Dwarf Fortress

Good
  • Randomly generated game worlds with some player control provide endless replay value
  • Multiple game modes that offer their own distinct adventures and a great use of the core mechanics
Bad
  • Extreme learning curve given the range of mechanics and distinct visuals that require you to learn what each symbol means
8

Dwarf Fortress is a unique city building experience that has players control their own group of dwarves in a challenge of survival and strategy that incorporates rogue-like elements. Utilising a unique ASCII art style you’ll be tasked with guiding your dwarven settlement throughout a randomly generated world where the unknown awaits you. Available for free across Windows, Mac and Linux Dwarf Fortress combines simulation, strategy, management and adventure into a single title that has grown from an initial basic 2006 release which has provided inspiration to many games released since.

dwarf-fortress-gameplay-combat

Controlling either a settlement of dwarves or an adventurer depending on the game mode selected Dwarf Fortress does not force any overarching objective on players. Encouraging sandbox gameplay this lack of end goal allows players to select their own objective or simply see how long they can keep their settlement together against the never ending threats and eventual resource constraints. With this in mind most games in Dwarf Fortress converge in some way to creating a prosperous and wealthy city fortress while exploring every inch of the oceans, islands, caves and continents while minimising your dwarven losses.

Generally considered the main game mode the Dwarf Fortress mode is the construction and management simulation portion where players step into the randomly generated world with a starting colony. Players are given some control over how this world generates by defining some parameters but the bulk of what awaits will be unknown until you dive in. In Dwarf Fortress mode once the world is generated you’ll be able to select which location you start from where you can consider the surrounding biomes and resources which will impact how challenging the initial game is.

dwarf-fortress-gameplay-dwarves

With the text based (ASCII) art style of Dwarf Fortress this world is represented with mostly familiar text symbols rather than traditional graphics. This can see an alpaca domestic animal represented by a lowercase white ‘a’ while a reptile man is a lowercase green ‘r’. Herein lies one significant element of the learning curve that you’ll face as players have to learn what every symbol means rather than relying on a traditional graphic scheme to portray information. That being said it is possible to change these through different graphic tile sets and a planned Steam release will use a familiar fantasy art style instead.

Controlling your dwarves from a top down perspective players command their dwarves to perform specific tasks and actions which when combined together allow you to craft, build, combat and explore. Dwarves bring their own skills with some specialised in leather work, butchery, clothes, pottery or metalwork which are all needed in a thriving dwarven city. One constant is the need to dig deeper into the environment to both grow your settlement and acquire the necessary ores to advance your technology. Over time a thriving location will also attract traders and refugees that expand your ranks that requires you to expand your footprint and food production.

dwarf-fortress-gameplay-fortress

With prosperity and expansion though also comes threats and while these are initially limited to basic goblin thieves that seek to steal treasure and children the threats grow increasingly deadly with passage of time. Be it an entire siege by an enemy civilisation, waves of the undead or the megabeasts of Dwarf Fortress there are many diverse threats waiting for you to make a mistake. This is where the combat system of Dwarf Fortress takes over and isn’t shy on offering gruesome details of how your dwarves fight and take damage, from organs being sliced to lost body parts the combat text description goes well beyond most games and adds significant context to the letters you see on your game screen.

Second to this Fortress mode players can engage in an adventurer mode that changes up the settlement mechanics for a single controllable character. While the underlying mechanics are the same this mode pushes Dwarf Fortress into the RPG realm and provides an alternative method to exploring your randomly generated game worlds with a different focus on questing across the various cities through NPCs.

Summary:

  • A challenging fortress and adventure mode that only give you a single life to achieve your sandbox goals.
  • Unique text only ASCII graphics with every structure and creature having their own unique letter and colour.
  • Explore randomly generated game worlds with various biomes, treasures and enemies.
  • Manage your dwarves and growing fortress by issuing commands to your unique dwarves.
  • Free to play title for Windows, Mac and Linux.

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Review Platform: PC

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Written by
Samuel Franklin
Samuel Franklin is the founder and lead editor of the Games Finder team and enjoys video games across all genres and platforms. He has worked in the gaming industry since 2008 amassing over 3 million views on YouTube and 10 million article views on HubPages.

Games Finder is a Steam Curator and featured in the aggregate review scores data of MobyGames and Neoseeker.
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