“Fortress-Like” Gameplay In Beautiful Pixel-Art Aesthetic
Gnomoria is perhaps the best example of a “Dwarf Fortress BUT” game I’ve encountered. This game takes the fundamental fantasy of the genre (oversee a group of beings and help them survive by defining the rules for their community) and gives it a facelift with pretty pixel art, and a point-and-click GUI.
What’s amazing is that’s all it really needs. The ant-farm style gameplay is engaging at its very core, and the constant drive for resources and security will keep you playing for a long, long time. The replayability comes from meeting the challenges of procedurally generated terrain (especially mining) and incrementally improving your strategies for maintaining your empire.
If you’ve never played an ant-farm game before, know what you’re buying; games like this can be unforgiving and they require some practice. Your Gnomes are clever, but they only work within the rules which you set – learning how to manipulate those rules will take time. In many ways, this is the major limitation of the genre.
If you’re coming to this from Dwarf Fortress; you won’t find as deep an experience, but you will gain accessibility. Where Dwarf Fortress is notoriously bad, Gnomoria is better than average. Gnomoria *wants* you to play it.
There are other limitations to the game – some notable game-breaking bugs with the way your goods are stored and traded can ruin your kingdom. Bugs like these tend to be fixed given time, but beware of their existence. Importantly, the game tends to chug a bit – maybe because there’s a lot of complicated decision trees to run through under the hood. When you have a big kingdom running, it can become laggy and difficult to play.
Having said all that, Gnomoria’s good parts massively outweigh its bad parts. The game is cheap, replayable, challenging, with a long but approachable learning curve. There is depth, and room to grow. The developer is active and still providing content updates, and there is a notable player community. It’s worth every penny.
Perhaps most importantly, Gnomoria is “Dwarf Fortress BUT playable”. That’s, ultimately, a very good thing.