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Can you play Dwarf Fortress on the Steam Deck?

Here's how the get the hit simulation game running on a Steam Deck.
By
August 4, 2023

Dwarf Fortress has been a must-play simulation game for over 15 years now, inspiring countless other games like Rim World, Prison Architect, and even Minecraft. But with the release of the Enhanced Edition on Steam in December 2022, it exploded even more in popularity due to better graphics and accessibility.

So just how accessible is it when it comes to handheld devices like Valve’s own Steam Deck? Here’s everything you need to know about how to play Dwarf Fortress on the Steam Deck.

QUICK ANSWER

You can play Dwarf Fortress on the Steam Deck, but it is not optimized for controller inputs. The game will run just fine, but you will need to add custom control schemes and scale the UI for the best experience.

Can you play Dwarf Fortress on the Steam Deck?

Steam Deck controls
Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

The good news is that Dwarf Fortress will run great on the Steam Deck right out of the box, with graphics that are well-suited to the handheld device with no major tweaking necessary. However, the experience of playing it will be considerably less comfortable than playing on a PC. This is mostly down to the controls, which were designed for a mouse-and-keyboard rather than controller inputs.

For example, most menus are pulled up with keyboard shortcuts, so you will want to set up a custom controller layout to avoid having to pull up the virtual keyboard every few seconds. There is no native controller support in Dwarf Fortress, but if you’re familiar with the game it won’t take too long to get your controls set up on the Steam Deck. You can also pull from a community controller layout and tweak from there.

Another issue is the size of the UI. The pixel graphics look great on the Steam Deck, but some of the text elements are small and difficult to read. The current UI scaling options are limited and don’t work well with extreme scaling, but developer Bay 12 Games has been extremely supportive of the community throughout the years, so it’s likely that this will be fixed eventually. It’s also worth noting that you may need to manually adjust the game’s resolution to match the Steam Deck, as it does not change by default.

If you’ve already been playing the game on PC, you should also know that the game does not support cloud saves. To transfer over your progress, you will need to manually copy over your save files.

If you haven’t been playing the game on PC, you’ll probably want another screen nearby to reference the wiki or other online resources, because complex does not even begin to describe it. Be prepared to fail, and draw on guides online to learn how to improve on your next attempt.

For the best possible experience, however, you may just be better off waiting until official Steam Deck support is added by the Dwarf Fortress developers. It’s a small team with just three devs, but given the success of the Steam release and the growing popularity of the Steam Deck, it’s just a matter of time before it’s added.

Other frequently asked questions

Dwarf Fortress runs around 50 FPS on the Steam Deck, although it may drop to 30 or less. This is a game engine issue, however, as it does not utilize the full power of the Steam Deck CPU.

Yes, mods like DFHack will work on the Steam Deck, although you may need to enable developer mode and jump through a few hoops to get it set up.

Technically yes since the game supports Linux, but it will be a struggle without a keyboard. You’re better off playing the Steam version.