Dwarf Fortress is one of the most complex computer games in the history of computer games. How complex? In the game's discussion forum, one player asserts that after 120 failed games, he can finally "get into the swing of things." One of his many fortress death spirals began, as the downfalls of society often do, with an immigrant dwarf who suddenly succumbed to a "secretive mood." A short time later—kaboom.
First devised by its two obsessive creators in 2002, Dwarf Fortress involves taking a band of dwarves and building them into a miniature civilization. This includes all the implied strategy and resource management: assigning jobs, collecting and storing goods, building and using structures, and eventually defending yourself against other civilizations. In a profile of the game’s co-creators, the New York Times described Dwarf Fortress as “a series of staggeringly elaborate challenges and devastating setbacks.”
Not only is the game complex, with endless intricacies to the controls and systems, but it’s incredibly archaic-looking, especially for a game released this millennium. Its cast and environments are all rendered in colored characters of ASCII symbols (apostrophes, letters, mathematical symbols). It’s a puzzle constructed in code, a throwback to games like Kroz. Calling it Dwarf Fortress is almost misleading at first—you won't see anything resembling a traditional dwarf here.