Part role-playing game, part tower defense strategy game, Dungeon of the Endless is a spin-off from Amplitude Studios' Endless series that features extremely difficult gameplay and retro 8-bit art. Prepare to watch your heroes suffer brutal, repeated deaths as you wrack your brain and test your luck for the best escape strategy.
In this rogue-like dungeon crawler, a spaceship breaks apart and its modules land crash on a nearby planet. Survivors have to make their way up 12 levels to reach the surface with the module's power core while alien creatures threaten to invade. The trick to it all is that players have to use their heroes to explore each floor, room by room, to find the exit point. While doing so, they have to build structures that generate resources and defend rooms when they can. Resources follow the same logic as other Endless games. There's Industry, which is used to build structures. Science is generally used to research new technologies, but doing so is dependent on discovering a research device. Food is necessary for recruiting new characters, leveling them up, and healing. Lastly, there's Dust, which is treated as energy. Players need a prerequisite amount of dust to bring power from the core to a room. Powering up a room allows you to build resource generators and defenses in addition to fortifying it against alien entry, as they can only enter through darkened rooms. Earning Dust comes mainly through opening doors, but a small amount can be gained by killing creatures and through a handful of random events.
Despite how Dungeon of the Endless has a number of role-playing and strategic elements, a good portion of the game comes down to plain luck. Each floor is randomly generated, so you're never sure how many rooms you'll get or what each one will hold. Opening a door to a new room effectively counts as a turn, and this is the only time resources are acquired. So, if there's no place to build a resource generator in the first room you open, you'll be wasting turns until you do. Once you're out of new rooms to open, you'll be out of turns. That means no new resources are coming your way, and you'll have to make the best with what you have. You'll have to move the power core from its base to the elevator while endless waves of creatures come to attack you.
Dying is part of the learning process, and it's a lesson that you'll become very well acquainted with through each iteration of the game. Even the mockingly titled "Too Easy" and "Easy" difficulty setting are extremely challenging. The paltry tutorial teaches you how to open doors, watch as your heroes automatically combat aliens, and build generators, then it leaves you to discover everything else on your own. Players have to figure out how to balance resource generation against using them to build defenses, research, and improving the party of heroes. Then there's the matter of how there's only enough Dust available to power a certain number of rooms, which decreases if creatures manage to damage the power core.
You move from floor to floor with the resources that you've managed to save from the previous one, so it's beneficial to be frugal. Players also start with two heroes who have to do their best to make their way through until they happen upon a new companion on the way. Even then, adding them to your party (with a maximum size of four) requires that you have enough Food on hand to hire them. Additional members do come in handy, considering how a hero is pretty much taken out of play while carrying the power core, and players have to figure out how best to use whatever resources they have to survive against tougher enemies and ever dwindling odds.
Dungeon of the Endless isn't the kind of game that has a lot of mass appeal. It's designed for the kind of player that appreciates having over half the game almost completely based on chance, and gets a sense of satisfaction out of making it an inch further than they did the last playthrough. Even making it past the third floor is a major victory. There's no sense of how big each floor is going to be, what kind of rooms you'll get, and what kind of enemies you'll encounter. The only things you can rely on are the resources you carry over from the previous floor (except for Dust), along with whatever technology and gear you managed to pick up, and your wits. Being able to hit pause and issue commands helps a little too.
On one playthrough, I encountered a giant creature that completely my heroes and defenses while on the first floor, forcing me to start all over again. Should you be lucky enough to make your way through one pod, then you can make your way over to the next one, which has its own set of distinct challenges and bonuses.
Personally, I don't like having so much left to chance, but I can definitely see the appeal. There's tremendous satisfaction in making it through a floor that you've been stuck on for several playthroughs. Each success is like overcoming the impossible. It's also hard to get bored with a level that's different each time you play it. For hardcore players, Dungeon of the Endless could be the game that will occupy your time and mind for what seems to be... well... endless ages.
Dungeon of the Endless
- Very challenging gameplay
- Mix of role-playing and tower defense strategy
- Gameplay relies too much on chance
- Tutorial doesn't teach you very much