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Dwarf Fortress

CNET Editors' review

Dwarf Fortress is a throwback to the single-player fantasy games of the 1980s, with graphics (or lack thereof) to match. Dwarf Fortress generates a new world every time you play. The world is rather elaborate, with elevation maps, rainfall and drainage overlays, vegetation growth, and several other environmental factors all available to allow you to figure out how to control the land. Add in the basic game mechanic of a bunch of dwarves who need to build a fortress and search for gold in the mountains and you have a rather in-depth simulation crossed with a strategy game.

Dwarf Fortress graphics are all ASCII. The color codes and characters used represent the type of terrain. You are represented by a single ASCII character on the larger map. If you played a game called Rogue back in the '80s or early '90s, this is all familiar. For those who are used to high-resolution graphics, this game is going to be just plain weird.

There's a lot of hidden depth to Dwarf Fortress, but it is going to take a good bit of time to learn the game and figure out strategy. If you can get by the lack of graphics, there's rewarding gameplay here. We have had games that last a month of regular play, but you have to be willing to immerse yourself in the fantasy and commit to the game to get the most out of it. For old-school gamers, Dwarf Fortress is a hit. For others, it may be too unusual.

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All User Reviews

Results 1-8 of 8

  • 5.0 stars

    "Awesome and Fresh"

    September 2, 2012  |   By Eirik_Red

    Version: Dwarf Fortress 0.28.181.40c

    Pros

    Huge in scope. World is huge with crazy amount of things happening.

    You craft, build and plan. Again the scope is huge and no other game rivals it.

    Was mentioned as inspiration for MineCraft!

    Huge community that is get for help. Also has a huge modding community.

    Game is crazy fun after you learn to play it.

    Different game modes for different experiences!

    ASCII graphics!

    Cons

    Terrible GUI. So so so terrible. Menus are poorly laid out. Mouse is not usable for most then needed for some. (Are some mods to improve it though)

    Massive learning curve! I watched and read info on it for many hours before my fortress made it. Even now I am still learning all kinds of things. There are no features in this game to teach you how to set your fortress or to help with the complexity of traps and things.

    ASCII graphics. (Easily fixed with mods) a must actually to help you learn what you are looking at. So much stuff in this game! Also more the just picture/art upgrades Stonesense makes it Isometric!

    Summary

    This is the one game to rule them all! If I had to choose only one game to play the rest of my life, it would be this. The replay valve is huge. I have set up the same way many times and had different experiences. The modding community is huge and very active.

    Someone wrote a review saying it is from the 1980s and it very much is. Games from that time were far more challenging and had deeps complexities that were not on the surface. That is very much DF and it is very much what is needed. No easy victories here! All are hard won and very rewarding because of it. I find games today are lacking something they used to have. Maybe it is how they are falling into cook cutter patterns without any innovation on companies. Well like the classics X-com, Civ, Masters of Magic and Masters of Orion. Dwarf Fortress is a breath of fresh air to a very stale market.

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  • 1.0 stars

    "VIRUS VIRUS"

    February 2, 2010  |   By DinoNinja

    Version: Dwarf Fortress 0.28.181.40c

    Pros

    none it has a virus

    Cons

    HAS A VIRUS

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Seriously amazing and worth the effort"

    July 22, 2009  |   By Bbop100

    Version: Dwarf Fortress 0.28.181.40c

    Pros

    -Most complex game I've ever played
    -Endless amounts of things you can do
    -Great unpredictability to keep things fresh
    -Can play for HOURS and HOURS

    Cons

    -Steep learning curb, but worth it.
    -Can slow down in late stages of game

    Summary

    Easily the most complex and deepest game I've ever played. ASCII graphics can easily be changed to one of many tilesets that vastly improve the game's graphics. I almost deleted the game once I saw the ASCII, but I waited to get a tileset and tried it again and boy am I glad I did. Hollow out mountains, build castles, kill goblins, so cool. Strike the earth!

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Steep learning curve, ASCII graphics, astonishing depth"

    March 29, 2009  |   By Westonian

    Version: Dwarf Fortress 0.28.181.40c

    Pros

    Amazing complexity. See Bottom-line summary.

    Demands imagination. The low graphics practically require active imagination of dwarven lifestyles, activities, and combat.

    Customization. With a bit of research, you can modify almost anything.

    Cons

    Learning curve like a cliff face. This game takes quite some time to get used to, especially without a complex instruction novel.

    ASCII interface. The lack of graphics will turn many people away.

    Tantrum spirals. Most common method of fortress doom

    Summary

    Keep in mind that this is an Alpha release. This project has been in development since 2002 by a single person, and was purely 2D as recently as 2007.

    This game is a giant sandbox, with the tools necessary to create absolutely magnificent edifices or scour the earth with magma or collapse an entire mountain. The goal may not be to build a permanent fortress - it may be to build an aesthetically pleasing fortress, or one that has a river spiraling down the interior, or one made out of glass at the bottom of the sea. The possibilities are literally endless.

    One of the first things you will see in the help file is "Remember: Losing is Fun!" This is true. Once you understand that your fortress will eventually come to a terrible and tragic end, and that there are very few things you can do to create a permanently happy and defensible fortress, you may discover that the intent is not to create a single perfect fortress. The goal is a series of constructions in a wide variety of locations under different circumstances. Set goals for yourself rather than letting the game set them for you. Build a fortress into a glacier, lock a single dwarf into a hermit castle, find a location with no wood for beds or bins or alcohol.

    A lot of the fun is user-generated, and that will be difficult to get used to for a newcomer. A series of introduction videos have been posted o YouTube by captnduck that give a wonderful idea of how the game works, the kind of constructions you can build, and the obstacles you will face.

    While the developer has focused entirely on the game's content, some users have been working on new tilesets, or graphic options. By using these tilesets, you can replace the little bearded dwarf faces with something more resembling a whole dwarf, among other things. Using these tilesets can reduce the shock of watching ampersands and letters move around.

    For an example of a succession game, a game in which a new person takes over control and maintenance of a fortress every in-game year, type "Boatmurdered" into the Google search engine. It may take a while to read, but it is a fairly accurate representation of the game as a whole.

    In conclusion, this is a complex game. It is not something that you will pick up on the first try. It will take some time to figure out. Do not get discouraged, and reference the Dwarf Fortress wiki frequently.

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  • 5.0 stars

    "great detail"

    November 8, 2008  |   By shadow931

    Version: Dwarf Fortress 0.28.181.40c

    Pros

    this is one of the great indie games ive ever played. it might be a little duanting at first but whats you get used to it you'll see why. those other reviewers are dumb to think this is a bad game. id like to see them make a better game.

    Cons

    very steep learning curve.
    no sleep tonight!
    no lightsabers

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Try eh? do yourself a favor."

    September 4, 2008  |   By cogurist

    Version: Dwarf Fortress 0.28.181.40c

    Pros

    God. I wouldn't know where to begin.
    brilliant
    insanely clever
    Dedicated
    I made a freaking trap that drops magma onto enemies and encases them in cooling rock for god's sake!

    Cons

    hard to get into and to understand but by god once you do you are hooked.

    Summary

    don't fool yourself into monotony by being only willing to try big name titles like Ubisoft's "fetch quest 12" or Bungiees "repetitive boring shootout 3." at least try the game before condemning it and then when you hit the problem that you can't understand it (i couldn't) search dwarf fortress guide and choose the ones that suit your taste and follow instructions. then, once you realize what you were missing before begin anew and play one of the most kick ass games ever to hit the internet. and even if you don't like it and can only really get your head around counter strike and have a seizure if you don't snipe something every 5 minutes then at least read boatmurdered by searching "lets play! boatmurdered" on google because not to do so is to deny yourself the cult hit on the internet which made the game popular. play it now, then figure it out and play it again, register on the forums and you won't ever stop. you may leave but you will always come back.
    DO
    IT
    NOW

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  • 1.0 stars

    "back to DOS days"

    September 3, 2008  |   By wngdmyth

    Version: Dwarf Fortress 0.28.181.40c

    Pros

    i found none

    Cons

    Great game, if it came out in 1980.Took an hour to remove all the installation, too. Run from this game!!!!

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  • 1.0 stars

    "Worst Game Ever Played"

    August 31, 2008  |   By LojicG

    Version: Dwarf Fortress 0.28.181.40c

    Pros

    None at all.

    Cons

    super long into, horrible graphics, this game looks like its been made by a 3yr old.

    Summary

    Just don't download it! believe me it will be the worst game you have ever played.

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