Laura Parkinson (stormfeather) wrote,
Laura Parkinson

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Monday Fun #55 (review)

Oof, I've been neglecting these, when there are various things I should be posting about!

I shall try to do better.

This one's a bit of a cross between a review and a link, since it's a game you can download for free and play on your PC. So.

Dwarf Fortress

Game type: Civ Simulation. Ish. Thing.

Time demand: Well, it's sorta like Civ and other similar games in that in theory you can play as long as you want, then save and quit, but... good luck with that.

Platform: PC/Mac/etc.

Released: Um... August 2006 for the first version according to Wiki Pete, but new versions out sporadically.

What it is:

Man, why did it take me so long to find/get into this? *sigh* Y'all are fired.

Okay. Basically this is one of those games where "you" don't really exist in the game, and instead are some vague god/overseer/director/whatever, developing this settlement and so forth. And in this case, "this settlement" is a new dwarven settlement starting with seven dwarfs (hi ho), and hopefully building its way up into a large and glorious dwarven civilization. But don't hold your breath.

I should also mention that the game is all in ASCII "graphics," although you can download and install various tilesets. But even then, in display it's a simplistic game, the depth comes from the gameplay itself. And in the various, nearly endless methods for having, ah, fun.

The game is an odd mix of different levels of micromanagement - you can't actually order one specific dwarf to do one specific task, although you can do many many things to funnel different dwarves into different tasks, set up the jobs for them to do, etc. You set each specific dwarf's general tasks/responsibilities, set up things you want built and job queues you want performed, eventually even a military and specific schedules/orders there, but the dwarves on the whole will do things at their own pace, taking time out as they wish to eat, drink, go on break, or whatever the hell else they can do (it sometimes seems) to get under your skin when there are Things What Need Done.

You start out, as I said, with seven dwarves of various skills and with a few meager supplies. Your task is to dig out a habitation, from the mountains, the ground, from whatever you can, and construct workshops, build furniture and tools, and find away to feed your dwarves, keep them content, keep them enboozenated, defend your settlement... well, pretty much get your civilization up and running, and keep it that way as it grows and develops.

Your settlement increases in importance as you dig out more areas, build more things, and also as you gain more inhabitants both through births and through waves of migrants coming in to settle. Your job is to keep things running by keeping all the necessary jobs filled and running smoothly, designate more areas to be dug out/chopped down/farmed/built/etc as needed, and trying to basically juggle a dozen things at once while making it look easy.

Your settlement can become destroyed through a lot of ways - your dwarves starve to death, you don't have a running booze industry or deep well in a cold area when the place freezes over for winter, leaving you without liquid to drink, goblins come in and invade and wreck the place when you're not prepared for them, you manage to piss off another civilization and have THEM invade, you don't keep your dwarves happy enough so that they start throwing tantrums, throwing off your tasks that need done, triggering others to become unhappy and start fighting and.. well, your civilization to self-destruct... tons of ways! Including accidentally tunneling into, say, a river (or magma channel) and oopsie flooding/burning out your entire fortress. That's always a fun one.

Individual dwarves are even squishier, sometimes dying to, well, sucking when they go out hunting dangerous critters, or falling afoul of the justice system in some way and getting (fatally) punished, randomly getting a "strange mood" that they can't complete and going insane and slowly dying, drowning accidentally in a river for no apparent reason, cave-ins... oh, lots of fun ways. Which in turn, if your settlement isn't generally happy enough, can trigger the aforementioned tantrum spiral and cause your whole civilization to collapse anyhow. Fun, eh?

Seriously though, it IS fun, because there are SO many ways for things to go wrong, it's very fulfilling to finally learn what you're doing, and (after various abortive tries) finally get things right and running relatively smoothly. At least for a while, until you get far enough to run into yet another new problem/fortress-killer that you hadn't even gotten far enough to see previously... The game's also just wonderfully complex, always leaving you new things to see and experience and figure out, or totally new ways to go about building/accomplishing things. It's always a challenge, and a matter of creativity!

In addition to the fortress mode which I've been talking about, there's an Adventurer mode that you can play that is, from what I understand, more like Nethack. But I've been absorbed enough in the regular gameplay that I haven't even tried that mode, to talk about it first hand. If that tells you anything!

Anyhow, if you like retro games at all and don't need Shiny New Graphics, and especially if you like civilization sims, you should really really try this out. Especially since it's free. Did I mention it's free? Just be warned, it takes a while to even learn the first part of what the hell you are doing, and how to give commands. But the forums and wiki are great places to start, and to look around for tutorials if need be, or to help you just dive in and figure things out (mostly) on your own.
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