PAX South 2019: Roll, Loot, and Win in ‘Dicey Dungeons’

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Dicey Dungeons - But Why Tho?

Dicey Dungeons is a dice-rolling, deck-building, RPG for PC created Terry Cavanagh , with art by Marlowe Dobbe, and music by Chipzel. I had the opportunity to play this fast paced, unique, colorful, and intriguing game at PAX South 2019. The crew over at Dicey Dungeons, features a worldwide team with members hailing from Portland, Ireland, and Spain. The game had a spot in the PAX Rising area of the expo hall at PAX South 2019, the section for spotlighting indie games, where they programmed a brief demo.

The game itself is very straight forward. You pick a giant dice character from a roster of six: the Thief, the Robot, the Inventor, the Warrior, the Witch, or the Jester. You fight things in a dungeon by rolling dice. You pick up loot for upgrades. You fight more things. You win.

While the core of the game is based on a very simple formula, Dicey Dungeons shines in its implementation of strategy. You start the game at level one with very basic abilities depending on the character you selected. For example, my first round of game play was as the Warrior who starts the game with being able to apply its dice roll directly to a damage attack and/or reroll a dice in the hopes of gaining a higher number.

By contrast, while playing as the Thief you have a basic damage roll but you also steal the ability of your opponent to use for your own through the duration of the battle. These varying play styles adds a level of difficulty as each character has its own learning curve until the player finds the character that works best for them.

The game takes the player through five different floors filled an array wacky but dangerous enemies that progress in difficulty eventually culminating in a battle with one of six random bosses. Through the point and click navigation of the map, Dicey Dungeons gives the player a bit of freedom in navigation on the paths to take to progress through the game. This allows players to fight certain mobs and by pass on others depending on their characters level, weakness, or goals.

Players find chests that are protected by enemies that provide upgrades for their character that they can decide to use or not. They range from an extra attack, to the ability to poison your opponent and even ways to protect your character with shields. After multiple encounters, your character will level which adds on new class specific abilities to expand your playstyle in addition to the items you already have. This adds a layer of RPG elements giving the player the option to balance their character in anyway they see fit.

Don’t let the colorful creatures and upbeat, energy-filled techno jams fool you. This game is not a cake walk. If you die you start over. No checkpoints. No saves. The next game you play has a completely different path, lay out, and creatures to face.

This means that no two games are the same adding a lot of replay-ability value. Start to end, each game will typically take 20-25 minutes so you aren’t out to much time if luck isn’t in your favor. Become a luck defying master of the game? No worries. Dicey Dungeons is continually adding in options for you to adjust the difficulty of your play through different game modes and quests that can act as handicaps.

There is a small backstory involved where the giant dice are just humans who were transformed by the Goddess of Fortune, Lady Luck. However, it never really seemed to be big part of the experience and I do not think it was meant to be. The game comes off as a game designed to be something bright and colorful in the world of dungeon crawling. Judging by its art design, music, and simple play style I think the team at Dicey Dungeons has accomplished that.

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If I had one critique it would have to be the lack of a tutorial in the demo and in the current state of the alpha. I understand that the game is simple but my first few deaths in the game came from me not really understanding the objective of the game and just mindlessly rolling the dice. A 30-second intro to the game’s mechanics, done in the style of their current trailers could easily fix this minor issue.  

In all, I really enjoyed my time playing Dicey Dungeons at PAX South 2019. So much so that I decided to pick it up during their current alpha. I can see myself pouring hours into trying to master each character and trying the varying quests that add new challenges to each play through.

When speaking to the creator Terry Cavanagh, he expressed an interest in expanding them game to a mobile version and even to the Nintendo Switch. With simple point and click controls, I could see myself mindlessly playing this game on my phone or on my Switch on long trips or extended doctor’s office visits.

Dicey Dungeons is expected to be released Spring of 2019 for PC but you can purchase an alpha copy of the game here for $7.50 that gets all the versions of the alpha leading up to the games release as well as a discount when the full game drops. You can also join their Discord for updates and the opportunity to provide feedback before the game launches.