Terry Cavanagh has done it again. The creator of two previously successful indie games, VVVVVV and Super Hexagon, has completed the hat trick by creating his third fantastic title. Dicey Dungeons is a whimsical Roguelike-RPG that offers beautiful graphics, a stellar soundtrack, and addictive gameplay.
The story of Dicey Dungeons is a straightforward affair. You play as one of six contestants on a game show, each one looking for something different, and who are all inexplicably turned into anthropomorphic dice in the process. You’ll interact with characters such as Lady Luck (the game show host) and Yolanda (the shop keeper), who have a witty sense of humor and keep the game entertaining throughout your adventure. Dozens of different enemies stand between you and the final boss, each one funnier than that last. The game keeps things light-hearted and humorous, and the unique art style only complements all aspects of the game. Don’t let its appearance fool you though; at its core, this is a true strategy game.
Through The Dungeon
The gameplay, much like the story, is simple enough, but is deceptively deep. Players descend through a six-floors-deep dungeon on each playthrough, encountering shops, blacksmiths, treasure chests, health buffs, and enemies. Each floor is made up of a network of tiles for the player to navigate. When you move onto a tile that contains an object or enemy, you can interact with them. As you progress through the game, your movement across these floors becomes more important; determining the order in which to fight enemies is critical to your success, as is figuring out when to go and pick up those wonderful health buffs. Do it in the wrong order, and you might find yourself at half health going into battle with the most difficult enemy on the floor.
Dicey Combat... In A Good Way
Moving across the board is how Dicey Dungeons facilitates its main mechanic: combat. Battles are of the turn-based variety and reminiscent of the game Yahtzee. A turn starts with the computer rolling a few dice for the player. The number of dice rolled is dependent on your level and can be upgraded throughout the game. These dice are then placed on cards to attack the opponent, defend against attacks, or use special abilities. When a die is used, it’s gone until the next turn. Some ability cards require specific rolls of the die in order to use them. For example, a Battle Axe card cannot be used with a dice that has a value over four, while Electric Shock requires an even number. Other cards can be used more than once, while some can only be used once per turn.
These requirements quickly turn the game into a thinking match. Figuring out how best to allocate the die each turn is a challenge at higher levels, but it always feels fair. Even though the game is essentially using a Random Number Generator to give you your dice, it always feels like you are in control. Perfecting a turn and dealing out maximum damage is always satisfying, and the variety of enemy strength and weaknesses keeps you thinking about new strategies.
Spending coins to upgrade or purchase items is another strategic endeavor. Coins are very limited in this game, and you won’t be able to upgrade all your cards by the time you reach the boss. Instead, you’ll have to tailor your upgrades to a specific play-style. Some cards can be modified to increase damage, while others will take up less room in your inventory, allowing you to equip more cards.
Another way Dicey Dungeons keeps the combat fresh is by giving each character a Limit Break ability. Some of these are straightforward, like for the Warrior. His Limit Break simply repeats the next attack twice, dealing out double the damage. The Thief’s Limit Break, however, is titled Unlucky Roll and gives the Thief more dice to use… except they are all ones. Each character’s Limit Break is more unique than the last and learning how to best use them takes practice.
A Few Bad Rolls
While new characters give the game longevity, they also provide one of the most noticeable frustrations of the game. The characters all play slightly different from one another, but the game never explains the difference between them. This was probably a deliberate design choice; figuring out why certain abilities pop up each round and how to use them leads to an ‘Ah-ha’ moment. Until you figure that out though, it’s a bit confusing and makes it difficult to plan your attack.
It also would have been nice to have some continuity between rounds. Once you’ve cleared all six floors and defeated the Boss, nothing carries over to your next game. A progression system would have been welcome, as it’s a drag to have to start your build all over again once you’ve beaten the boss. Instead, new characters are unlocked as you move through the game and modifiers are introduced during the later levels. For what it is, it works well, but it did feel like the game was lacking a solid progression system once all the players have been acquired.
Roll It On Home
It’s hard to think of a person who couldn’t at least enjoy this game for a few hours. The music, the graphics, the humor; they all seem to have a universal appeal. Underneath all this charm, however, lies a game for roguelike, RPG, and Strategy fans (maybe even Yahtzee fans). While it may not be the deepest strategy game on the market, it is most certainly one worthy of your time. Dicey Dungeons is an addictive combination of luck and skill wrapped up in an adorable package.
4 Out Of 5 Stars
A copy of Dicey Dungeons was purchased by TheGamer for this review. Dicey Dungeons is available now for PC and Mac.