No Pause? No Dice!

Dice Legacy is a well-produced settlement survival game with strong board game elements. However the combination isn’t very happy, and the studio didn’t handle criticism very well.

During a -80% sale, I finally decided to buy my Forbidden Game. No, not the one with the underage wizards, I’m talking about Dice Legacy (2021) by DESTINYbit. With a board game-y approach to settlement survival and a striking visual appearance with a cylinder world, I awaited its final release with great impatience while it was in Early Access. Alas, the first reviews gave me cold feet. Apparently the selected Real Time Strategy pace was too fast for dice-based decision making, resulting in a poor experience without a pause feature. I mentally shelved the game, but the recent sale brought it back in the forefront, testing my will.

And I pulled the trigger. 18 months after the 1.0 release, a pause feature has been added, pretty reluctantly as suggests the label for the “No Pause” mode in the New Game screen mentioning that it is “the way the game was envisioned”. I chose to ignore this baffling display of arrogance and lack of self-reflection to experience the game “the way it was envisioned”, and I must admit that I’m joining the chorus of critics about that particular detail.

The issue is that Dice Legacy definitely is a settlement survival game, with a scenario playtime normally counted in hours. But without pause, active or not (the two newly offered modes), this lengthy time is entirely spent frantically rolling and assigning die on the map even for basic tasks such as chopping wood or working wheat fields, which is an extremely exhausting outcome. Strikingly, I’m playing a game of Dota 2, a more regular real-time game, just to relax from Dice Legacy. Because in the case of Dota 2, games are decided either way in 25-45 minutes, with frantic action only when it’s called for during team fights.

I still must commend Dice Legacy. I was tired of square-grid based settlement survival games irrespective of their other qualities (BanishedSurviving the AftermathFarthest FrontierAgainst the StormTimberbornGoing MedievalEndzone – A World ApartThey Are BillionsKingdoms and CastlesPatron, …). And in this context, Dice Legacy is a breath of fresh air with a hex grid inside a cylinder world.

I’m not sure I’ll be able to finish the game I started without pause, though, without risking a heart attack as I keep frantically juggling for hours on end with an ever-varied pool of die as the game progresses.

<2 months later>

I was not able to finish my game. The last straw was an otherwise benign setback. Enemies in Dice Legacy are time-sensitive tasks that require a certain amount of dice to be cleared. Up to 4 dice can be placed on a task on the same level, but beyond that they must be placed on top of the first four. To help placing dice without having to drag them manually from the dice pool to the task, it’s possible to Shift + Click a die spot to fill it with the correct face from the pool if any.

However, Shift + Click is also used to remove a die already placed on a task. when die spots are on the same row, there’s no conflict between those shortcuts, but with two rows on top of each other, removing dice takes precedence when the mouse cursor hovers both an empty die spot and an already placed die, which wastes precious time already scarce in Real Time Mode.

I then helplessly watched this 7-die enemy march to my settlement, while I was frantically removing and re-adding one specific die because of the shortcut conflict. I was ready for dire consequences, but this formidable enemy (the dice pool is limited to 12 idle dice, any extra have to be discarded) ended up destroying just a field, the cheapest building in the game.

The combination of infuriating sloppy controls in the real-time mode that’s supposed to be the intended experience paired with the ridiculously negligible consequence of failing what’s supposed to be a sizeable challenge made me forfeit on the whole game.

There are enjoyable ways to spice board game mechanics with time-sensitive aspects, but Dice Legacy completely missed the mark and then displayed an entitled lack of self-reflection when called out on it. Not a good look in my book.

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