Dicey Dungeons takes the best part of classic roleplaying — the dice — and allows you to make calculated strategic choices with them that will determine your fate.
Lady Luck has it out for you. With the help of her pal the Jester and her ever-changing dungeon, she has devised a deadly game show where she sends her enemies to thwart your quest to make it out alive and realize your greatest wish. In Dicey Dungeons, you may feel that you have a seemingly insurmountable task in defeating an endless amount of foes, but there are plenty of options to help manipulate the uncertainty of each dice roll and bend the odds to your favor.
Starting off as a Warrior dice, your primary fighting abilities lean heavy on your brute strength. After a lengthy tutorial teaches you the basis on how this whole crazy game works, you begin to understand the importance of the card-shaped tools in your inventory. Each card represents an item you might find in a typical RPG: weapon, shield, special tool or ability. Fitting all these cards into your limited in size deck that serves as your inventory also proves to be a great challenge, but gives you the opportunity to determine what fighting style works best for you. In a turn-based game such as Dicey Dungeons, it’s important to make every dice count.
Weapons offer you the opportunity to attack — as the name might suggest — but depending on the type of weapon, you typically have to deal with some drawbacks. Swords give direct damage, but weapons such as daggers offer restrictions such as only allowing dice rolls with small numbers to count while giving you the ability to use the card repeatedly. Other characters like the Thief can take advantage of this easily, as he has an innate ability to roll a lot of ones. Each weapon has its strengths and weaknesses, but are almost always fair.
Shields are a lot different than what you might expect. A typical shield can block, but limits the dice values you can use to activate it. The dice value you place on the card equals the amount of shield value you have but unfortunately shield points can’t protect against poison — an infliction that hits you for its value minus one each turn. Something more advanced like a spiked shield can either give you defense or attack, depending on whether you roll even or odd.
What makes up the rest of your inventory is items that give you specific abilities. Each character class or type gives you a specific ability, for example: the Warrior can reroll any of his dice up to three times. Other than these innate abilities, there is really a wide variety of inventory-based abilities that you can either purchase from vendors, trade for at a swap vendor or simply find within treasure chests. Anything from adding poison damage to your opponent, allowing you to bump a dice value by one and even healing yourself can be achieved by these cards. There are different cards available on each run through the procedurally-generated dungeon, so particular strategies you use on one run might not fit well in the next.
As you continue through the game, whether you defeat the first dungeon’s boss or not, you will begin to unlock different characters, each with their own special abilities and specific weapon types they can use. There are six different classes: Warrior, Thief, Robot, Inventor, Witch and Jester. Due to each one requiring progression to unlock them, they continue to increase in difficulty, asking you to take extra precaution in determining how each dice is used and often abandoning rules and foundations you took for granted with other classes. I found some of the harder characters easier to manage even with their crazy weapon types and abilities, which lead to playing them seem even more fun than the vanilla Warrior.
Enemies come in all shapes and sizes, bringing status effects like poison, fire, ice, lightning and rock into play. Poison is probably the most dangerous with its ability to linger on after the enemies turn and several turns after, depending on how much they were able to inflict on your hapless hero. Fire can burn your dice, requiring you to lose health to use them, but Ice on the other hand will turn some of your dice to ones. Lightning will shock your cards, requiring you to drop dice on them to unlock them and rock will break your cards down, weakening your cards and imposing strict max numbers on their use. With all these types of ailments that your foes can inflict on you, it’s wise to check their attacks — something you can do with a menu at the top of the screen — before determining what strategy might be most effective against them.
Each level in the dungeon is riddled with treasure, enemies, vendors and — during the earlier levels — apples. Apples will replenish some lost health and can be passed to use later after a tough fight. After defeating a foe, you will gain experience points. Your XP bar will automatically gain points after each battle based on the level of the enemy you just defeated; after leveling up, you are granted a health point refill, additional health for your bar and another dice to use. Seeking out more enemies is a good way to max out to level 6 quickly, but could also end your run sooner due to running out of health from the amount of fights. It’s this balancing act that makes each level so interesting and more difficult to determine the correct path each time.
After you finish the fifth level of the dungeon, you are treated to a boss fight — a random boss each time. These boss fights will take a lot of health plus everything you’ve gained and upgraded so far to defeat. Each boss has a particular strategy to them, but if you’re not prepared properly, you’ll quickly find yourself defeated. Sometimes there’s really nothing you can do but fight them and see if your arsenal is a good fit, and unfortunately that’s just something you have to deal with in a game that keeps you on your toes with its random generation. Each step towards victory feels like an uphill battle, but the triumph afterwards is worth the reward: a new episode for your class.
Each episode you unlock has its own trials, introducing unique modifiers to literally change up the game. While simply playing the first episode introduces you to each character, each following episode will help you progress through their adventure, often providing you pros — such as upgraded weapons — at the cost of cons — such as being cursed, where a random card won’t work. These episodes absolutely are the meat and potatoes of the game and keep the gameplay fresh when you’ve exhausted the standard rules quest of the main characters. With six episodes for each class, there’s a wealth of content waiting to truly test you and give you that ‘one more game’ aesthetic that roguelites tend to offer.
Dicey Dungeons already has an entertaining premise with lots of variations and surprises to keep you coming back for more, but it has to be Chipzel’s perfectly bopping soundtrack that makes the joy of revisiting these demanding dungeons worth it over and over again. Each track carries with it this electric energy that makes the fight against enemies and bosses amplified as a result. Her music, when paired with Marlowe Dobbe’s dreamy storybook-like artwork, excels in making each perilous adventure as cute as it is difficult. Dicey Dungeons serves as an exciting, wonderfully crafted dungeon-delving game that I can easily recommend for all ages, where each run feels like a new adventure with treasures and danger at every turn.