Title: Dungeon of the Endless
Platform: Steam, PC, Mac, Xbox One and Linux (Planned)
Reviewed on: Windows
Genre: RPG, Rogue-
Players: Single player, Co Op 1-
Written by Whistler 31st October 2014
My crew stands in the elevator shaft, illuminated by the dim light of the core, our symbol of hope.
Rakya takes what could be the last draw of her seemingly endless cigarette; Hikensha the purple xeno warrior doesn’t budge an inch, no words are given, instead she takes a moment to glance at her worn blade. The red armour encased law enforcer Elise cocks her oversized machine gun, a cloud of moisture builds on the front end of her helmet. The long dark hallway that stands before them is littered with the dead, broken makeshift defences and is our ticket out, but we know the core took a beaten with the last wave of monstrosity’s scars still resonating on our spirits.
Sara Numas presses her hand on the core and lets out a sigh of realization, it’s go time; she grabs the core in her hands, the red haze descends and we make our mad dash to the exit.
We made a large oversight though, doors are thrown open as the flood claws its way towards us, Hikensha knows we have no chance, she makes a last stand to slow them down. Rakya realizes she won’t make it to the elevator shaft in time so she rushes back to help the warrior but it is all for naught, both are lost despite their best efforts but the survivors make it.
The glow from the core explodes the elevator to life in a blinding flash of light, we live another day but the solemn remembrance of the fallen echoes true, a quick respite and it’s time to go again.
It’s moments like this you will experience (minus the slight over dramatization) when playing Amplitude Studios’ latest project to release after it’s Early Access cocoon, and it’s moments like this you’ll learn of the game’s cruel learning experience similar to the likes of Dark Souls and The Binding of Isaac.
Yup seems like you couldn’t keep me away from the rogue-
It is actually surprising that when you play Frankenstein with this many genre tropes that you don’t end up with some bloated abomination that has long forgotten its original vision or an incomplete patchwork of good intentions that just hinder rather than complement each other. Instead it shows the strong points of each element without diving too deep one particular medium.
DOTE tells the tale of a handful of survivors who emerge from within the burning wreckage of a prison space vessel to discover they have crashed into a mysterious underground system and now must ascend twelve increasingly difficult floors as they build makeshift turrets, generators and defend against waves of xeno swarms. From here floors are played out in two rotating phases, one you start with whichever two survivors you chose from (you can choose one hero to join a band of four in multiplayer) and slowly explore the rooms of the floor each turn gathering resources and building structures. Each time a door is opened resources are gained and there’s a chance to clash with aliens, find some loot or discover a survivor/merchant (business is business I suppose). Once the door is opened and the event dealt with you then have infinite time to reassess the situation, build and upgrade in the tower defence tradition, a twist on this mind you is that towers and generators (or modules as they’re called in DOTE) are locked in place in each room. Pathway plans are a departure from the formula instead you have to make due with whichever number of modules are dotted in each room and while towers understandably cost Industry, the standard currency for building, rooms require power in the form of Dust which is rationed to the player after the first few rooms and occasionally from the corpses of the alien onslaught. Should a previously opened room be unpowered when opening a new door then you will likely run the risk of spawning aliens in that room, which creates a balancing act between ensuring a path to the exit you try to find and covering your flanks and making sure your core is protected.
While I’ll admit though the towers are nothing new, most are all that we’ve came to expect from the tower defence genre but it’s the combinations of towers, modules and your heroes that reshape your understanding of the mechanics. After researching upgrades or special turrets via the occasional science crystals (spent with the third currency, Science) you’ll eventually come across modules that boost hero stats, healing or slowing turrets that enable the player to use the heroes as powerful mobile defences.
While starting with two heroes you can recruit up to two more survivors you come across with the Food resource, this currency can also be used to heal heroes during waves and upgrade their stats adding the RPG element of the game.
After discovering the exit you’ll come across a cross roads as exploring the rest of the floor allows you to save up resources for the next floor, possibly grab some extra loot and ensure all your corners are covered; but on the other hand you could just make sure you’ve got enough to light up the path to the exit, arm it to the teeth and make a mad dash for it to hopefully avoid some unnecessary casualties or draining of resources. Once you decide upon either option, one of your heroes will be tasked with grabbing the core you’ve protected this whole time to then make the run for the exit where the other heroes can be used to slow down unprotected choke points or to stick around the crystal carrier just in case as the waves will become endless until you exit the floor (just hopefully you don’t leave before all heroes are in the exit room as they will be left behind). Every floor I just utterly loved this idea, while at first I was getting my face kicked in every time for the first handful of tries I eventually learned how to handle this phase and it still got the adrenaline pumping creating that teeth biting, leap of faith moments that add to the overall experience.
To me the heroes are what make this shine through, I honestly wasn’t sure how the game would hold as I checked in on it every now and then through the early access period but the wide selection of heroes to pick from (granted you’re locked to four of them at the start) are what helps with the replay value.
While at first heroes will appear to just be walking turrets in your command you’ll discover a surprisingly deep backstory and lore that covers the cast with the hero pool consisting of three factions, the crewmembers, prisoners and natives who just so happened to be around with the crash land.
While not apparent at first certain hero combinations open up story arcs for said heroes where you’ll slowly learn of the character’s history through dialogue like the med robot who was ‘doing research’ when sh*t hit the fan, the lawbringer who has some interesting talks with one of her ‘catches’ or perhaps the warrior cleric who shares the same physical space as a demon warrior phantom.
The varied characters and backstories are ultimately what makes me want to go again just to discover what actually happened onboard before the ship’s descent.
Eventually after god only knows how many tries (I refuse to look at my scoreboard to see how many times I failed) I did manage to finally reach the surface, battered and bruised I had bested the dungeons (surprisingly easily towards the end as my heroes became ludicrously over levelled).
The only problem is unlike games like Binding of Isaac (if you’re a previous reader, take a shot) where everytime you finish the game another layer is added to the difficulty which incentivized you to dive back in, beating one dungeon means you’ve pretty much beat any other one you’ll try as the dungeons lack any real differentiation. Largely due to the random generation rogue elements that Dungeon of the Endless utilizes, aliens don’t really change up to any degree so you’ll likely never need to tweak your strategies other than ‘add more guns to it’.
But while saying ‘I beat it once and don’t feel like I need to beat it again’ would be a death sentence to a rogue like game in an alternate universe where my reviews have power, it by no means is a bad game, far from it. It’s a solid title that offers a unique gameplay experience, that is easy to pick up and play as well as offering a balanced level of challenge that has offered me 18 hours so far (of which 3-
These are all issues that the devs have stated they’ll address and the game is fun as hell.
So with a £10 price tag and if you’re looking for an interesting hybrid game it’s most certainly worth checking out and assuming you can coordinate with 3 other friends to purchase and play it at the same time it offers a plethora of hours of gameplay similar to Sanctum and Sanctum 2.
Amplitude have proven that they know how to tackle genres in interesting ways and with two of the Endless games eating up large amount of my time (seriously check out Endless Space if you’re into Civilization-
Additively fun gameplay,
Interesting mix on the genre,
Multiplayer is a little clunky at the moment,
Little strategic variation,
Ending is unimpressive.
Dungeon of the Endless isn’t endless but it scores a solid 7/10 and deserves more should more content be added later on.