Bite-sized Review:
Dice Assassin

Developer: AFIL Games

Release Date: 30 April, 2024

Platform: Windows

Genre: Tactical

By Chris Picone, 04 May 2024

Dice Assassin is a vaguely chess-based one-vs-many tactical roguelike that pits you against a range of monsters.  Success revolves around carefully monitoring their movement and attack patterns and careful positioning. It's a roguelike, so designed for short runs but with some meta-progression to help push your runs slightly further each time. 


The chessboard appearance immediately makes the game's chess inspiration apparent.  The UI and graphics are simple but clean and look good.  Pieces are represented with a symbol, as are all attacks and abilities (except these symbols appear on cards or dice). 


Each level sees you face off against a variety of creatures with different movement patterns. Rats attack diagonally, frogs horizontally or vertically, bats move to any adjacent square, bombs explode, archers shoot across straight lines (but have to trigger first). There are other creatures which you discover as you progress and even bosses every tenth level, some of which can be quite challenging. Each turn you roll two dice - one for movement and one for attack damage and you're always overwhelmed so while beating any individual enemy is easy enough, doing so may place you in the path of another enemy so you have to be careful. You start with a standard slash attack and a dash attack, which is the real key to victory as it lets you deal damage while moving to safety against stronger enemies.  Every few levels you get to visit a shop to buy either dice upgrades or new cards but everything's so expensive you won't actually get to use much of this in any given run, and even the really expensive items are often only single use so most of the time I found I was just picking up dice upgrades where I could. There is some meta-progression but even after ~20 levels and a couple of bosses I only ever scored to small upgrades. And when those first 20 runs play out identically (and quite simple when you work out the trick to beat them)... I was looking forward to the boss fights but the rest of the game was fun initially but quickly becaue pretty grindy.



The game concept is excellent, as is much of the design - the range of enemies and purchasable special attacks are creative and interesting.  Where Dice Assassin really shines is the boss levels, they're quite challenging and fun. Unfortunately, I think the game does have some balance issues at the moment, and I found both the progression and meta-progression too slow to encourage replayability.