I’ve seen a lot of questions, on this site and in many gaming forums, about Dwarf Fortress. I know that it’s free, and I like dwarfs and mining, but I never tried it — mostly because I’ve heard that it’s learning curve is so high that you need to invest a lot of time before starting to have fun.
A couple of days ago, in a thread discussing game difficulty and learning curves, I saw this image:
So I decided to ask something about it here: Is Dwarf Fortress’ learning curve really that bad? What are the difficulties of this game?
I’m a brand new player of this game, so I admit my knowledge of the later things are limited – keep that in mind when reading this answer.
Dwarf Fortress is a hard game, in that there are so many things you need to take care of, and if you don’t, things can go horribly, horribly wrong. You have to keep all of your dwarves both happy and safe, and if you don’t, you can get into some serious trouble. When you fail, you learn something new about how to manage this task.
Of course, the curve is exaggerated, but the reason it stays so high is because there are so many things which can go wrong if you don’t keep a close eye on things. A dwarf goes into a rage? Kill him before he kills everything else. Goblins started a siege? Get your civilians to safety and get your military ready to take them on. Discovered a cavern? Make sure you block it off until you are ready to deal with any monsters in there.
The list goes on, and that’s what makes the game hard. But it also feels rewarding to successfully deal with these threats.
There are of course a number of things you can do to remedy that:
- Install a texture pack so you can more easily tell things apart. I personally like the Ironhand texture pack, but there are several others. This will make it so much easier to recognize things at a glance.
- Get Dwarf Therapist. It’s a much more convenient way to manage your individual dwarves.
- Choose a really good location for your fortress. I actually ended up discarding several worlds before finding one with a site I really liked.
- Watch tutorials and Let’s Plays on e.g. YouTube to get a feel for the game. There are a lot of helpful tutorials out there – my favorite is Djrodw‘s series on the FogeyGaming channel, which covers all of the basics; he also has a Let’s Play on his own channel where some other stuff is covered.
I recommend getting the Lazy Newb Pack, which contains a frontend to configure the game, the game itself, a bunch of tools (including Dwarf Therapist), and a few texture packs (including Ironhand).