By Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF)
Dungeon of the Endless is the latest game in the Endless Universe, brought to us by AMPLITUDE Studios. This time around, instead of another amazing 4X title, they’ve decided to delve into the realm of rogue-likes and give the genre their own unique twist. Combining elements from strategy, turn-based RPGs, 4X-like resource management, and tower-defense, the game is set up to be just as wonderful as the other titles in the Endless Universe. As such it should come as no surprise that I jumped into this review with a bit of excitement filling my sails.
As this game shares the same universe as the other Endless games, there’s going to be some similarities. For example, Dungeon of the Endless uses the same resource system of Food/Industry/Research as the other games. Dust also makes a return, once again acting as a sort of currency. The ancient race of the Endless make a sort of return, as the creators of the massive complex you crash land on. There are also a lot of 4X-like elements mixed into this rogue-like game, a lot of them mirroring systems in Endless Space and Endless Legend.
The graphics in Dungeon of the Endless are not very detailed. They have an intentionally blocky-and-pixelated nature meant to give the impression of a retro game. They’re not quite as retro as the original Rogue, but they’re still 2D. Despite all that, if you’re a fan of the retro look, the art style is definitely fitting for the game and I have to say I enjoyed the aesthetics a great deal. However, I can see how some people could be turned off by the graphics and I can’t blame them. This type of art-style is either something you appreciate or you don’t, and if you don’t, that can often mean you can’t make yourself stand playing the game.
Might just me, but this looks beautiful.
An Interesting Story
Like Endless Space and Endless Legend, Dungeon of the Endless has a fairly interesting background story to give the game some meaning. You are one of several prisoners who are on a massive prison ship on its way to colonize a planet. However, the planet turned out to be protected by a massive complex built by the Endless that came to life and shot your ship to pieces. You start the game with two of the prisoners and nothing else but the power core of your escape pod to help you get started.
So, your goal is to get from the very bottom of the complex to the very top. To what end, I don’t know yet. All that matters is survival and that seemingly hinges on finding the next elevator and transporting the power crystal to it to unlock the next floor. It’s a simple enough story, but it gives you just the right amount of substance to become invested in it without making you read dozens of paragraphs beforehand. This wouldn’t be so impressive if not for a fact that a vast majority of games completely fail at giving you a story that you care about.
As Dungeon of the Endless is meant to be a “rogue-like” it plays a lot like other rogue-likes. You start with a character or two, you progress them through the dungeon and develop them, and search for a way out. There’s a lot of dungeon crawling and plenty of enemies waiting behind closed doors to end your life. However, AMPLITUDE has given the genre their own twist, such as resources and technology research. So while you can expect some of that good ole’ Rogue-like gameplay, there’s a lot of new stuff to learn and do as well.
Randomly generated for each game.
The game consists of various levels of this massive complex built by the Endless. You start at the very bottom, and there are plenty of different tiers for you to go through. As you might expect, the closer you get to the top, the harder things will get. The maps get bigger, too. As you enter new rooms on each level, you’ll usually find some enemies along with some useful resource. Your job is to explore the level, set up infrastructure to make things easier and safer, all building towards a successful escort of that power crystal.
As I mentioned, there’s some 4X elements for you to play with such as the resources. There’s food for leveling up your characters and healing them in combat, industry for building new infrastructure and defenses, and research for researching new stuff to kill things with. There’s also dust, which is used to buy things from the shop as well as power rooms so you can build things and stop enemies from spawning in them. It’s probably a good idea to build lots of defense lasers in the room immediately in front of the room holding your crystal, for example.
Ignore that my crystal is under attack.
You can build infrastructure, such as nodes that will help generate industry or food. These can help you along and also act as a sort of defense. If enemies are focusing on destroying your food generator, it’ll take them that much longer to get to your crystal. Having the extra resources to research new ways to protect your crystal, level up your characters, or build more defenses is nice, too. You start out with very few options to build and I’m wondering if they’ll end up adding more stuff as development continues. Right now, even with research, the building options feel kinda sparse and after a while it gets boring. There are some interesting things, though, such as a defense laser that starts out weaker than the default laser, but gains more damage the more science/research points you have.
You’ll die. A lot.
Combat is very straight forward. The only control you have in combat is healing (using the aforementioned food resource) or moving to a different room (AKA running away). You can also make use of special abilities that your characters might have, which may help you out in some situations. While there can definitely be some intense combat scenarios, you won’t be doing much while it’s happening. The combat is not as involved as most of the rogue-likes I’ve played.
You can find shops sometimes, and these will give you access to some equipment. Early on, you’ll probably find yourself not making use of these shops at all. I didn’t. I’m hoping that they’ll get a bit more interesting later on, but right now I’ve been able to get by on drops for the most part. Maybe they’ll be more useful in the harder game modes once they’re available (you can only play on Very Easy and Easy for now).
At the start of the game, you pick two characters. Later on you’ll be able to pick up more prisoners to add to your group, but you start with just the two. These are all prisoners and they all have various things they’re good at, and some they’re not so good at. The thug, for example, is great for killing things but isn’t the fastest guy in town. The selection is sparse as, once again, the game is still in Early Access and not complete yet.
The Album & Journal
As you play the game, you will get messages about new pictures being added to your album. This acts as a sort of achievement system for the game. As you play new characters, fight new enemies, or generally whenever you come across something new it will be added to your album. You can then go back and look at your album, seeing the things you’ve done or the things you may have missed. It can also be a useful tool, as it’ll keep notes for you about the enemies you’ve fought – such as what kind of attacks they do and their weaknesses.
Nothing like keeping a scapebook of all the things that have killed you.
There’s also the Journal. This is basically the “scoreboard” where you can see how well you’ve done. If you’re interested in how many enemies you’ve killed or how many doors you’ve opened, this is the place to look. You can see your score for both single player games and multiplayer. So if you’re a stat junkie (which a lot of rogue-like players are) you’ll enjoy having this. It’s also worth mentioning that there are plenty of characters and even escape pods, that will give you special bonuses, to unlock. So there’s lots of hidden content for you to find, boosting the overall replayability.
Speaking of multiplayer, it is a thing in Dungeon of the Endless. A majority of rogue-likes are strictly single player, so it’s odd for one to show up with multiplayer. It plays very similar to the single player, with the major differences being you only control a single character and that it’s multiplayer(duh). Also, you apparently don’t share food resources. I can imagine myself playing a lot more frequently because of the ability to play with my friends.
Playing with my friend, Tahujoe.
AMPLITUDE has a near perfect track record when it comes to their games. Each time I’ve played one, I’ve been in a state of non-stop amazement. Dungeon of the Endless is no exception to this, either. It’s got the features I love from the 4X genre, Tower Defense games, and rogue-likes. Basically the perfect blend for wasting away a weekend in front of the computer. I don’t even need to say this, but I’ll say it anyways. I definitely suggest you pick up this game, especially now that it’s in Early Access on Steam and is only $13.