Home Dwarf Fortress – long awaited Adventure mode comes to one of the greatest games of all time, but what actually is it?

Dwarf Fortress – long awaited Adventure mode comes to one of the greatest games of all time, but what actually is it?

The stunning piece of gaming history that is Dwarf Fortress, a game that you quite possibly have never played before and one that you absolutely should start playing the second you finish reading this page, is finally getting the hugely anticipated Adventure Mode added to its Steam version.

For background, in case you have missed out on the last two decades, In 2010 Wired ran an article on Dwarf Fortress. The world took note. What the hell is that? They collectively thought as they stared at screens full of ASCII characters that, if you squinted and looked at a certain angle, could potentially look like Tolkeinesque map.

That my friends, was Dwarf Fortress in its pre-Steam days and there is genuinely nothing like it to this day still. It is still, without a doubt, the most incredible world simulation, spanning centuries of (made up) history and such a fiendish game mechanic that once you “get it”, you will be forever hooked.

These days after a stupendously successful Steam launch that brought the game to a much wider audience, and also toned down the intimidation levels by replacing the ASCII characters with actual graphics, players have long pined for the original’s Adventure Mode.

The ASCII graphics of the Dwarf Fortress original
The ASCII graphics of the Dwarf Fortress original.

Now after almost 18 months on Steam, devs Tarn and Zach have pushed a beta version of Adventure mode, which is free to play to all Dwarf Fortress owners, who will suddenly find they have virtually a whole new Dwarf Fortress game to play.

While not everything is included yet it is a solid start, a devlog over at Bay12 Games lists what is currently available:

“A lot of the Adventure mode experience is there. You can currently, in the released beta, create a party in character generation, visit your old forts, retire, unretire, get NPC companions, take quests, fight monsters with the various melee/wrestling/ranged options, set fires, tell stories, and travel the world. Portraits are available for dwarves, humans, elves, goblins, kobolds (minus some clothing variations), animal people (no items), and necromancer experiments (no items). These portraits are in both modes.

So what’s the difference between Adventure mode and Fortress mode?

The clue is in the name really. Fortress mode is DF’s staple, you are building your own fortress, over hundreds of years and need to take care of every little detail – mainly have you got enough booze for your fellas.

Adventure mode sees you create a party and head out to the rest of the world that the game has generated. It’s tough, but it’s fun – more like an adventuring turn-based roguelike combining all the things you love in Dwarf Fortress but allowing you to wander into places such as human towns and the like.

But what is Dwarf Fortress?

At its heart Dwarf Fortress is the game you dreamt of when you were a kid if you played D&D and role-playing games. It, fundamentally is a colony management sim, but one with the depth of which you have never seen before, in Fortress mode. You don’t win at Dwarf Fortress but you can lose. you build your Fortress and keep it going as long as you can – over centuries hopefully, building it ever strong to repel the many dangers you will encounter.

Adventure mode, as described above, takes you out of the Fortress into the world that has been created. At the start of a game of DF your PC will take a good while creating the world, including thousands of years of history, dwarf lineages, and historical events, any of which could end up being a part of your game.

It is also worth noting that you do not have to buy the Steam version of the game. The original version in all its ASCII glory (which can even be modded with more ‘normal’ graphics is available for free at Bay 12’s site. It also has the complete Adventure mode in it.

Whatever you do with Dwarf Fortress, don’t just look at the graphics and be instantly turned off. That would be like looking at Minecraft and saying the graphics are too blocky.

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Paul McNally
Gaming Editor

Paul McNally has been around consoles and computers since his parents bought him a Mattel Intellivision in 1980. He has been a prominent games journalist since the 1990s, spending over a decade as editor of popular print-based video games and computer magazines, including a market-leading PlayStation title published by IDG Media. Having spent time as Head of Communications at a professional sports club and working for high-profile charities such as the National Literacy Trust, he returned as Managing Editor in charge of large US-based technology websites in 2020. Paul has written high-end gaming content for GamePro, Official Australian PlayStation Magazine,…

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