Penniless Arcade #2: Dwarf Fortress
Dwarf Fortress is confusing. It takes time to learn, and most people aren’t willing to give it the patience it needs. The graphics put most people off – brightly coloured symbols don’t appeal to everyone. But the graphics are the least important part of Dwarf Fortress. The jumbled ASCII characters hide a vast and interesting world, a world which is left open for you to discover.
The possibilities of what can happen in Dwarf Fortress are bewildering. The world you inhabit is simulated in surprising detail: rivers erode mountains, forests grow, and civilisations are created and destroyed. Your job is to find a space in this world, and turn it into a mighty fortress of dwarves.
The first problem is shelter; your dwarves need somewhere to put all the stuff they’ve brought with them, and they’d also like a bedroom and a dining hall and a few nice engravings to look at. You are in charge of the dwarves, and you use the game’s painfully complicated interface to tell them what to do.
While you’re creating a glorious fortress for your dwarves, you’ll need to supply them with food and alcohol. Dwarves need a large amount of both, or they’re likely to go insane and die. The easiest thing to do is set up farms, which create plants which can be eaten or distilled into drinks. By this point, you should consider yourself lucky if you haven’t been attacked. The most common enemies are goblins, but if you’re unlucky you might have met something much more horrible, like a werewolf, or a cyclops.
Getting past these obstacles is one part of what makes the story. The other parts happen without you doing much at all. Dwarf Fortress aims to simulate a fantasy world, full of dwarves and other creatures like goblins and elves. As you’re playing, Dwarf Fortress will simulate the history of the world it has created. You’ll see glimpses of the world’s history when dwarves engrave your walls with tales of great battles, famous people, and terrifying megabeasts.
//Why you should play Dwarf Fortress
Dwarf Fortress, like many great games, gives you a world and lets you create your own stories. The bewildering scope of what is possible means that every time you play, you’ll experience something new. There are always new stories to be made, and it’s up to you to find them. Don’t be put off by Dwarf Fortress’s complexity, or its graphics, or its difficult menu system. Download the game, follow a tutorial, and see what happens next. As long as you can make plans, Dwarf Fortress can ruin them. Just remember: “Losing is fun”.