Dwarf Fortress Steam Edition – Quick Impressions

Been playing the new Dwarf Fortress version on Steam for about twenty hours now, and I think I got enough time under my belt to give some quick impressions. First off, I want to praise the new UI, in general at least, and the new graphics. It’s way more detailed than any visual pack I have used for the free version of the game. While I didn’t think the keyboard controls were that painful – just a bit archaic, I do appreciate the new mouse controls. It feels a bit more casual, and it requires less from you, which at least lets me focus on something else while playing – like listening to a good audiobook or watching a show on the second monitor.

However, there are some serious issues with the game, which makes me feel it has been dumbed down for a new audience. It’s mostly about hidden stats or detail that for some reason in this version is not easily accessed. Like a big one is announcements and the combat log. They exist, but only when something happens in form of a pop-up icon. So when something important goes down, like a battle, you can click on that icon and get the report. When you exit that report though, the information is gone forever, and there is no way to enter the report system and look at that information at will. It’s mind-boggling because this is one of the most crucial aspects of Dwarf Fortress in my opinion. With that I mean – it’s how you create a story for your dwarves and your fortress. How are you supposed to follow the story of someone, if you can’t see how, when, and why things happened to him or her? You are at the mercy of the incident when it happens – miss it, or ignore it at the time, and it’s gone forever.

The workshop area, also known as the slave den

Another problem with announcements is that the game does not pause when stuff happens, not even when important things like when battles occur. If you miss the icon, your favorite dwarf might be dead when you notice it on your screen. Another issue with the report system for combat is that the report screen pauses the game, so you can never follow the battles in real-time, which I think is a major missed opportunity. It’s something that should have been fixed for this version. Since now, the report is not a full-screen UI element, which could have been made so you could watch the action happen while you read the detailed description of the battle. It was stuff like this I was expecting to get improved upon if I’m being honest. Yet, nothing was done to change this, and it’s a real shame.

So many god damn cats!

Other problems are that a lot of small detail has been hidden away, stuff that was available before in the free version. Inspecting items, like armor and weapons while being carried around has been removed. You can get the basic information, but you can’t take part in interesting things – how many kills that legendary sword has, and so on. This gets replicated in other parts of the UI too, for example when looking for item detail while trading. There is no icon for inspection at all here, which is another baffling decision. You might want to know what you are trading away!

Now, I’m not going to list every issue I have with the game so far here, I just want to put through that this version is less than the freemium edition at this point. However, there is one more major issue I have to mention, but I’m unsure if this was part of Dwarf Fortress vanilla or something that was enchanted by Dwarf Therapist (a third-party program). And that is how the renaming of your dwarves works now, something I always do, and the issue is that the names do not stick for item descriptions. So if one of the dwarves that you have named makes an impressive statue, the art for the description will revert to the original name of the dwarf. It makes it hard as hell to know who has done what, and in my case, it makes it much harder to connect with your population since there is nothing to differentiate your dwarves from outside ones. Have fun learning all those obscure and weird fantasy names!

Vomol likes killing animals, what can I say

I was hoping nothing would get lost in this update, but apparently, I was wrong. I don’t want to put all my money on that it’s being dumbed down deliberately, yet, it sure feels like it. Why would some of these things be changed otherwise? It must have been playtested, right? Any veteran of the game would notice these things already after a few hours! This gets me thinking that stuff was decided to be cut or removed because I can’t believe it was purely missed in the testing. I do hope I get proven wrong, of course, otherwise, I have just wasted thirty euros on a lesser experience.

Right now I can’t recommend Dwarf Fortress. The visuals are much better, which makes it a lot easier on the eyes, but as stated, it’s less of a game. That makes paying for this version a stupid decision at the current time.

Thanks for reading.

/Thomas


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