I am going to begin this entry by talking about Dwarf Fortress.  There is a reason for that – the entry is not mis-titled!  It’s a sort of two-fer, I guess.

Dwarf Fortress is popular enough now that you may have heard of it, but even then it is likely that you didn’t really play it.  It is a 10MB ASCII game.  That probably also doesn’t mean very much, unless you know a bit about ASCII games and roguelikes and you realize that most of the biggest ones are about 500kb.  10MBs is a really fucking huge ASCII game.  It is a game where you build a Dwarf Fortress (amazingly appropriate, isn’t it) and everything is lovingly coded, from pedantic details about geology to the physics of water which allow people to build monstrous aqueducts powered by steam engines, if they so desire.  The world takes a long chunk of time to generate, writing in backstories for all the civilizations that live there, and calculating where all the volcanoes and aquifers might be located. Every dwarf has a personality, forms relationships (friends, lovers, bitter enemies…), forms preferences for certain kinds of foods or shiny materials, decides whether to worship a god…  every body part is an individual unit which can be injured, healed, lopped off… and if your fortress is decimated by monster sieges, you can build a new one elsewhere in the world and send adventurers into the ruins to collect the artifacts you created in your time there.  It might be an ASCII game but it is making so many calculations that it will blow the mind of a lesser CPU.  It’s quite remarkable.  And it’s free!

But in today’s world of fancy graphics, most people don’t have the patience to deal with ASCII art, and control schemes where you press ambiguous keys which access more text which you may or may not understand the relevance of.  The Dwarf Fortress control scheme is particularly obtuse, and it is the biggest barrier to entry.  There was a beginners walkthrough that started with directions like “press x three times to move the menu to the right side of the screen so that you have a better look at what’s going on”, and even once you get to that point you have to figure out which characters represent grass and which ones represent werewolves that are going to fuck your shit up if you don’t deal with it.  Is that speckly square an open space, or lava?  Which key designates a storage space and which one examines an object?  Which key cancels a command?  Once you spend a few hours with it (particularly if you already like ASCII roguelikes) it all becomes muscle memory, but for a beginner, the assault of seemingly random coloured text characters is too much.  Some attempts at tilesets have been made, some quite successfully, but they’re working with someone else’s game and sometimes the hassles and bugs of interfacing different bits of code that change every patch are just too daunting.

Along comes Gnomoria.  Gnomoria is basically Dwarf Fortress, but designed with graphics!  I will be extremely impressed when someone manages to duplicate the scale of the original Dwarf Fortress in a graphical format (neglecting graphics is one of the reasons the code can be so intricate… imagine what would happen to your poor computer if it had to think about 3D pixels at the same time as all that other shit) but Gnomoria makes a good start at it.  A lot of the complexity is gone – It does not literally generate an entire world and history of that world, the gnomes lack a lot of the personality quirks that the dwarves accumulate over time, and a myriad of other details are probably simplified as well, but the basics are intact.  You dig into the ground, design your fortress, create workshops and work chains, create goods to trade, and try to keep your gnomes healthy and happy through the occasional goblin siege.  All with an interface that allows you to choose between clicking buttons at the bottom of the screen, or right clicking and choosing from a menu (which consists of several sub-menus and kind of jumps away from your mouse sometimes, making you start over.  But the option is there!)

I’ve only played a few hours so far so I can’t comment much more on the advanced gameplay.  My game got to the point where I was excavating a lower level to collect some ore to get my metalworks up and running, when some goblins showed up to ruin my day.  A goblin fighter took down three gnomes and was given a special name due to his notoriety.  He then went on to slay my three yaks which were grazing in their pasture.  RIP yaks :(.  The remaining gnomes managed to overwhelm one of the goblins, which dropped some armor and a weapon.  I hunted through my survivors and found the one with the best combat scores, and told her to form a military squad.  From there, I was able to outfit her with the goblin’s discarded goods, and send her after the notorious goblin.  She was victorious and the fortress was safe!  She suffered some minor wounds, so I created a hospital area stocked with straw beds, and she quickly ran in there and lay down to recover.

Which is where I ran into an issue.  You see, the yaks were providing my fortress with yak milk.  My brewery was still a work in progress, so I hadn’t managed to secure a second source of drink.  I tried to rush a build job on a well, but the stored yak milk was quickly depleted…  My injured military hero was thirsty, but since she was hanging out in the hospital, she wouldn’t go to the well to fetch a drink.  In Dwarf Fortress they will carry water to injured dwarves in the infirmary, but I’m not sure how it’s supposed to work in Gnomoria.  I even tried suspending the hospital section hoping she would give up on recovery, but she wouldn’t leave the bed.

I rushed the build job on the brewery by going through all the other workshops and moving its pending bits to the top of the queue.  They managed to build it and I started brewing some wine, but by this point everyone was getting cranky about the lack of drinks (apparently well water just isn’t good enough, bah).  The instant wine was brewed, some greedy gnome would yoink it, so my counter basically went from 0…………………….. 1, 0. …………………1, 0. The saviour of the fortress died of thirst in the hospital, despite having perfectly working legs.  /facepalm.

So, I dunno.  I probably could have planned a bit better there and I almost certainly did something wrong with the hospital section, but I also feel like there are some rough patches that are still being ironed out, which makes sense since it’s still in perpetual development.  Which, ironically, probably makes it even more like Dwarf Fortress!  But if you’ve ever heard about Dwarf Fortress and were intimidated by the interface, Gnomoria is a good way to get your feet wet.

Follow up post with more comparisons

About tagracat
I am not a professional, I don't get paid to review shit, I am just opinionated and I seem to have some sort of disorder that results in spewing my opinions onto the internet. I enjoy writing long-winded posts about things and sometimes I like to pretend people want to read them, so a blog seemed an appropriate place to stuff it. But mostly I just like writing about things.

3 Responses to Gnomoria

  1. Pingback: The Legacy of Nakuthcatten | Tagra Reviews Things

  2. Pingback: Towns | Tagra Reviews Things

  3. Jatta Pake says:

    I just started playing Gnomoria but I believe you now have the option now for injured Gnomes. You can select someone to be their “Caretaker” who will bring them food and drink. This is your only option for Gnomes with broken or amputated limbs.

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