re not playing it, thinking out your next swath of rooms and trying to find the most efficient layout. If graphics can make or break a game for you, then don’t try it. If you HATE micromanaging then it’s not for you. But after you get into it,this game will suck you in like no other commercial or otherwise.
P.S. Probably the main reason I was able to get into the game so quickly was because of some tutorial videos by captnduck on youtube. You don’t have to watch them all, but I would recommend watching at LEAST the first five, just to get started.
3 of 6 people found
this review helpful.
So, i should love DF, right? Well, besides of the above criteria, i also value an efficient accessable interface and polish – both are perhaps the biggest current flaws in the game. So, DF is a bit like a love-hate relationship for me.
DF isn’t just a normal roguelike – it is a simulation of an entire fantasyworld, including as “trivial” things as weather patterns. The sheer quantity of things which this game simulates in the background is incredible.
Depending on which game-mode you choose, you either play on the makro-level by managing a colony, or on the micro-level by being an adventurer in the world. You can even start an adventurer and visit the colony which you previously created in macro mode. So, we are really talking about simulated worlds here, from macro-level down to micro-level. In this regard, the game is a sandbox-lovers dream.
However, the game also shares the same typical flaws as other roguelikes – because of the high complexity, even in an escalated way.
First, we of course obviously have the dreaded ascii graphics. For some strange reasons, roguelike developers as well as players up to today seem to think that it has to be either immersion-killing high-res graphics, or inaccessable ASCII graphics… as if obfuscation were synonymous with immersion. Well, here’s a wake up call: Imagination and immersion has nothing to do with obfuscation – not even with low-res graphics… it has to do with symbolism. If you only give the player “symbols” which tell him what to imagine, then he knows what is meant, and he constructs the details in his mind. The key misunderstanding here is the meaning of the word “symbol”. Symbol here does not necessarily mean ASCII-chars – it simply means “something” which symbolizes something else. For example, the most efficient symbol for a dragon is not a D, but some shape which intuitively is associated with a dragon. Very old CRPGs did that all the time. You dont even need to be a pixel artist to create such “symbolic visuals”. That way, you dont need to obfuscate the display, dont need a horde of pixel artists, dont run out of chars to use and still keep the immaginative aspect.
The other typical roguelike flaw which DF shares with the rest – perhaps even more so than usual – is the input-interface. Keys are inconsistently and unintuitively mapped. Why do i need multiple different keys to “go back/cancel”? Why do i need multiple different keys to “accept/continue”? Why does every single minor action need to have a seperate key, thus making the keyboard-map as complex as a flight simulator (no joke!), instead of grouping similiar actions and then accessing them via menus? Ironically, the keymapping complexity goes so much out of hand, that it is possible to in the key-assignment options, unintentionally lock yourself out of making any changes, so that you can only fix it by… yep, resorting to editing configuration files in a text-editor.
Its things like these which make sure that such games stay “geek-games”. DF is an example by the book for a game, which under the hood is very impressive, has endless possibilities and regarding gameplay is a milestone… yet, it struggles to communicate this awesomeness to the player, because of a horrible interface (again, these flaws are not specific to DF, but most roguelikes… its just especially a shame for DF, because DF is much more than typical other roguelikes).
In summary: DF is like someone who has a vast, incredible, wonderful and amazing message for you – you just have to decrypt it.