Dicey Dungeons Review
Reviewed on PC
There’s something strange a-foot in the world of deck-building rogue-likes. Terry Cavanaugh – the Indie developer behind VVVVV and Super Hexagon - has quite literally rolled the dice with Dicey Dungeons. Is this dice-centric game a fresh take on the genre, or a thin coat of paint over age-old ideas?
Although Dicey Dungeons follows a similar formula to other deck-building rogue-likes, particularly the likes of Slay the Spire, there’s still plenty here to enjoy and experiences that will be new to even the most veteran card-slingers. Firstly, let’s get the basic mechanics out of the way: how do you build a deck out of dices? That doesn’t even make any sense... does it?
Well, Dicey Dungeons actually handles its deck-building aspect very cleverly. Each battle has a playing field, with 6 zones for you to place a small set of equipment that can be found throughout each run. In turn, each piece of equipment needs to be powered by a die. On each turn, you’ll roll the dice, and the numbers that show up will dictate which moves you can use on that turn.
For instance, one piece of equipment deals twice the face value of a dice but will only accepting a value of less than 4. Others will have bonus effects when a 6 is placed into them, such as locking your opponent’s dice or reducing their value to 1. It’s a brilliant battle system that’s quick to pick up but – like any good deck-builder – involves layers and layers of intricate strategy.
This is compounded by the 6 playable classes, which each bring something different to the table(top). The Thief’s best equipment focus on death by a thousand cuts, with moves that can be reused but deal small amounts of damage, while the Warrior focuses more on heavy-hitting single-use attacks. Other classes like the Witch and Robot have unique gameplay twists that I’d rather not spoil, but just know that there’s plenty of excitement waiting around each corner.
The characters have 6 missions each, lasting 30 minutes or so, all with different modifiers that mix things up further, meaning there’s hours of enjoyment to be found in Dicey Dungeons’ myriad of missions. Further randomisation is built in via changing floor patterns, enemy types, and rewards, but repetition does start to set in after a few hours. You’ll see the same enemies and equipment crop up regularly and it’s only of the only negatives I have to say about Dicey Dungeons.
In general, the gameplay is simple yet thoroughly engaging, and it’s incredibly easy to lose hours at a time to these pesky prisons. Chance obviously plays a big role in your enjoyment, and unlucky runs can certainly spoil your mood by leaving you 1hp short of killing the boss, but that’s always been the case for rogue-likes.
As for presentation, Dicey Dungeons has an endearing hand-drawn aesthetic with rough crayon-y edges that gives it a charming appeal. There’s a loose story tying all the missions together, with a game-show host turning your champions into living dice and making them battle their way through the dungeons for prizes.
Though none of the sounds or music are particularly intrusive, they can get repetitive, so I quickly decided to play with them turned off entirely. That is how I play most deck-builders, anyway, so while it’s not a massive loss, it still felt like the weakest aspect of an otherwise stellar title. When played alongside a good film or series, you won’t lament the lack of sound.
When you consider this has been mainly built by Terry Cavanaugh with only a small team of helpers, though, the bigger picture shines through. This is a wonderfully sculpted experience that can be enjoyed for hours on end, constantly keeping you on your toes and anticipating which way the dice will roll for you. A truly impressive Indie delight.