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It’s easily the deepest – and maybe most harrowing – sim game out there.

Dwarf Fortress is the most incredible and impressive video game you’ve probably never played. Under continuous development since 2003 (!!!) by Tarn Adams, with assistance from his brother Zach, anyone who has enjoyed games like Rimworld, Factorio, and Prison Architect has experienced a portion of the video game DNA that Dwarf Fortress pioneered and has been refining for over 15 years.

Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up: Dwarf Fortress’s procedural world generation is the most sophisticated and complex in existence, simulating thousands of years of geology, history, myths and Gods, songs, civilizations, animal life, and everything else. Then you get to build a dwarven fortress in this world, capable of a matching level of fanatical attention-to-detail. This detail extends to the smallest minutiae – body parts can be bruised or torn off entirely in combat, dwarves might vomit or pass out at the site of blood, or maybe all the towns cats will get alcohol poisoning from drinking spilled ale; the level of simulation feels endless. But these details also extend upward, to the highest levels of macro simulation as well. Wars can be provoked or prevented. World economies can be shifted.

All this detail comes at a price. As you might expect, Dwarf Fortress is notoriously dense and unfriendly to newcomers. Although this complexity can be worked through – I’ve been playing and enjoying the game for over a decade, both in its original ASCII graphics and with mods (see below) – at first glance, DF looks like you’re staring at the code in The Matrix.

And this is why the announcement that Dwarf Fortress is finally ready emerge from its semi-mythical status and enter the limelight, via a paid release on Steam, is so exciting. Quality-of-Life features including a brand-new graphical tileset, new music, and easier modding via Steam Workshop integration, should help make the game more accessible and friendly to newcomers. This won’t be a magic bullet – even as a big fan, Dwarf Fortress’s UI and nested menus are…. something else – but it’s a start.

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