You may not know this about me, but I’m pretty ingrained in the tabletop/board game scene. So when I heard of a game that’s Age of Empires meets dice chucking, I was intrigued. How they would make that work? Dice Legacy is an City Builder simulation game where all your units are represented by their own individual die faces. There are still specialized units, but now their actions must be rolled and locked into action spaces to allow you to proceed.
Every action you take has an associated cool-down that ticks down in real time. Fortunately, you can pause the game, or speed it up when things are under your control. Depending on your patience, due to poor luck, you may find your experience frustrating but as you continue unlocking new things, you will find ways of wrestling back control. Some of the things you unlock are new buildings, policies with strong passive effects, sciences that enhance your abilities, and ways of splicing ascended dice.
Your dice have a durability stat, which indicates how many times they can be rolled before they permanently disappear. Your dice essentially have lives of their own: they can get sick, injured, but can eat food and visit the apothecary to freshen up. You are limited in how many dice you can keep unassigned at a time, but an exploit can allow you to store dice in action slots by purposefully not giving the additional resources to complete the task. Since pulling back units from the board is free, this exploit can allow you to keep your units fresh, and have actions ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. You can also lock in die faces so that when you roll your other dice, you don’t throw away an action you really wanted to save when you’re digging for others. That’s pretty much the basics, you will have a menu of buildings each with an associated cost to produce, you can use districts to explore more of the map and access new action slots, and eventually, you unlock sciences and religion to help bolster how effective your actions can be.
All of this said, I just don’t think this was the game for me. I essentially rage quit it right after the tutorial, because it just felt like such a waste of my time whenever things start to go poorly because of how much of a domino effect can ruin you. It’s very easy to not roll the right faces early on, and without enough of the correct setup, such as cookhouses, you will sink. Since creating units takes so much time without upgrades, it can be very frustrating in the beginning to build back when you’re in a deficit. I think expert players can definitely navigate this, but I would say the brutal winters freezing your dice and locking you out of actions, thankfully you can at least channel resources like ale to stave this off or benefit from policies, combined with the relentless attacks of raiders can really add a lot of stress to the game. I felt like I could never get to the fun part of the game, and was constantly squashed right at the beginning.
On top of losing dice, you also have to manage the different dice factions, since they will rebel against you the more you allow their kind to die, or deny them policies that they support. And this can rapidly trigger a lose condition if they start a riot, or start fires, which rapidly become unmanageable and undo all your developments. As such, there’s a lot that can go wrong but I think, for more patient players, it’s part of the difficulty curve and it’s something to plan around as you learn the game. I just think learning the game is very punishing, because of that, having some sort of endless pause, non-survival mode just to learn the different buildings, abilities, and what-not could go a long way towards helping welcome new players to the game. I do believe there is a pacifist mode, so that might be something to look into.
I feel awful because I just don’t think I appreciated everything that this game had to offer, but I guess chalk me as one of those terrible reviewers that is bad at video games. I swear though, at the very least, this had nothing to do with my reflexes, and everything to do with my tolerance towards trial and error. I think there is a big enough dedicated following for this game, and veterans of the RTS genre may find the twists on the genre refreshing, or frustrating, depending on their perspective. As you progress in your run, you are given more control over the random elements, and it’s interesting trying out different builds, even if starting off, it appears that there’s a pretty defined build path to maximize your resources. I personally couldn’t get into this game, which is why I think I can’t really give it the seal, but I think this game definitely has its audience.
UPDATE: So just recently, there was an update that added the ability to pause and freely allocate dice while paused. There was also a roadmap showing future content updates, ways to play more endlessly, and modifiers that shake up the gameplay. I’m not necessarily sure it will convince me, personally, to buy back into the game, but the efforts taken to acknowledge player feedback should be given props. It certainly comes close to giving me a change of heart. It looks like there will be a serious effort moving forward to smooth the difficulty curve and otherwise balance the viability of other strategies.
A review copy was provided by the devs.
Hellfirebam has reluctantly decided not to award Dice Legacy the Indie Gamer Seal of Approval