Winter!: Prepare for holiday gaming!
You first must understand it's a keyboard interfaced game. No mouse. Second, use a graphics set such as maygreen's here: http://mayday.w.staszic.waw.pl/df.php
Third, this is NOT a "pretty graphics" game. This game uses a tile system, and each tile is a square. You look down as if exactly above the world, no isometric view.
Fourth, this game takes skill, out-of-the-box thinking, and patience. MUCH patience.
Now the review. Dwarf Fortress (DF from here on out) is a real time strategy game, a simulation, trading game, and explorer mining game all in one. You control dwarves, who have basic needs such as booze, food, and a sleeping quarters (beds). You have to find a way to build farms, mine out living quarters from the side of a mountain, channel water for defense or agriculture, or even pleasure (think waterfalls), create an economy where weapons, food, clothing, armor, furniture, gems, and about everything else under the sun is produced and used/traded to further your dwarven fortress. Goblins, ratmen, and just about everything attacks you eventually, from under the earth where you're mining for gold and minerals, to above ground where land sieges attempt to thwart your defenses and kill your dwarves. Each dwarf is fully fleshed out with needs, wants, character traits, special interests, and of course skills. Your dwarfs can and do level up. There is simply too much to talk about in this massive gem of a game, so head on over here once you've gotten maygreen's version : http://df.magmawiki.com/index.php/Main_Page
Game Traits applied to Dwarf Fortress (PC) by Steady1060