Settle For Less: Retro-Pixel Castles

Retro-Pixel Castles [official site] is a game I’d been meaning to play for a long time. It’s still moving through Early Access, with regular and meaty updates, and is often described as one of those fabled ‘Dwarf Fortress with a neater interface” games, a select group in which Rimworld is the undisputed master (disputes to take place in the comments!). I fired Castles up this morning, having spotted that it’s 50% off in the Steam sale right now, available for £3.49 until July 4th. It’s more like the Settlers as a strategy roguelike than a sibling of Dwarf Fortress, and I can see myself spending a lot of time with it.

Caveats out of the way first – I haven’t played for long enough to know how well the game holds up over time in its current Early Access state. It’s receiving a stable build every couple of months though, with experimental builds in between, and these are bringing improvements to AI as well as additional features.

One of the game’s promises is that you will eventually fail so rather than aiming to build a perfect settlement, made of supply chains and security, you should try every idea that comes into your head. Play, experiment, fail. That said, there are some basics to understand, mainly in those supply chains, which instantly reminded me of The Settlers. There’s satisfaction to be found in setting up a thriving factory of a community and when everything starts to go wrong – zombies, slimes and other horrors – that functional town damn well better have some tower defense type channels and killing floors interwoven between the supply chains.

I’m not completely hooked yet but I’m keen to see more.


  1. Chaoslord AJ says:

    I do have a problem with the “eventually fail” of this game.
    It’s ok with Adom or Dwarf Fortress with me eventually failing because I know it’s my lack of skill or care that caused my death but here it sounds like death by timed scaling of enemy waves and that seems artificial to me.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      It also seems like it would kill motivation to keep playing or try harder. You know there’s only so much you can do before you’ll lose so at a certain point you’ll be done with the game. I realize there’s not going to be a hard-coded “You made it this far, you lose now” situation, but still.

      • Shanseala says:

        The point of this, and what was not really mentioned in the article, is that the developer intends this to be a roguelike. The systems for that are just not implemented yet. When they are, a big part of gameplay is seeing how far you will get, and earning “technology points” to unlock more stuff for later playthroughs

  2. froz says:

    I bought it after reading this article. Played for around 2 hours and to be honest, I’m not captivated. It doesn’t feel like Settlers at all. Much more like Banished and a little bit of Populous. The supply chains are not really what this game is about, there are just what, 4 resources, 3 of which can be processed further.

    Ehh, I really wish someone would finally make a game like old settlers, with proper roads and goods moved by little people, just one per road section… That was such a simple, yet captivating concept, I don’t understand why they moved away from it.

    It’s not that the game is not good, but it’s just something different then what I expected and wanted. I see a lot of potential and polish though, for people

  3. pullthewires says:

    Gnomoria is a serviceable DF-with-interface, and probably the game where that description most accurately fits. It’s not entirely an inferior rip-off with nicer visuals though – one of the big differences with DF is that it lacks the sheer number of outside, seemingly random factors that affect your fort. This may seem like it only makes the game more dull and short-lived, but I find it lets the economic part of the game really take the forefront, which the game has a far nicer interface than DF for. I’d recommend it to anyone whose played DF and really enjoyed placing workshops and building efficient production chains, but either gets annoyed by random events like a vampire attack killing a star craftsman, or just prefers a slightly friendlier interface.

    • Aetylus says:

      Gnomoria has quiet become one of my most played games. Pretty well DF-lie with better graphics and UI. (Where a ‘lite’ version of a very heavy game makes it just right). Great for anyone who bounced off DF.

    • frightlever says:

      They must have changed Gnomoria for the release. I have hundreds of hours under my belt, and there was (note the tense) a lot to like about it, but some really squirrelly decisions robbed it of a lot of the fun. eg produce “too much” food and you attract mants, so there’s no point having a food industry. Leave too much un-stockpiled rock around and you get golems – which is fair enough, but it’s not like creating rock stockpiles is anyone’s idea of fun, it’s just an arbitrary punishment for strip-mining ore.

      By a couple of years in, once you’re prepared for the invasions, the game is on-rails, with most threats being a reaction to something you do.

      The difference between Gnomoria and DF is like the difference between reading a decent novel versus reading the phone book.

      • frightlever says:

        Oh, I went and checked the Steam page, and apparently the last release is pretty buggy. There are a lot of recent negative reviews for Gnomoria, complaining that the game has been “abandoned” – which I generally take with a pinch of salt, as some people expect a dev to keep adding content, and refuse to accept that some games can actually be content complete.

        I would note, I bought the game on Desura almost exactly four years ago, so if Robobob has moved on, it’s understandable, but if there are still bugs to squash, I’m less sympathetic.

  4. Gomisan says:

    I really wanted this to be a ‘Castles’ sort of game. I had visions of an expanded but retro remake of an old favourite, but it didn’t give me that feel. In the end, despite a few hours under my belt I haven’t really managed to get into retro-pixel castles.