DESTINYbit is heading in a new direction after their free to play RTS Empires Apart. Dice Legacy is a rogue-like city builder. It challenges players to enter a new land and forge their way through uncharted territory in hopes of building a new civilization.
There isn’t much story in Dice Legacy besides the rough idea that sends players into the world. Rogue genre titles rarely have much story, so it’s hard to punish Dice Legacy for its basic premise.
Dice Legacy’s most obvious twist on the city building genre is its dice. Each unit is represented by a die that have different sides for each major gameplay action. Each die’s action can be used once before the die is exhausted. Players can roll their dice as they please, but each roll will deplete the number of remaining rolls before the die is destroyed. Buildings can upgrade a die to specialize in certain abilities or open new ones. It’s a unique gameplay mechanic that adds a sense of randomness found in deck building rogue-lite titles without feeling like DESTINYbit is just following the crowd.
The rogue-like genre underwent a renaissance when rogue-lite and other hybrid titles exploded onto the scene. Games like Spelunky and Rogue Legacy were released to critical acclaim in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Since then, developers have looked at ways to push the boundaries of the genre. Dice Legacy is probably one of the most innovative takes by returning to the genre’s rogue-like roots and applying it to a city builder. There is a slight rogue-lite element where players can carry over upgraded dice to a single future run, but the fact that carrying over dice requires players to go rather deep in the tech tree and expend a lot of resources limits the mechanic.
The gameplay in Dice Legacy is brutally hard. It is all about juggling multiple balls in the air at once except the player has someone standing by to kick the placer face if a single ball is dropped. Players will be managing resource collection, prepping for winter, territory expansion, group happiness, unit ratios, and dice health, all while dealing with constant attacks of increasing regularity and difficulty. The mechanics and depth are off as there are simply too many deep mechanics that is almost too chaotic to balance in the mid game. Dice Legacy would benefit from adjusting complexity or at least tweaking the priorities of the mechanics.
The in-game tutorials are in a rough state that makes the game difficult to learn for new players. The tutorials are a simple build this, build that affair. There aren’t great suggestions on some of the finer mechanics of the game or basic strategies to get players off the ground. It’s usually a bad sign when the developer has to post a beginner’s strategy on the game’s official wiki.
The challenge in Dice Legacy is the learning the correct, efficient strategy to make it deep into the late game. The problem is the quick pacing is half of what makes the game so hard. The difficulty starts with a tame beginning followed by a quick upward curve. The curve means it is very easy to make fatal error in the early to mid game that will result in a slow, mind numbing death. Once the player hits this point, the game gets viciously boring. It’s often easier to just quit than to try to slog through. For a game that requires a player to master efficiency; the slow, painful, and drawn-out march to failure makes learning challenging. There is a pacifist mode is designed to let players explore and push into the further ends of the tech tree at their own pace, but the game would benefit from an easy difficulty that would bridge the gap between the pacifist and normal difficulties.
Players who are willing to dedicate the time and effort into learning the intricacies of Dice Legacy will be rewarded with an impressive amount of replayability. There are extra rulers to unlock that have their own wager abilities and starting resources. There are three higher difficulties for players to conquer if the normal difficulty becomes so easy it is a way of farming dice. There are five extra scenarios that offer challenging twists on the main scenario. The variations are very interesting, like The Great Winter that gives players a single summer to prepare for an endless winter. While it seems easy enough for the developers to add new scenarios in future content updates, Dice Legacy would absolutely shine with a tool that allows community created scenarios.
The developers have committed the cardinal sin on the PC: there is only a single adjustable key bind, and it’s a binary option. Players can only switch between the space bar rolling dice or pausing the game. Everything else is hard coded with no single list to tell players what each key does. The only bright spot is players can automatically place the relevant item into a slot by holding shift and clicking.
Dice Legacy offers a striking visual style. The game is a little on the cartoony side. The 3D graphics are a bit more realistic, but the 2D work and characters really lean into the exaggerated style. The most eye-catching thing about Dice Legacy is the curved world that looks more like a rollercoaster track than a planet.
The audio is minimal in Dice Legacy, but what is there is good. The sound effects are serviceable and aren’t distracting. The soundtrack does an excellent job of capturing the emotion of the game’s two seasons.
Make no mistake, Dice Legacy is easily the most innovative game to hit the rogue genre in years. The problem is purely in how the game is executed. The idea of creating a rogue-like city builder and replacing units with randomly rolled dice is absolutely brilliant. While there is nothing wrong with brutally difficult games, Dice Legacy struggles with proper pacing and a poorly designed learning curve. For rogue-like or city builder fans looking for an interesting twist on the respective genres, Dice Legacy is worth a look during a good sale for its innovation alone. Just don’t expect the same level of brilliance in the actual game experience.
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