Dwarf Fortress is a single-player "ASCII" game (uses letters and other symbols to represent creatures and objects) which includes both a roguelike adventure mode, and the more popular Dwarf Fortress Mode, which focuses on the creation and survival of a small dwarven settlement.
Dwarf Fortress is completely free to play, and has versions for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux (i386). The development is supported by donations.
The game has a very steep learning curve, partly due to its ASCII graphics, but also due to the fact that it is one of the most complex games ever released. That said, the curve can be overcome with time and with help from this wiki.
Dwarf Fortress has three major game modes and a fourth non-game mode:
- Dwarf Fortress Mode: In this mode you manage a number of dwarves whose task is to create a fortress.
- Reclaim Fortress: Once you have created and abandoned or lost a fortress, you can take a band of military dwarves to fight the monsters that now inhabit it. If you succeed, the fortress is yours to play in once more, just like in the standard dwarf fortress mode.
- Adventure Mode: In this mode you explore the world in a fashion similar to Rogue, NetHack, or Angband, completing quests and killing monsters. In adventure mode you can uncover details about your world's legends.
- Legends: In the fourth mode you can read more about the legends of your world, provided you've discovered them through adventuring.
An important part of Dwarf Fortress is that it creates a randomly generated, persistent world for you to play in. (The world is only "on" when you are actually playing in it, however.)
When you die in either the adventure or fortress modes, your next game will be in the same world, albeit a few days later. You can visit your old fortress, or get revenge on the monster that killed your adventurer. If your fortress or your adventurer had done anything of particular note, there's a chance that the game will generate a legend for them, which you can read about in the legends mode (provided you've discovered enough information about the legend or enabled full legends knowledge). Significant events may also inspire artwork created by your dwarves in future fortresses.
The first alpha version of Dwarf Fortress was released on the 8th of August 2006 after nearly 4 years of development (which began in October of 2002).
Note that while Dwarf Fortress is technically still in the alpha stage of development, it is fully playable, and definitely enjoyable.
If you are interested in the history of the development of the game you can look at the development log.