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Dwarf Fortress Steam Edition threatens to make it playable for just about anyone

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PAX West 2022 was in full swing last weekend, and for Dwarf Fortress (opens in new tab) developers Tarn and Zach Adams, plus publisher Kitfox Games, that meant it was time to show off an hour (opens in new tab) of the new Dwarf Fortress Steam Edition in all its unscripted glory, complete with imported barrels of crow blood. For those who know DF by its reputation as intimidating and hard to play it'll be a real revolution in how you view this venerable simulator.

In the hour-long video, you can see a lot of examples of how the in-development game looks accompanied by the deadpan narration of the Adams brothers. They look over stuff like how easy it is to set up rooms, designate mining, and initiate trade. There's also a good overview of the neat new notifications system for big events.

Later in the stream they dive into a fully matured fortress, checking out things like artifacts, throne rooms, and volumes of procedurally generated books.

Zach Adams also shows off his innovative solution for disposing garbage and/or corpses: "You can bury your dwarves in caskets, but I just throw them in the lava and make gravestones so the ghosts don't haunt me." He even set up a minecart system so that it's automated garbage and/or corpse disposal.

It's nice to see this new version of the game really coming together. Its been a little over three years since it was first (opens in new tab) announced, and over two (opens in new tab) since they really got to work on the Steam Edition in earnest. The fruits of that labor are really showing now, with Dwarf Fortress' ambitious worlds laid out in 32x32 sprites and tiles with, for the first time, an interface that could almost be considered modern.

In related news, and discussed during the demo, is Dwarf Fortress' shiny new soundtrack. The only music that the game has had for a long time is a looping guitar track, a four minute classical guitar piece played by creator Tarn Adams.

Kitfox Games recently showed off a few samples from the new, full soundtrack of guitar pieces by various professional musicians, some of whom even sang in Dwarf Fortress' in-game Dwarfen tongue. They really keep the musical spirit that people have been playing DF to for two decades now.

As someone who has sunk well over a thousand hours into Dwarf Fortress since 2008, just before the introduction of a z-axis to the world, these are heartening things to see. The layer of accessibility and polish might not bring Dwarf Fortress to the mainstream, but it'll certainly bring it out of the niche-within-a-niche that it resides in currently. It's a glorious niche and all that, gilded and venerated like a holy icon, but it'd be nice for it to see some daylight.

Otherwise, I bring news from the mountainhomes: The world is the same as ever. You can find the page for Dwarf Fortress on Steam (opens in new tab), where it will release whenever they finish its new UI.

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.