There’s a certain mysticism to the rolling dice. It’s a strange, almost ritual feeling, as you shuffle them in your hand. Then, as the bones hit the hard wooden surface – the sound is like nothing else. It’s akin to crackling flames, or a storm behind a window. It connects you, in some way, to those who lived here before. It brings you back across time, to the days of crowded taverns and bustling bazaars. You can almost imagine sitting across a table from some merchant from faraway lands, or a soldier, returned after long campaigns.
From the ancient ages of oracles and magicians to our modern, rational times, we always seem to enjoy testing our Fortune. The tools we use may have changed with the invention of the computer. The esoteric mists may have been – to some degree – cleared by our great progress in mathematics and statistics. Many may not believe in luck’s divine significance anymore. Yet, even today, hardly anyone will be unmoved by a good roll. It seems like a certain fascination with Chaos is in human nature. If so, then dice are the symbol of that part of our being – and an essential part of our history.
Today, I will take a look at Slice and Dice – a game that like no other is able to bring us closer to that mystical atmosphere.
The Sorcery and The Technology
To me, there are two reasons to roll the dice: the function and the atmosphere. The former is the domain of a scientist. It’s a remarkable subject in itself, which I still want to write about someday. For now, however, I’ll talk about the latter: the feeling and the aesthetics. This is what I’ve tried, to the best of my abilities, to express in the Introduction. Yet, to truly capture it in a computer simulation requires not a writer, or even a mathematician – but an artist. Such an artist as must’ve been working on crafting the incredible art style of Slice and Dice.
This unique blend of pixel art and 3D vector dice brings together two distant, yet equally enchanting, worlds. The first is that of classic computer games; of glowing screens and fantastic images – all the more amazing for their low resolution. The second is of the wooden tabletop, of which I can talk about for days. This may seem like a strange combination. Yet, there appears to have always been some mysterious connection between computers and fantasy. Some of our greatest, most complex technologies are now routinely used to resurrect the brutal times of steel swords and stone castles.
Still, it’s astonishing how such different aesthetics are able to so perfectly complement each other. Playing Slice and Dice, I did feel like I was traveling through some twilight forests of dark elves and witches. The character portraits, the theatric backgrounds – created a true dark fantasy atmosphere. Yet, at the same time, it was as if I was playing a classic board game, with carved dice rolling on a wooden surface. It really is like a tabletop game, where sheets of paper or a ruler on a board only deepen the immersion.
The Fearsome Rats
Regardless of its unique style and mechanics, the game’s soul is that of a traditional RPG. You know this for sure when the first enemies are no other but rats. On the heroes’ side there’ll be warriors, priests, mages and everything in between. On the enemies – there is a classic assembly of fantasy villains. The gray rodents really are good representatives of that monstrous band. Among their comrades in arms there are wolves, slimes, snakes, dark elves and malevolent crystals. The entire crew is here, with their arsenal of poisonous fangs, sharp claws and acid spit.
However, to say the enemies are traditional isn’t to say that they aren’t varied and interesting. First, there are a ton of them. When I wrote about the entire crew – I did mean the entire crew. From ghosts and vampires to trolls and witches – even the majestic Slime Queen – everyone was invited to the party. The difference isn’t just cosmetic either. There is an assortment of doom they bring with them – all of it unique. And if swords and arrows aren’t enough to stop you, you might just do it yourself by – accidentally – hitting some especially spiky opponent.
Some might think all this too cliché. I’ve enjoyed it. To me, it serves only to reinforce the already strong impression of a true tabletop adventure. The combat, too, is so engaging that you almost really don’t care who you are fighting. As with other things in the game, one look is enough to get a good sense of what they are. With their classic D&D-esque angry visages there’s no doubt – these are creature of evil. Their one purpose, to kill our noble bards and druids by rolling their sinister-looking gigantic dice at them!
Heroes of the Dice
The heroes are no less varied than the enemies. The number of classes and upgrades almost matches that of the foes; something I don’t recall ever seeing before. The champions feature unique, incredibly well-crafted, beautifully elaborate pixel art portraits. These images really do give a sense of their character; make them something more than just a collection of attributes. From the shining eyes of an evoker to the darkly noble features of a vampire – great artistry went into these. Yet, they differ not just in looks, astonishing as these may be.
They also have individual dice, with fantastically painted sides representing unique abilities. Some add magic points: each sorcery requires a specific number. Once you have enough, you can choose which spell to use – protecting allies or shooting energy beams at foes. The other abilities vary greatly in their effects – showcasing how much thought went into their design. There’s one side that damages opponents every time it shows up – even if you are still re-rolling. Another adds defense points; a third increases in power, based on how many defense points a character has. Also, don’t forget the enchanted items, that affect a die’s sides in interesting and strange ways.
All in all, there’s a lot of depth here. Behind its straightforward and welcoming UI, Slice and Dice contains amazing strategic depth. It doesn’t have a grid battlefield; the journey you embark upon proceeds in a linear way – one battle directly follows the other. Yet, regardless of that, it is still a deeply tactical game. Above all else – even a good roll – it requires planning to win. You must think ahead; not just to your next turn. Choose wisely which hero to upgrade and how. When the enemies throw all their frightening dice at you – you better make sure you have something just as frightening to throw back at them.
The Good Roll
Computer random number generators, although unable to generate true randomness, do a fantastic job simulating it. They have the flexibility and the scale that the luck-testing devices of old cannot rival. Yet, there is still a certain romanticism to the dice. That feeling, which is so much more difficult to capture in program than their function. In a way, I’m not sure whether it’s even possible. It may be that there’ll always be a place for the dice and cards and wooden boards. Just like there is still a place for swords and shields of the warriors of bygone days.
Still, this doesn’t mean we can’t try. The Slice and Dice attempt at capturing this elusive atmosphere is one of the best I’ve seen. With fantastically decorated sides and realistic 3D physics, each roll brings you further into another universe; of great heroes and terrible enemies, of sorcerers and thieves, of forgotten dungeons and dark forests. Of taverns and bazaars of times long gone.