Dwarf Fortress is a procedurally generated adventure game displayed entirely using ASCII characters. The game has two distinct modes of play, "Fortress Mode", wherein the player attempts to build and care for a colony of dwarves and the fortress they will come to create, and "Adventure Mode", where the action simplifies into control of a singular character who can go it alone on quests and combat monsters. The random generation of the work entails the names of the worlds and the lands within down to their years of backstory and personal history, traits, and quirks of individual dwarves. This generation, alongside the difficulty and open-ended nature of the game, leads to the creation of unique stories every play-through.
Dwarf Fortress is visualized entirely through ASCII characters. Within the context of the game, every letter and symbol is given a unique meaning. For example, a face represents a dwarf, while solid double lines represent walls. Upward triangles indicate increasing elevation, while downward triangles mean the opposite. A symbol's color belays what composes the object in question. Light green triangles indicate that the terrain is but common reeds, however a yellow-green triangle means that the ground is made of chert. Stacked units and objects will flicker back and forth between characters, and assessing where everything is at all times creates for a slow pace of game. The UI itself is broken up into three distinct sections. the largest part is the main display of actors and objects on that particular plane. It contains the vast majority of goings on in the game. To the right of the main area is a textual information pane, where various commands and objects are listed. The information here can sometimes be expanded to fill the entire screen, depending on how lengthy the data requested is. The game is controlled almost entirely by keyboard input, but certain interface sections will allow mouse interaction. FOr example, when issuing orders to dig out areas, the player can drag the mouse over desired terrain.
While Dwarf Fortress does not tell a story in the traditional sense, it does have a tale to tell. When the game creates a world, it also generates a history of the land. The story it generates can be viewed in what's reffered to as "Legends" mode on the main menu, and while it can build only a simplistic narrative, it will be updated based upon the failures and successesof the fortresses you create in-game. Individual dwarves also have their own history, which will also change according to what happens over the course of your game. Beyond that however, any narrative is up to the player to create for themselves.
This game is quite significant because of the impact it has had on other major games like minecraft, whose creator has admitted to being greatly inspired by Dwarf Fortress. Although it is completely free to play, lacking any sort of purchase price or micro-transactions, it has been supported by its creator since its official launch in 2005, and has since garnered a great deal of respect for the depth and planning that the game takes.