Dicey Dungeons: PC Game Review
Dicey Dungeons was released in 2019 by the famed indie developer Terry Canvnagh for PC (and also on MacOX and Switch). Cavanagh has had a couple of pretty interesting games under his belt with the titles VVVVVV and Super Hexagon, both of which were interesting gameplay mechanics but (for me) not so much in terms of long term interest.
So, it is interesting to see him return with a game that seems to have a bit more story meat on its bones... although, I have to say that the rogue-like genre isn't always famed for that sort of thing. Anyway, off topic... Dicey Dungeons is one of a slew of rogue-like deck-building games that have come out in the past couple of years. Actually, I'm starting to wonder when this craze will eventually die (hehe...) out... I'm starting to get a bit tired of this genre!
... seriously, by the end of this review, I'm going to be completely confused about the die/dice usage... they are both starting to look wrong!
As I mentioned before, story and narrative aren't exactly going to be a strong point in Rogue-like games. Why bother with that sort of thing when you are going to be restarting and dying ad nauseum anyway... better to focus on the gameplay!
That said, Dicey Dungeons does have a pretty funny story backdrop... You are an adventurer, who gets turned into a die by the nasty Lady Luck, and the whole game/dungeon thing is set in the style of a gameshow! Its weird, quirky and just oozes naive charm.... Even old jaded games can't help to break out a little smile!
Ever since Slay the Spire laid out the basis for the genre, this has been a common sight in deck-building rogue-likes. Each level is a set of nodes that you need to traverse to reach the level exit... you balance risk and reward by choosing to engage more or less nodes. Less means less danger, but less reward and XP which means that you are likely going to be underpowered for the next level. So, in the end, you hit every node that you can... Where Dicey Dungeons differs from other Slay the Spire----likes, is the fact that you can easily backtrack through nodes without any penalty or hindrance. It does make the game feel a little bit more trivial, as you aren't making tough choices about paths through the nodes.
Combat is handled in a turn based manner, with each side rolling dice that they can fit into their equipment slots to activate skills or damage. As you level up, you get more dice and there are buffs and nerfs that can affect the opponents die. You only tackle one opponent on each combat node... again, it does make it feel more like a trivial game than the battles that you would find in games of the same genre.
Each adventurer type has a specialised set of equipment that means that you will be switching up your play style depending on your hero... and in addition, there is a powerup bar (Fury) that fills up as you dish out and take damage. When it is full, you can unleash a hero power... which actually has been a touch underwhelming.
There are trade, shop and upgrade nodes on which you can do a SINGLE action. There is a limited amount of upgrades possible, and there isn't really that much variety in equipment styles... of course, you get different abilities or skill or damage types, but it just doesn't really feel that meaningful. I think much of that is due to the lack of animation of effects during the combat stages, or maybe that you still look like the same dice... and that your equipment are just rectangular squares with a description written on them!
Like any good rogue-like, after a set number of levels, you hit a boss... and that tends to be one of the few interesting battles in the game. One that actually challenges you to strategise and calculate the odds of dice instead of the endless stream of easier to defeat monsters in the level nodes that only take you down due to attrition.
However, the prize for defeating the boss... is just a hero unlock. There isn't anything in the way of new exciting equipment or anything like that. Still, the slightly different story and intro is kinda fun... but not really that engaging.
Visuals, Sound and Performance
Visuals... well, this game will run on pretty much anything! If it can go on a Switch (and coming to mobiles), then pretty much any PC is going to eat this up. Animations are minimal and so you can probably turn off your GPU for this! The cartoony presentation is cute... and it really fits well with the gameshow presentation, this is the best thing about the whole thing... it is quirky and zany, but without trying too hard!
I'm afraid that on the music and sound front... it was pretty unmemorable. On the bright side, no irritatingly catchy 16-bit tune...
The premise of Dicey Dungeon is interesting... heroes turned into a dice (die?) by a gameshow Lady Luck. It's weird, but fun... but after that, everything just falls down. The gameplay is solid, but not really that innovative enough to keep me engaged. Plus, there are just so many other rogue-likes that either have a more interesting story, more interesting gameplay or just better/flashier visuals. So, I'm afraid that Dicey Dungeons didn't really do it for me... it is okay, but not enough to keep me engaged enough to keep playing it. That said, I think that my kids would LOVE IT!
Played at 1080p (144Hz) on:
XMG Fusion 15
CPU: Intel Core i7-9750H
RAM: 16 GB
Storage: SSD (SATA/Nvme)
GPU: Nvidia GTX 2070 Max-Q
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