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.
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.