What’s in a name, huh?
Even though this one’s got “deck” right there in the title, you should know that the video game version has practically nothing to do with cards. No, it’s mainly about dice rolling; but I guess “Lots of Multicolored Dice Dungeon” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
The dice in this case correspond to different stats: yellow for strength, pink for dexterity and blue for magic. You start by picking a character or two–warriors are strong, mages are magical and all that stuff–and send them off into a dungeon to fight a boss at the end. I’m sure he did something to deserve it.
You get there by battling your way through a bunch of random encounters, either a monster or some kind of trap, spread out over three levels. Every level gives you a fixed amount of time points to spend looking for new encounters, each of which has a certain combination of dice colors and values associated with it that you have to roll or else you take damage. Survive the encounter (I have faith in you!) and you get a reward: either a new ability or stat, an item or experience. When you use up all your time points you move onto the next level where the dice rolls get even tougher to make.
Whew. I hate to sound like an instruction manual, but a game like this is pretty much defined by its rules, huh?
So with all that stuff in mind, is it actually fun?
Ehh. Mostly, I guess.
Even though there’s no deck to be found, it does have a lot in common with games like Slay the Spire. You’ve got the same basic combination of random encounters, limited healing and perma-death, as well as some persistence across runs in the form of unlocking more perks and starting abilities for your characters.
You also end up performing a similar sort of balancing act. Each encounter offers you a random choice of rewards, and so you’re constantly making decisions on the fly, weighing what you have against what you think you’re going to need down the road to survive the boss fight.
Do I want more stats and health which give me more dice to roll and a larger buffer against damage? More experience that’ll make me stronger in the long run? Or should I take another ability so I have more flexibility to make up for bad rolls?
Long story short, you’ve got a lot of choices to make; and since you can’t reload once you set off into the dungeon, each one becomes pretty important. If a single character dies it’s all over, and sometimes one terrible roll can snowball into disaster and spell doom for your whole run. I guess that’s really the main virtue of this modern “roguelike” style, whatever form it happens to take. For a game with no real story, drama or characters to invest in, it’s a way of adding extra tension into what might otherwise be a completely throw-away experience.
Of course, on normal difficulty I just kind of eyeballed everything, which seemed to be good enough to muddle through most of the time. I’m sure some accountant type could come up with an optimized, min-maxing way to do it that would let you tear through it on hard mode. Without the element of deck building, though, it’s never going to have the depth or variety of something like Slay the Spire.
The biggest problem is that every run ends up feeling pretty much the same. Part of it is how everything–abilities, stats, etc.–just boils down to dice rolling, so there’s no real sense of bringing a variety of powers into play during the battles. The unlockable perks for each class are identical, so there’s not much customization or planning that you can do on that end and the classes aren’t very different outside of their stat color. The dungeons don’t have much individual flavor, either, since you’re always fighting through the same assortment of monsters and traps. As a single-player game it starts to get repetitive fast.
Still, the hours flew by while it lasted; I’ll give them that. If you wanted to max out every character and beat the highest difficulty, not to mention the tons of dlc, you could probably play this for a long, long time. I don’t see the point, though, unless you really–and I mean really–love rolling dice. As soon as I beat all the bosses I figured my work here was done.
Maybe the best way to get around all that is to grab a few friends and play the tabletop version instead. As a multiplayer team game, it livens up quite a bit and you avoid the tedium of grinding away at it all alone.
Plus, the “deck” part will make a lot more sense then, too.