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Dwarf Fortress’ graphical upgrade provides a new way into a wildly wonky game

Three dwarves heading into spooky, green-glowing caverns

Enlarge / Not pictured: the things that are far more dangerous to fortress-dwelling dwarves, like poor site planning, miasma, and a lack of drink.

After a long night of playing Dwarf Fortress, I had a concerned look on my face when I finally went to bed. My wife asked what was wrong. “I think I actually want to keep playing this,” I said. I felt a nagging concern for many weeknights to come.

Available tomorrow on Steam and itch.io, the new version of Dwarf Fortress updates the legendary (and legendarily arcane) colony-building roguelike with new pixel-art graphics, music, some (default) keyboard shortcuts, and a beginners’ tutorial. The commercial release aims to do two things: make the game somewhat more accessible and provide Tarn and Zach Adams, the brothers who maintained the game as a free download for 20 years, some financial security.

I know it has succeeded at its first job, and I suspect it will hit the second mark, too. I approached the game as a head-first review expedition into likely frustrating territory. Now I find myself distracted from writing about it because I keep thinking about my goblin defense and whether the fisherdwarf might be better assigned to gem crafting.

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