Games You May Have Missed: Dwarf Fortress 

City builders are an odd sub-genre of video games. Most of the time they have a fairly steep learning curve; however, once you pick up on some of the basic mechanics of the game, it becomes a walk in the park. You see, the fun of a city builder is the struggle to solidly grasp the game and its mechanics. Oddly enough, while watching your community tentatively begin to expand before losing it all (in one fell swoop or a prolonged demise) is the point of the game – it’s the desire to stay alive that brings people back. Inevitably, players do catch onto the mechanics and perhaps after a few false starts, they’ll have a booming city and although accomplished, there may be a feeling that the fun’s all gone. While there is no real ‘ending’ you may eventually achieve the point of the game: staying alive. Dwarf Fortress, though, it’s a different matter altogether.

As stated earlier, most city builders have a fairly steep learning curve, but Dwarf Fortress has something more akin to a learning cliff. Just figuring out how to begin a game can be a challenge so daunting that it chases away some players not entirely prepared for what they are about to get into. From there, it only becomes more difficult. But, before we go any further, let’s take a moment to break the game down.
The idea behind Dwarf Fortress is that you are in charge of a small community of dwarfs that have disembarked into a randomly generated land in hopes of creating a new stronghold. After allocating skills to your pioneers and choosing what it is you want to take with you, you select a founding site from somewhere on the map and begin your journey. Being dwarfs, your people have two primary needs: being underground and alcohol. Since there is no introduction or tutorial, figuring out the controls, how to mine, how to cordon off areas, build items, and the basic necessities for survival are an incredibly daunting challenge. Luckily, however, there is a very dedicated wiki for the game as well as a wealth of YouTube videos from which to glean some of the much needed information in order to survive.

While that’s all well and good – in fact, it’s right on par with other city builders in that respect – the greatest obstacle in ‘beating’ the game comes from figuring out what exactly is on the screen. For those of you that have never seen the ‘vanilla’, this may be hard to understand. Try to imagine a game like Age of Empires, now take all those images, icons, and anything readily recognizable and convert them into symbols. Symbols? Yes, symbols – just like the ones on a keyboard. If you can do that, then you’re a step above the rest. You see, it’s because games have programmed us to expect easily recognizable visual prompts. No matter how a bizarre a game is, we always have a line of simple image recognition. And it’s because of that that the game is so initially difficult.
Now, there’s a lot to talk about when it comes to Dwarf Fortress, but there is only so much room with which to do so. That being said, considering that it’s A FREE game, it’s worth checking out if you enjoy city builders or something with which to challenge yourself. Also, if you do pick up the game, be sure to check out ‘The Lazy Noob’ pack for the game as well.