Back in December we previewed the Rouge-lite, RPG, tower defence, survival game Dungeon of the Endless, and it certainly made a good impression. However, for how enjoyable, clever and compelling it was, copious amounts of bugs kept ruining the experience and causing frustration. However, three months later and Dungeon of the Endless has hit digital shelves, and wonderfully the bugs are all gone.
Dungeon of the Endless combines mechanics and themes from tower defence, RPGs, and survival games to craft an experience that challenges you tactically, encourages risk for potential reward, pits you against swarms of enemies in frantic, heart pounding combat, and even hints at an intriguing story. It’s a wonderfully varied package that makes it appealing to a large audience.
It doesn’t, however, teach you it’s mechanics very well. The tutorial is somewhat hidden away amongst in-game menus, and it’s text-based when/if you do find it. However, with a little trial and error things become clearer. Fortunately, despite this lack of introduction and a wealth of nuance, it’s all fairly intuitive.
Having crash-landed on an alien planet and penetrating deep into a not-so-natural network of caves, you take control of a pair of survivors and must uncover the procedurally generated dungeon made up of rooms filled with mysterious architecture and technology, find the exit, grab your escape pod’s crystal and climb to the surface 12 floors up. But of course it’s not as easy as that, as each floor is also full of monsters. These beasts are discovered randomly as you unlock each door to each new section of the dungeon, and also have a chance to spawn in any discovered but unpowered rooms. In order to limit the monster spawns and protect your party of survivors and the escape pod’s crystal, you need to use your resources to power rooms and then build defences, support modules, and resource generating nodes.
As you explore each level you’ll also encounter venders selling equipment to boost your stats – such as attack, defence and HP – as well as treasure chests also housing equipment, abandoned technology that has a chance to grant you more resources, and other characters eager to join your party and escape to the surface. Indeed exploration can be a rewarding thing, however, with monsters spawning randomly each turn and the dungeon being procedurally generated, there’s always the risk of biting off more than you can chew.
Finding other characters allows you to modify your party, adding new member until you have a full set of four and even allowing you to switch out members if you find someone more suited to help you survive and escape the dangers ahead. Meanwhile, spending resources wisely to not only defend you, your crystal and your resource nodes, but also to level up your characters, encourages even more risk as you feel compelled to gain every piece of equipment and all possible resources to better prepare you for what’s coming on the next level. It’s hugely entertaining and immersive.
Meanwhile, research crystal can also be found on each level and through them you can enhance and upgrade your defences, resource generators, support modules, and even power generators, which all help to combat the growing threat of enemies on each level and better light up the dungeon to keep you safe. And as you climb nearer the surface the enemy’s numbers increase dramatically, as do their stats, posing an even greater threat.
It can certainly prove challenging to keep on top of all this, especially playing alone and trying to manage all four characters yourself, however, with online coop available, up to three friends can join, take control of a character or two, and aid you. This is where Dungeon of the Endless truly shines, and working together to explore each level, design defence strategies and collect resources, allows for some excellent emergent storytelling, as well as oodles of fun.
Completing a play-through takes a good three hours or so, and with the large rooster of characters available, all with their own strengths and weaknesses, there’s plenty of incentive to dive back in. Moreover, different escape pods can be chosen at the start – once they’re unlocked – which modify the experience with additional challenges, all this on top of the procedurally generated nature of the title and Dungeon of the Endless possesses strong longevity.
Indeed Dungeon of the Endless is a challenging but superbly entertaining Rouge-lite adventure. The mixture of mechanics from multiple genres works together remarkably well, and the whole experience is masterfully balanced to provide a stiff challenge but one that seldom feels unfair. Now that all the bugs from the preview version have been eradicated, Dungeon of the Endless comes highly recommended.
Thanks to Xbox and Amplitude for supporting TiX