Dungeon of the Endless Review

In an attempt to separate their latest game from the pack, Amplitude Studios decided to include everything except the kitchen sink; however, I wouldn’t be surprised if we found one of those somewhere in the game either. Dungeon of the Endless is definitely a rogue-like, but it’s also part RPG, tower defense, 4X strategy and squad-based dungeon crawler. Basically they made the most comprehensive game in existence and it’s bloody brilliant. By combining so many different aspects from various game genres Amplitude Studios created a game that fits almost everyone’s play style.

Want to pretend this is Clash of Clans and build as many turrets as possible? Go ahead, there are all kinds of laser cannons and gas traps to lay down. If that’s not your thing then you can pick a squad of brutish thugs and just walk through the dungeon killing everything in sight. Sciences can be researched, gear can be purchased and there is more than enough carnage to go around. The best part of Dungeon of the Endless is that everything is randomized, so no matter how many times you die it’ll never feel like the same game.

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This is where it all begins…

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN AURIGA

Well honestly it seems like there’s only one way to die, and that’s to be eaten by mutated monsters. However, there are lots of ways to prevent death or missteps that can lead to an untimely demise. The game takes place on the planet Auriga where a ship full of criminals, who were given a second chance at freedom, was sent to uncover its mysteries. Of course nothing goes according to plan and their ship is shot down by a cloaked defense system. Foreseeing possible unfortunate circumstances, each holding cell was also a hybrid escape pod and the inmates plunged into an extensive cellar somewhere in a facility on Auriga. It’s now up to the player to form a team capable of making it back to the surface alive.

While the story sounds at least mildly interesting, there’s really no plot once the game begins. There is the occasional banter between party members after the completion of a dungeon floor, but none of it ever gets too deep. Although it’s a bit unfortunate that the big picture isn’t fleshed out more over the course of the game, it does present an opportunity to create an ever evolving story. This requires some use of that imagination thing that most of us left in the attic some years ago, but because of the random composition of dungeon tiles every playthrough is unique.

Players will meet up with old and new party members, and NPCs, during different stages of the game. Whether or not you choose to hire these characters will directly impact how the game is played thereafter, which characters will be unlocked at the start of a new game, and the discussions that take place after a level’s completion.  This leads to very dynamic gameplay that keeps rehashing itself without requiring constant content updates.

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…and this is where it ends.

With that being said, I died a lot during my time with Dungeon of the Endless and so will you. Everything in this game is put in place to kill you, or make you think it’s going to kill you. Most rooms will contain monsters that will attempt to eat your characters or destroy your ship’s crystal. There are also ancient artifacts scattered about that can either help or harm you once activated. Turns are processed whenever a new door is opened, so while players gain supplies monsters can also spawn from every room in the ship that isn’t powered or occupied. This becomes increasingly dangerous when wrong turns are taken or the maze just becomes punishingly difficult.

In order to complete each level players have to move their crystal from the starting point to the destination point, which is only discovered by crawling through the dungeon. However, when the crystal is picked up hordes of monsters begin spewing out of every corner of the dungeon; this is where the game shifts from explore mode to an all-out gauntlet. And this is also where most people end up dying. Either the character carrying the crystal is too slow, too weak, or luck is simply not on their side. The best thing to do is learn from your mistakes and try to figure out where you went wrong. Things won’t be the same next time, but maybe you’ll be better prepared for the unexpected.

CHOOSE YOUR PLAY STYLE

Each character in Dungeon of the Endless has a very obvious set of strengths and weaknesses that can make or break a play session. Because of how diverse each character is, between both stats and abilities, there are many unique ways to try and tackle the dungeons. Characters like Troe Pekenyo and Gork “Butcher” Koroser are great at bashing in monsters’ skulls and opening doors. Groups can be stacked with these slow but hard hitting characters to clear monsters through brute force, or they can be teamed up with quicker character like Sara Numas (Samus Aran anagram anyone?) or Lady Joleri Tulak who are both great at running the crystal.

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But there’s all kinds of death in between.

Besides just focusing on stats there characters that excel at certain tasks because of their abilities. Joleri isn’t nearly as fast as Sara, but her Scamper ability allows her to move through enemies without being hindered. Furthermore, Elise Ness gains the operate skill that improves modules she’s near; this allows her to excel at placing turrets and maintaining defensive modules. If building and strategy aren’t your thing then it’s possible to grind out every room in every dungeon in order to buy powerful equipment for your characters instead of investing it into infrastructure. Between the different gameplay styles and dungeon randomization the possibilities are truly endless.

DO IT WITH A FRIEND

While the single-player experience is already great, the multiplayer aspect makes the game even more dynamic. There are, however, the standard issue with online play due to trolls, newbies, and players that simply aren’t good. The multiplayer mode is also pretty seamless and there are no turns or countdowns so it’s very easy for impatient players to ruin the game for everyone. The positive is that if someone goes AFK you don’t necessarily have to wait around for them. So if you’re looking to be competitive or have your sights set on finishing a certain achievement it’s best to play online with only friends.

Up to four players can work together in a single cooperative match. This provides an inherent bonus of two additional characters right off the bat. Another perk is that players can share resources together. This means that one strong, high-damaging character can quickly become geared to open doors while other players focus on science upgrades or building defensive structures. This requires a great deal of cooperation, but my online experiences have been mostly positive so far. Everything that makes the single-player content so great is amplified during the multiplayer experience.

Unfortunately there are a few issues with multiplayer right now, but most could be easily addressed by the development team. First off, you can’t create private multiplayer sessions, which results in both randomly being kicked from games and having to kick other players if you’re waiting on friends. The second issue is with server stability. I lost my connection to multiple games without actually having any internet service problems; this also causes the game to end and it’s impossible to rejoin. Finally, there is no option to save multiplayer games. This can become an issue since it’s possible for a match of Dungeon of the Endless to take hours and sometimes life happens. None of these issues are game breaking, but they due deter from the overall experience.

A FEW ISSUES WITH BALANCE

The only real problem I have with Dungeon of the Endless is rooted in its core structure. The randomness of the dungeons provides for very different, but also unbalanced experiences. One playthrough and I’ll get some amazing technology upgrades, enough dust to light every room and the best characters will join my squad. The next and I’ll get murdered after the first five rooms because I didn’t have enough industry or dust and I was quickly overwhelmed with monsters.

It's pretty obvious that some characters are stronger than others.

It’s pretty obvious that some characters are stronger than others.

The issue with balance due to random map generation is likely something that will just have to be tolerated, but there also appear to be characters with significant advantages over others. For example, the four starting characters all seem incredibly weak compared to some that are found along the way. Gork is the exception here, but his lack of speed clearly compensates for his strength advantage. Max O’Kane is slightly more balanced, and does have some good abilities, but Deena feels almost worthless and Sara only excels with her high speed.

VERDICT

There is simply no other game on the market like Dungeon of the Endless. The game mechanics are diverse and each play attempt is just as exciting as the last. This is a great game for anyone who’s sick of scripted gameplay and wants to try something that’s clever and daring. Not only is the game itself amazing but the soothing synthesized chiptunes created by FlybyNo set the dark and dreary atmosphere. Do yourself a favor and pickup Dungeon of the Endless, it’s fairly inexpensive and well worth the money.

Pros:

Unique, dynamic gameplay

Randomized dungeons

Great soundtrack

Cons:

Multiplayer server issues

Unbalanced characters

Overall Score:

8.5/10

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About Nick Shively

Nick is an eSports and RPG enthusiast. He can normally be found in the deepest parts of a dungeon or in the arena slaying opponents. Nick has been a gamer since an early age and involved in the industry since 2011. He obtained a degree in journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2015.