May 26, 2021

Odd Realm is Dwarf Fortress for people who can't keep houseplants alive

Odd Realm is an early access colony management game, like Dwarf Fortress and Rimworld, in which you play a semi-interventionist deity looming over a square mile of dirt and issuing divine orders to a growing population of simulated people. You have the power to designate tasks for them to complete, tracing out where your villagers should mine, what they should build, choosing which seeds they should plant and which trees should be felled, until they're so self-sufficient you can sit back and observe them, like some omnipotent, hovering pervert.

Odd Realm hews closely to the Dwarf Fortress format. Bedrooms must be carved out of mountains or built on hillsides to accommodate your first settlers. Workshops, smithies, kitchens and distilleries are constructed and furnished to specification, so that your burgeoning town can begin to process the bounty and booze of the surrounding nature. Even Dwarf Fortress's most confounding aesthetic has made the grade: Z-levels, which let you flip through top-down cross-sections of the world, as though you're leafing through individual slices of an MRI scan, take a while to wrap your brain around.

Once you do, and your eyes can decode all of the pixelated goings on, Odd Realm begins to spill its charming guts all over the place. This is not nearly as detailed a simulation as other colony managers, but that makes Odd Realm a less daunting proposition. Where Dwarf Fortress is baffling to the point of turning new players away, Odd Realm's tender and tiny worlds invite you to experiment with ambitious architecture projects. The default biome is so forgiving, so overrun with friendly animals to tame and butcher and so verdant with edible plants and fermenting fruit, that you can concentrate on building a giant stone tower for everyone to live inside, or a cute wooden village on top of a lake.

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