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Long-awaited Dwarf Fortress adventure mode is now playable on Steam

Dwarf Fortress adventure mode is now playable via Steam, as the roguelike RPG counterpart to the beloved colony sim enters its public beta.

One of the most iconic and beloved colony management games of all time has finally brought its much-requested roguelike RPG counterpart to Steam. The Dwarf Fortress adventure mode is the second key piece of one of the most intricate and best PC games ever made, and it’s now available to play in public beta testing via the Valve platform. Previously only available through the original ASCII graphics release, you can now enjoy the turn-based RPG mode on Steam, and PCGamesN joined Bay 12 Games for a preview of its new look ahead of launch.

Whether you’re an active player yourself or just an enthusiastic onlooker, you’re probably most familiar with Dwarf Fortress in its standard ‘fortress’ mode – the sandbox game developed by brothers Tarn and Zach Adams of Bay 12 Games that sees you building an increasingly vast fortress filled with dwarves. While its long-awaited arrival on Steam in December 2022 saw that mode overhauled with fancy graphics and a mouse-driven interface, we’ve been waiting on the adventure mode to get the same treatment ever since.

Now, it’s finally here – although it’s not quite done yet. The mode, which effectively lets you transform your old fortress into a dungeon for a roguelike dungeon crawler, is described by the Adams brothers as “the other half of the game,” and its updated, new-look Steam and Itch.io version has been a long while in the making. When it became clear that not every piece would be in place for the planned April release, the pair decided to instead put it out in beta form for players to get hands-on with themselves.

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As you might expect, the graphical overhaul adds a whole lot to this turn-based RPG mode. You can create a party of adventurers, picking from any of the possible locations in the world, and as you generate each character’s home, occupation, and beliefs, along with allocating their starting skills and equipment, you’ll be able to generate a portrait to represent them. By default, this will respect the population diversity of the group they come from, although you can opt for full randomization if preferred.

Building your party and assigning their skills is as detailed and impactful as it would be in fortress mode, with Tarn warning us, for example, that “if your character can’t read, that means you can’t read!” Once your adventure begins, you’ll be able to explore the world and interact with characters using either mouse support or the numpad (WASD isn’t available due to the eight-way movement of Dwarf Fortress).

Dwarf Fortress adventure mod Steam beta - A Goblin-led party of adventurers walk through the snow.

Glimpses of nearby conversations flash up on screen, and you can quickly pull up the status of party members, NPCs, and just about anything else you encounter on your journey in a heartbeat. All those elements of the complex simulation Dwarf Fortress is known for are present here, of course – get into a fight and you’re able to take full control over every member of your party in a ‘tactical mode’ that allows you to direct them all individually down to the most minute of details.

While I’ve always been more enamored with the management side of the game, trying out adventure mode realized in the modern graphical style really helped it to click for me. A simple fight with a wayward bear or snake takes advantage of the detailed modeling to create this incredibly immersive sense of control – after gripping a bandit around the throat with my left hand, the menu shows me that I’m able to more easily land a square hit with my mace on their leg but will struggle to land a blow on their side due to our relative proximity to one another.

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Unlike fortress mode, in adventure mode time moves every time you move or take an action, although there’s also the option to increment time without doing anything else if you want. There are a few features still on the cards, with indicators for things like speed and combat direction still currently absent, and the Adams brothers tell me that multiple updates are planned throughout May and June or beyond.

Adventure mode certainly adds a really interesting dynamic to Dwarf Fortress, and I’m almost certainly going to have to download some community-made layouts for myself once they start to roll out. To close the loop, once your adventurer decides to hang up their boots for good and retire, there’s even a chance they might one day wander into your camp if you return to fortress mode in the future.

Dwarf Fortress adventure mode Steam beta - Combat between the party and a 'thin troglodyte' in the roguelike RPG game mode.

The Dwarf Fortress adventure mode is available now via the game’s Steam beta branch. If you’re eager to jump in and check it out, you can do so by right-clicking the game in your library and selecting ‘properties’ and then the ‘betas’ tab, where you’ll find the option to switch to the adventure mode beta branch. Or if this has you wanting to finally try the game for the first time, you can buy it through Steam or Itch.io for $29.99/£24.99.

Alternatively, we’ve picked out the best city-building games on PC for plenty more places to create spectacular settlements, along with the best management games you need to play in 2024.

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