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Dicey Dungeons Review

Dicey Dungeons is a roguelike deck-building dungeon crawler framed as a game show hosted by host Lady Luck. You play as one of the six cute contestants of the show, all of whom are anthropomorphic dice because this game is all-in on loving dice. But while the intelligent combination of cards and dice makes for an entertaining gameplay system, it can’t escape the frustration inherent in a dice roll. This is our Dicey Dungeons Review.

Dicey Dungeons Review: About

  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac OS, Macintosh
  • Developer: Distractionware
  • Publisher: Terry Cavanagh
  • Genres: Roguelike, Deck-building game
  • Release Date: August 13, 2019

Official Trailer

Dicey Dungeons Review: Gameplay

In each episode, the dice you choose will go to a six-level dungeon to defeat enemies, open chests, and visit shops while building a card game that can beat an end boss. The dungeons are presented as a series of nodes that you can move between, with shops, health-restoring apples, and enemies on several of them, and to progress, you must fight enemies and reach the node with the trap door to the next floor.

Each character can equip three to six cards, all of which are powered by dice. Each card needs something different; some are affected by how high the number on the dice is, or have a maximum or minimum number, or will only take odds or odd. Still, others can introduce effects or improvements. For example, a card can ‘shock’ your opponent, which means that one of his cards will be locked the next turn unless he spends a die to unlock it, or causes a ‘freeze’ effect that reduces their highest die roll to a 1.

A good card game allows you to adjust depending on what you throw, but there aren’t a lot of cards and enemies in play which means the same cards pop up often – 10 hours in I’d still occasionally come across something new, but not as often as I would have liked. A charming art style works wonders in circumventing this sense of repetition, with each character having a distinctive personality, despite the game being light on dialogue.

And while their animations are limited, the enemies are also charming. The character’s designs and poses are always gorgeous, so you’ll still feel a little bad when you take down a wolf pup because of the massive grin on their faces. The game show motif doesn’t stretch that far, but the cheerful soundtrack and small check-in scenes with Lady Luck for any adventure is an effective way to give you a sense of purpose.

The six characters each have a unique playing style, which gives the game a sense of variety. For example, the thief copies one of his opponents’ cards in each match, and the inventor always sacrifices one of their cards at the end of each fight in favor of a new skill for the next round, which can be activated by clicking on it without worrying about dice.

Some become even more radical, such as the witch, who attacks with a “spellbook” – when you roll a die, you can either cast it on one of the four spells selected on your screen, or you can move it to the spellbook instead of using skill and getting the spell assigned to that dice number. It’s a great system because each character feels completely different, and while the central combat system for laying dice on cards doesn’t change, the mechanics with which you get those dice and cards change.

For the first few hours, as you move through the first dungeons for each character and get a handle on how they play, Dicey Dungeons is a delight, albeit light for challenges. But once you’ve played around as each of the first five characters and unlocked each character’s more difficult episodes, there is a steep difficulty curve to overcome. Each introduces modifiers that make the game more challenging – you may lose health instead of winning it every time you level up, double dice can disappear immediately, or you only roll 1s on your first roll, 2s on the second, and so on.

In these episodes, you learn the different strategies and combos that are essential for mastering Dicey Dungeons. Using your Limit Break ability and making good use of buffs and debuffs are necessary for success. After a while, you begin to figure out which skills work best against which enemies – freeze is especially useful against creatures that can only roll one die, for example. At the same time, the shock is helpful if an opponent has few cards.

Some enemies are also weak to certain elements, so if you see an enemy at your level that you know is weak for shock attacks, you can plan accordingly. However, you should remember these details yourself, as the game does not remind you of an enemy’s skills and weaknesses until you are actually in the fray. Whether or not Dicey Dungeons gets too tricky after the first episodes depend on your patience and your willingness to play the same scenarios repeatedly.

It can sometimes feel like you hit your head against a wall because if a single episode takes you multiple attempts to defeat, you will roll through the same enemies multiple times. You could try different card combinations, but it will come from the same small pool of potential cards and will usually face the same enemies that defeated you last time. A loss can also sometimes feel out of your hands if an early enemy throws too many sixes, or the final boss happens to be immune to the debuff you built your deck around.

But this also means figuring out and implementing a winning strategy can be very satisfying. It took me six tries to beat the second episode of the Warrior. Still, once I built a card game that had a lot of freeze cards, I could efficiently deal with the later enemies, even if the final boss who immune to freezing almost tripped me. In a game with so many dice-themed themes, there will always be luck, which can be both satisfying and exhausting, depending on whether or not you go away.

Dicey Dungeons Review: Conclusion

The charm of Dicey Dungeons can get thin when you’re stuck, but if you bypass an episode that gave you grief, it feels great. I found myself quitting the game regularly, walking through my house, and going back for another try 10 minutes later. No matter how irritated I am, it’s never hard to get back to Dicey Dungeons, and the challenges never feel insurmountable – it’s always likely that your next attempt could be yours. Dicey Dungeons is a charming and often rewarding game, as long as you learn to accept that the dice sometimes don’t roll towards you.

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Our Verdict

Dicey Dungeons is a roguelike deck-building dungeon crawler framed as a game show hosted by host Lady Luck. You play as one of the six cute contestants of the show, all of whom are anthropomorphic dice because this game is all-in on loving dice.

Compsmag UK