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Here's a look at Dwarf Fortress's new world maps

(Image credit: Bay 12 Games)

Dwarf Fortress, the father of every survival strategy or colony building or base building game you've ever played, is looking prettier and prettier as it builds toward a graphical release on Steam. (Previously, the game has only had ASCII characters for graphics.) Creator Tarn Adams has shared the look of Dwarf Fortress' new world maps, one of the game's greatest features, in a development update. Where previously Dwarf Fortress worlds were hard to parse unless you were a professional, they're now obviously maps rather than assortments of ASCII characters—and quite nice looking to boot. Here's an old medium-sized world map, then the same map in the new style.

An old Dwarf Fortress map.

An old Dwarf Fortress map. (Image credit: Bay 12 Games)

A new, graphical Dwarf Fortress map.

A new, graphical Dwarf Fortress map. (Image credit: Bay 12 Games)

The new map has a big readability upgrade for even experienced players. The shift from 8x12 ASCII to 16x16 pixel art tiles evens out the map's proportions, making it significantly more recognizable. "There's still quite a bit to do with river mouths and wetlands and oceans and mountains and trees and so on," said Tarn Adams in a post, "But we've arrived at a point where it accomplishes the goal of making the world map more easily understood and thought it would be fun to share."

Dwarf Fortress worlds are procedurally generated down to minute, incredible details. Historical kingdoms rise and fall, unique gods and monsters and demons walk the world. All of that detail is reflected in your fortress, once you place it, or in the world you traverse in adventure mode. They're true works of art and you can spend hours just reading the historical events the world generator creates. Seriously, just ask New York's Museum of Modern Art, which added the game to their permanent collection. 

We've known about the now-with-graphics Steam release of Dwarf Fortress for about a year now—about this time last year—though we don't know when it'll actually release (for good reason.)

Jon Bolding is a games writer and critic with an extensive background in strategy games. When he's not on his PC, he can be found playing every tabletop game under the sun.