• Must-Play: Dwarf Fortress (PC)

                What do dwarves, magma, elves, goblins, workshops, mining, massive worlds and emergent gameplay all have in common? They're all in Dwarf Fortress.

                What do necromantic books teaching the secrets of life and unlife, were-everythings from werewolves to werecapybaras, horseshow crab-people, vampires blaming ducks, underground passages, tombs, and rain composed of the blood of practically any species you can imagine all have in common? They're also in dwarf fortress, but only recently.

                Dwarf Fortress, in development for many years but always available to the public for free, is the lifelong lovechild of Tarn and Zach Adams. It's a ton of genres all its own in one massive game that can oversee a single adventurer out in the world to make a name for himself, or the player overseeing the construction of a fortress in which an initial seven dwarves carve out their livelihood wherever their embark site was chosen. Along the way the player will deal with goblin sieges, haughty elves demanding you stop cutting down their precious trees, nobles requiring lavish rooms furnished with the goods you produce, farming, creating and managing a military, and more.

                Dwarf Fortress is known for many things, but state-of-the-art graphics are not among them. By default, the game comes with an ASCII tileset, in which everything in the game is part of an extended ASCII set. Fortunately, the game is fairly extensible in regards to replacing its graphics, and so the community has come up with a few different graphical tilesets which one can use.


                Above: A picture is worth a thousand words. Some of the words here include "Oh God, a corpse got stuck in that guy's head?" and "What a throw! I think I need to throw. up. Yes, like that fisherman.

                This is not a simple game. It is complex. It requires quite some time to get a hang of all the basics, and more time than that to truly master. And those who take the time to master it have accomplished great tasks indeed. Megaconstructions (or Megaprojects) are the terms used by the thriving Dwarf Fortress community to describe the construction of usually vast, often death-dealing structures within the game's world. It's much akin to the dedication Minecraft players have to their creations. Such vastly complex machines as a calculator using only floodgates and mechanisms and levers and pressure sensors (and a lot and lot of time) have been made. Giant three-dimensional representations of a dwarf's head spew lava out of their mouths to drown their enemies in fire.

                The point is, anything and everything is possible in Dwarf Fortress, and one is liable to experience much Fun along the way. Fun, with a capital F, is a term used by the Dwarf Fortress community to embody the game's unofficial mantra: "Losing is Fun!" The first few fortresses a player has likely will die off due to lack of food, or sufficient military to defend from a siege, or digging too deep and too greedily for the fabled Adamantine ore. Since the update, though, Fun is available in far more flavors from herds of Giant Mosquitoes coming and sucking your fortress dry, to necromancers coming and reanimating your refuse pile and fallen comrades, with zombies and skeletons crushing all hope. Vampires can move in to your fortress, dynamically generated when the world was created and with their own kill list and families and so on, and you run the risk of these vampires killing off your dwarves from the inside. A justice system allows for the punishment of evildoers, but it is up to the player to discover the true villain.

                Dwarf Fortress may not be pretty, but it is still a diamond in the rough. If you haven't heard of it, or haven't played it, or just haven't played it in a while, I heavily suggest giving it a go. And remember, have Fun. Head over to http://www.bay12games.com/dwarves/ and download it today!