Dicey Dungeons is a turn-based dungeon crawler by veteran game designer, Terry Cavanagh, the creative genius behind games such as VVVVV and Super Hexagon. As the player, you descend into randomly generated dungeons, and then take on enemies in turn-based battles by rolling dice, and then using them to activate skills to damage the enemy.
Hopeful contestants join a game show run by Lady Luck herself. Each contestant is transformed into a die, and then thrown into a dungeon. If they are able to overcome the challenges, they earn the right to spin the wheel for a chance to win their ultimate desires.
It is likely that Dicey Dungeons will often be called a roguelike. I don’t think this is a fair comparison, despite the similarities. Dungeons are randomly generated, losing in the dungeon will send you back to the main menu, and a given playthrough only lasts around 30 minutes to an hour, it feels as though it fits the description. However, the individual mission with each character isn’t particularly difficult. Once you’ve learned the intricacies of a given character, you’re likely to finish the dungeon on your next try – or two if you’re unlucky.
This is due to the forgiving nature of the game. When you level up in the dungeon, you are restored to full health, and there are already healing items littered around every floor of the dungeon that helps keep you in good health in between each level up. This is not the only reason it doesn’t feel like a roguelike though. If you retry the same mission 3 or more times, the game won’t really change. The enemies will be different, and so will the items that you find in treasure chests and shops, but it doesn’t really lead to any differences in the core gameplay. The dungeon layouts might change visually, but there is always the same amount of enemies in each run, with the placements always being roughly the same. One in front of an exit, one or two in front of a treasure chest, it never really plays differently. A lot of the variation comes from playing different episodes, which will be discussed in more detail below.
Dicey Dungeons has a tutorial that forces you to play a few specific turns, but this is over in a few minutes, and then lets you discover the game as it trickle-feeds content.
You’ll start with a single character to play as, and after a few tries, or a win, you’ll unlock the next character, and so on. There are 6 characters total to unlock, and each of these characters plays completely differently to each other, providing variety and encouraging testing of different playstyles.
Once you finish a playthrough with each of the first 5 characters, episodes mode is unlocked, which is where the bulk of the gameplay is. The first play with each character acts as episode 1, and every character has 5 more episodes to play through. These episodes modify the game in different ways, and normally make completing a dungeon more difficult, which at times can be frustrating, especially when this difficulty is added by adding in random effects that can hinder your character.
Dungeons are traversed by moving around the map, and then when an enemy tile is encountered, a turn-based battle will start.
Generally, the player has a hand of dice which are rolled for them. It is then up to the player to spend all of their dice in order to activate tools and weapons that can be used to deal damage, status effects, or buff the player. This might sound like an RNG nightmare, but Dicey Dungeons provides players with many ways to modify dice rolls or make do with a bad hand by using tools that are picked up during a run, or by using their character ability. The tools provide a lot of playstyle flexibility in the early game, and in some episodes, are required in order to deal with the unique scenario modifier.
Defeating an enemy will earn the character experience and money. The experience is used to level the character up, which will normally unlock more dice to use each turn, but each character has different level-up rewards. Money can be spent in stores to unlock new equipment to use, or to upgrade tools or buy healing items when you’re in a bind.
There are shields and healing in Dicey Dungeons, which I are not properly balanced. There is a particular style of shield that reduces a flat amount of damage from every attack received, which is extremely useful, but there is also a style simply adds temporary health on top of your health pool, but this disappears at the end of combat.
Unlike in a game like Slay the Spire where health is a very precious commodity, Dicey Dungeons provides a large amount of healing in most cases, so taking a hit or two isn’t a large issue. Another problem with these skills is that the payoff is often not worth the dice you spend to activate them. For example, you might use a dice roll that could do 5 – 10 damage to the enemy to instead heal 1 – 3 points of damage or add a small shield. Generally it’s extremely difficult to maintain a shield or get enough healing to make it worth using these skills, when you can simply kill an enemy, and then make use of the healing items on the map.
Warrior – The warrior is the starting character. The most basic character class, the warrior’s skill allows them to reroll dice 3 times per turn. Nothing fancy here.
Thief – Can copy an enemy’s equipment for a battle. Allows you to use the enemy’s own attacks against them.
Robot – Instead of rolling Dice normally, the Robot has a CPU that lets them keep track of dice that have been rolled. You manually roll die one at a time and each time a one is rolled, the number on the die is added to the Robot’s CPU total. If the max CPU number is exceeded, the robot is overloaded and all of their skills are disabled for the rest of the turn. If you roll equal to the max CPU, a limit break is earned and you can do one of 3 useful effects, such as doing damage to an enemy, healing, or rolling an extra die to use.
Inventor – The inventor has a gadget that can be used once per turn. At the end of combat, the inventor throws away the existing gadget, destroying one of their tools in order to make a new gadget to use next combat. You choose the tool that is destroyed, so you can manage your tools and prevent the inventor from destroying a build-critical item, thankfully.
Witch – The witch has a spell book. 6 spells can be held in the spell book, and a die can be placed into the spell book to prepare the spell in the active area. This allows the Witch to swap skills in the middle of combat, and constantly change up their strategy. By far the hardest character to manage in the game, but also one of the most fun to play due to the huge range of possibilities. If a die is useless, the Witch can also just throw dice at the enemy in order to do a single point of damage per die.
There is also a secret character, and they have a of deck of cards. There are 3 slots available on screen, and the character can match 2 or more to use the effect listed on the card. Once a card is used, the next cards in the deck are drawn. It plays completely differently from the other dice-based classes, and sets up some interesting mechanics. Adding more cards to the deck increases your power, but also makes it harder to get card matches with more variety in the deck.
The visuals in Dicey Dungeons are nothing special. The characters all have some nice charm to their appearance, but the animations are quite simple, and there really isn’t too much to look at. Thankfully, everything does look nice, and the User Interface is communicated clearly. As such, if you’re enjoying the gameplay, the visuals support it perfectly, and never get in the way.
The soundtrack is incredible. Each song fits the theme of the game, and has a good energy to keep you tapping along to them whilst playing.
The sound effects are good, but not as standout as the soundtrack. The dice roll sound is heard very frequently, and thankfully is nice on the ears, so you won’t tire of it, even after hours. Each character has their own little voice for when they take damage, and although these are nothing special, it helps to flesh out the personality of each one, which is a nice addition.
Dicey Dungeons is a fun episodic game. Each character has their own unique playstyle that sets them apart. The randomly generated dungeons, despite being full of a range of different enemies and tools to battle with often feel quite samey, but variety is found in the differences between each character, and the episodes mixing things up.
If you have any questions, let me know in the comments or on any of my social channels and I’ll get back to you!