Here we are again, all aboard the dungeon crawling deckbuilder rogue-likes bandwagon as it careers out of control, this time with perfect for Switch™ PC darling Dicey Dungeons.
The big problem with the DCDBRLs (or DeCeDuBuReLls) is that very few of them tend to be objectively rubbish. So when another one comes along you think “Ooh, that looks fun, I’ll give it a go”, fairly confident that any skills you gained on the previous 15 titles you’ve played will transfer across so you can lose yourself for another hundred hours smashing enemies in the tits across randomly generated dungeon maps.
And that’s the case with Dicey Dungeons, but only to the extent that there are randomly generated dungeons and there is smashing of enemies in the tits. Dicey Dungeons is something slightly different because you don’t have a deck of cards as such, you have a loadout. As you go through the game you open chests on the map and gain equipment to slot into your loadout. You only have a limited amount of slots and some equipment can take up 2 of those slots, so deciding your loadout is important.
To begin with you pick your class. Classes are ranked in complexity of use and all are sufficiently interesting to warrant putting in time with each. The Warrior is straightforward and hits things in the face hard, for example. The Thief duplicates a power for you to use from the enemy you’re engaged with.
A definite part of this game’s charm is the excellent variety in the classes that goes beyond gimmick; the Witch has a ‘Spell Book’ where you assign your equipment (or Spells as they’re called for her) from a separate pane using the dice you roll. You then assign one as the starting Spell and then you can fill the other 3 slots from the Spell Book, making your loadout unique for each battle if you so wish. It’s really bloody clever.
As you smush your way through the dungeons you can stop at shops to spend your loot on more equipment. You can upgrade any that you find at anvils, which alters it in such ways as granting bonus damage, removing the conditions of use (such as needing an odd or even number) and even reducing the space it takes up in your loadout.
As is the way with DeCceDuBuReLls variance plays its part in getting through the dungeon. Some people don’t really get on with dice variance and seeing as that’s the driving mechanic for this game if you’re that person you may want to avoid it. I’ve definitely cried bullshit at some of the rolls the opponent is making. But that’s what you get when you have to program randomness.
Enemies are varied and have weaknesses and strengths, and using the detrimental effects some cards bestow on them effectively is well worth getting down. You’ll become very familiar with them because the enemies will absolutely make it so your dice faces are hidden. Or they’re all turned to a 1. Or they’re on fire so you have to take a 2hp hit to be able to use them. If there’s one thing I didn’t like about this game it’s that you can be on a superb run right up to the fifth level of the dungeon and then take an absolute beating just in time for the final boss, who is way more powerful than the regular enemies.
The levelling is fixed by the amount of enemies in the game, so you can go into the boss underleveled if the dungeon has been laid out so you could circumnavigate a few of them, but levelling up can rescue you as you instantly regain all of your health. That’s saved my neck more than once.
Dicey Dungeons is a (excuse us while we check off our buzz-phrase bingo card) deceptively simple game. It takes a well worn conceit, boils it down and simplifies it but then adds depth by giving you classes that make use of the powers in different ways. There’s also a decent chunk of content with some semblance of a story running through it. It’s not War and Peace but it does add some impetus to the dungeon crawling. If you’ve rinsed Slay The Spire or are looking for something similar in essence but sufficiently different you could do a lot worse than Dicey Dungeons.