For the most part, Nethack has been the most popular of all of the roguelikes. It involved making a character to level up while descending down the levels of dungeons to live long enough to find something that you would always die before finding. It’s kind of like life, in that if you were to live 100,000 lifetimes, your odds of actually winning would only happen once. Because of this, everyone who played roguelikes were always depressed nerds.
Then along came Dwarf Fortress.
It is often clumped together with the other roguelikes in that it shares the randomness, poor graphics, and permanent death. Although it does have all of these points, it has a vastly different gaming experience that completely dwarfs (lol) that of Nethack and the other more traditional roguelikes. Losing in this game isn’t a bad thing.
Losing in this game isn’t just fun, it’s devastatingly hilarious.So, you’ve spent over 20 hours creating an impressive mountainhome with a series of protective measures that drop any invaders into a pit before drowning them with thousands of gallons of water. You have a happy king, and 200 little dwarves making your processor run a few degrees below its melting point, and more wealth than you know what to do with. One day Tirist Snakefist decides to flip the fuck out because he didn’t get any antelope meat to cheer him up, fall into a depression, proceed to punch his wife in the face, get arrested, get released, then pull the apocalypse lever that you built in case hell opened up. The lever unlocks the floodgates so millions of gallons of ocean are now filling your fort and knocking your little guys every which way. Your prosperous fort, which was filled with 195 happy dwarves is now filled with 192 drowning dwarves, who are very unhappy about the situation. Their their sons and daughters outside becoming orphans probably aren’t too pleased, either. The orphans get sad after losing their parents, and walk off a cliff one after another. You’re left with 1 dwarf who lost his legs battling an ogre. The tough sonofabitch didn’t die from losing his legs, and proceeded through life dragging himself about the fort without the aid of crutches. At this point in the game, all of your work has totally and utterly been wiped away, but nothing is able to wipe the smile from your face.
Although the fort is beyond salvage, you watch to see what the little crippled dwarf is going to do. He drags himself over to the food and starts munching away, which is totally boring. He tries to move some boulders around for the walls that were being built up a few stories tall, and it takes forever. He’s really pretty persistent and unphased about the deaths of the other 194 dwarves, going about his boring chores. Just before abandoning the fort, “An ambush! Curse them!”.
Oh shit. The little guy gets filled with arrows and now is fumbling around like a drunk hedgehog. Aaaaand, finally dies.
What a staggeringly brilliant display of complete societal meltdown, and it only took 20 hours to set up. I enjoyed setting up the gymnasium full of dominoes, and I was ecstatic when they all fell.
Getting to 200 dwarves takes a long while, and I often succumb to some infectious-disease breathing megabeast before that ever happens, but it took a long time before I was able to do much of anything in this game.
The learning curve is slightly higher than Nethack, which manages to use half of the keyboard to (q)uaff potions or (d)ig holes. Instead, with Dwarf Fortress you will be doing shit like (b)uild->(C)onstruction->(F)ortification, and it takes for-fucking-ever to get to the point where you are moving your food stocks around without needing to look around for the right commands.
When I first started, this game took me two days to even get anything remotely decent built, and several months to learn all of the keyboard controls. In that time, I could have been doing something productive like studying Japanese, or creating a website that doesn’t suck.
Above all else, I love the randomness provided by the multitude of different dwarf personalities all interacting with each other. As you play the game, you can go into detail on any of the dwarves to see what’s going on with them. Some of the details you can check out are;
- What the dwarf is carrying
they choose clothing that is made of certain materials. Sometimes they go a little fucking nuts after creating a masterpiece and carry it around everywhere they go. In these cases, it’s fun to mark their masterpieces as trash, and designate a pit of magma as the dump. Throw their Mona Lisa into the magma, and they throw tantrums. Awesome.
- What the dwarf is thinking and feeling
this is a great way to see which dwarves are ready to go into full emotional meltdown. There is usually a string of messages like “Her hair is scraggly and unkempt. She witnessed death recently. She was disgusted by a purring maggot recently. She witnessed the death of her child. She witnessed the decay of a friend recently.” When you begin to see that, you know that they are going to start breaking shit, throwing punches, or going full-on insane and break into melancholy or psychopathy.
- What ailments the dwarf has
check nerve damage and biological problems, and figure out who needs surgery for their broken bones. (Hint: it’s most of them)
Every little unit has their own little life, described in hundreds of little details.
So, a random dwarf is getting all sad because he wants to drink some maggot ichor. Well, ok buddy.
Then he gets all pissy about seeing a rat. Then he hates his bedroom. I am just waiting for something to send this guy over the edge before we can get some hilarity. Doops, a macaque monkey just ran off with the dudes granite ring, and he flips. his. shit.
The dwarf breaks down a masterpiece door made of gold and designed with tigereye inlays, which makes the artisan flip his shit and get all sad. A punch is thrown, then the guards show up. The guards have been training and only have wooden axes, and Mr. Maggot Ichor has a silver war hammer. The guards go from solid to liquid after a few hammer strikes fire them across the room with such velocity that their giblets explode and shower the room. Now the entire dining hall is flipping their shit over “witnessing death” and “losing a friend”. The entire fort falls into chaos, as the leaders desperately try to calm people down before they all end up getting scheduled for meetings with The Hammerdwarf.
I could rant about this game for minutes, and I just did.
You really should stop reading crappy blogs and do something with your life, like downloading Dwarf Fortress from Bay 12 Games.