This is a game of such depth and addictiveness that I am terrified to try it.
The Brilliance of Dwarf Fortress - NYTimes.com
Dwarf Fortress is barely a blip on the mainstream radar, but it’s an object of intense cult adoration. Its various versions have been downloaded in the neighborhood of a million times, although the number of players who have persisted past an initial attempt is doubtless much smaller. As with popular simulation games like the Sims series, in which players control households, or the Facebook fad FarmVille, where they tend crops, players in Dwarf Fortress are responsible for the cultivation and management of a virtual ecosystem — in this case, a colony of dwarves trying to build a thriving fortress in a randomly generated world. Unlike those games, though, Dwarf Fortress unfolds as a series of staggeringly elaborate challenges and devastating setbacks that lead, no matter how well one plays, to eventual ruin. The goal, in the game’s main mode, is to build as much and as imaginatively as possible before some calamity — stampeding elephants, famine, vampire dwarves — wipes you out for good.
Though its medieval milieu of besieged castles and mutant enemies may be familiar, Dwarf Fortress appeals mainly to a substratum of hard-core gamers. The game’s unofficial slogan, recited on message boards, is “Losing is fun!” Dwarf Fortress’s unique difficulty begins with its most striking feature: The way it looks. In an industry obsessed with pushing the frontiers of visual awe, Dwarf Fortress is a defiant throwback, its interface a dense tapestry of letters, numbers and crude glyphs you might have seen in a computer game around 1980. A normal person looks at and sees gibberish, but the Dwarf Fortress initiate sees a tense tableau: a dog leashed to a tree, about to be mauled by a goblin.