Ok, so a couple days ago Bill Harris says that he might be playing the game of the year and it is an obscure title. Well, today he comes out with it. The game is Slaves to Armok II: Dwarf Fortress. The catch is it's an ASCII game and it was developed by a single person. Bill has a much better write up on it and he got me to give it a shot. Here is a quick quote:
Now there is a third, one of the most complex and demanding games I've ever played. It has infinite variation, the learning curve is tremendously difficult, and the level of world detail is absolutely unparalleled.
Let me just warn you now: this game will take you 5-10 hours to learn. The ASCII graphics are disorienting at first, there are a huge number of options available (and associated menus to learn to access the commands), and it seems totally overwhelming.
Trust me, it's not. It just takes time. After a few hours, you'll start translating the ASCII you see into a "real" world very easily, and along with that, the menus will become more familiar. You'll also stop trying to play it like a "game" and start thinking, because this game rewards thinking as much as almost any game I've ever played.
Like Bill said, it is devilishly confusing when you first jump in. He points to several guides and such and I suggest you use them all if you consider playing. Also, be prepared to be hopelessly lost for the first 45 minutes of actual gameplay. Even as I am writing this down it seems absurd that anyone would want to play a game under these conditions. However, this is perhaps the most complex game I have ever played. The amount of detail and variety in the game continues to shock me. Seriously.
The main game has you starting off with a team of seven dwarven pioneers who endeavor to start a new mountain colony. You tunnel into the mountain to construct your new home. You cut down trees and catch fish and basically do anything that you can imagine a group of dwarves might do when starting a settlement. I am just starting to get around the initial learning curve and bizarre interface and the game is digging it's teeth in. Suffice to say that I can already feel that I am going to be dreaming about this game tonight.
For anyone who has ever enjoyed a strategy game, I suggest you make your way over Bill's place and read his review. You are not going to want to miss out on what seems to be the most intellectually engaging game this year. Trust me.