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Dwarf Fortress's Steam release now has the excellent Arena mode

Fantasy battle royale simulator

If you're still intimidated by base building in Dwarf Fortress's Steam release, then there's good news. Patch 50.06, released today, has added Arena Mode into the Steam version. Arena is a sandbox mode where you can spawn any of Dwarf Fortress's various creatures, kit them out with gear, set special conditions, and then watch them battle it out. It is great.

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That screenshot of Arena mode might not look like much, and it might seem strange to be so enthusiastic about a Dwarf Fortress mode that strips out its farming, its resource management, and its long, emotional character arcs.

Arena mode works for me without all those things, because one of the core pleasures of Dwarf Fortress is reading combat descriptions. Various kinds of fantasy mammal will claw, bite, lash, slash, stab, slice, cut, grapple and tear at one another, and the consequences are described in grimly vivid detail. Arena mode therefore lets you try out various what-if scenarios in TABS style - eg. what if one dragon fought twelve elephants - and then read the results play out. It's exciting, and it's a lot easier than getting at the juicy battle scenes via the normal fortress mode.

There are other changes detailed in the full patchnotes. Underground crops now have sprouting textures, and various other textures have likewise been amended; a handful of crash bugs have been fixed, alongside fixes for audio issues; and, as is dwarven tradition, there are some patch notes which are just fun to read. For example:

  • "Stopped dragons and other megabeasts from appearing as relatives of random dwarves in the fort.
  • Allowed emotionless creatures to satisfy needs if they still have them."

If you're wondering how Dwarf Fortress has done since being released on Steam, the answer is extremely well. Publishers Kitfox have also now published their own retrospective of the development process and the response so far.

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