Biggest problem for me in the dwarf-fortress-like games is the long-term motivation.
The game Children of the Nile offers a solution for games where you are confined to a limited map.
After a certain time, you get access to 2D map where you can see some sites, where you can send
expeditions. Those sites vary from towns to quarries and forests. Towns can be taken over by force
or diplomacy or you can just trade with them. At quarries you establish a colony and recieve special
ressources for example. This would motivate to optimize your hometown, produce weapons and fit soldiers.
This system can of course be expanded with exploration, war,diplomacy and adventures.
It would be very simple with a 2D map and text windows, but would expand the atmosphere and gamplay
without an hit to the performance. Also it would only take text and some artworks to realise this, i think.
The effort for writing good text and offer some variation is not to underestimate though.