I was at work searching for something on the internet last week and I happened to stumble upon a blog posting by someone which talked about a little game called Dwarf Fortress. They had a screen shot of the game in the post, and the ascii graphics alone intrigued me. So, when I got home I downloaded the game, thinking I would play it for a few minutes and be done with it. I was wrong…I played it a lot over the weekend…Dwarf Fortress is amazingly radical.
Basically, you start the game with a bunch of dwarves (little smiley faces on the map), some cats and dogs, and dig into the ground to build a fortress. It almost reminded me of The Sims. You don’t directly tell the dwarves what to do, you just create tasks, and dwarves who are set to do that task eventually do it when they have time. For instance, you can zone an area to be dug as a tunnel, and a dwarf who you set to mine and who isn’t busy drinking or attending a party or sleeping will eventually dig the mine.
As you progress, your goal is to accumulate wealth and try to make all the dwarves happy. They like their own bed rooms, for example, but at the start of the game you might not have enough materials to create a bed for every single dwarf so you can designate a common barracks and everyone will share the beds in that room (or sleep on the floor). Later, when you have dedicated dwarves chopping trees and dedicated woodworkers making beds 24/7, you can start creating the beds more quickly and accommodate all the dwarves.
Over time you get more and more dwarves, which allows for more specialists in the labor force. Instead of assigning one dwarf to mine and be a mason, you can have one dwarf be a miner and another be a mason, allowing mines to be created faster and the mason to create more goods because you don’t have one dwarf trying to do both things.
There is a huge amount of depth to the game, it’s really very impressive. The menu is very difficult to get used to at first, and the Z-Axis is confusing (you go up and down levels, for example you dig one level into the ground, then you create a staircase and dig out the next level and so forth), but if you give it time and get used to the hotkeys you’ll see that Dwarf Fortress is a very well created, fun game.
As a side note, winter came one year in my game, freezing the river, the dwarves only source of water really. The dwarves nearly all died of thirst…they would lie in their beds and other dwarves would try to bring them water but, since the river was frozen, they could do nothing…There were dead bodies scattered all around the fortress…it was horrible. The few that were left would throw fits and complain and wouldn’t work to gather food. Things started to get ugly and they began eating the cats. Once the cats were gone they started to go mad and eventually perished. Which was not awesome because I spent hours building my empire only to see it destroyed because of a frozen river. But it was sort of fun to watch still.
You can download the game here.