Dungeon Of The Endless Review – A Retro Roguelike To Rival FTL
Rogue-like games are becoming an interesting fad for indie games today that seem to be a winning formula as of late. Games like Dwarf Fortress, Spelunky, Binding of Isaac, FTL, and even the original Diablo all benefitted from the common feature of randomized dungeons or levels that kept every game or iteration fresh and different from the next. This feature of this genre makes the concept of exploration exciting given that you never know what your are going to encounter (enemy-wise) or discover (loot-wise) next. Amplitude Studios has managed to harness core of this premise beautifully in their new sci-fi game, Dungeon Of The Endless.
Developer: Amplitude Studios
Publisher: Amplitude Studios
Platform: PC (Steam)
Release Date: Oct 27, 2014
Rather than just making another rogue-like and calling it a day, Amplitude Studios incorporated the Tower Defense format to create an experience that is just as difficult as it is addictive. As in FTL, the action plays out in a kind of real time strategy game where you control multiple characters to achieve a certain goal. In Dungeon of the Endless, while the mission sounds simple, the execution of it is quite another story.
Crash landing on an alien planet in an escape pod, your 2-4 heroes must work together to not only protect their ship’s energy crystal, but they must move it 12 levels to the surface to escape. In between them and the surface are a host of alien life forms all drawn to the crystal’s power and hell-bent on killing your characters to get to it. Lucky for them, the room and passages beneath the surface were home to another forgotten group called the Endless. Using different strategies, you manage between scientific, food, ‘dust’, and industry resources in order to build defensive structures and escape. Of course, resources are scarce and manpower is as well. Couple that with the possibility of unpredictable spawning of alien hordes from perceived dead ends and you have the recipe for your disaster around every door opening!
With a difficulty level rivaling that of the Star Trek-esque FTL, Dungeon of the Endless is structured to reward you in a similar fashion for success. Manage to power through the 12 levels and you’ll unlock access to a new character. Each of these characters all have different abilities, stats, and skills that are upgradable and enhanced by equipping various discovered loot. I found myself foolishly trying to race through levels quickly with play sessions that were MUCH shorter than my experiences with FTL. At times, I even found that I could die within the first 5 minutes of gameplay simply because I didn’t pay attention to my health. Humbling is hardly the word but frustration could be at times.
Still, the roll of the die of opening just one more door hoping for the exit or more resources is a thrill that few game formulas have success in like Dungeon of the Endless does. A quick ‘try-again’ could easily turn into a ‘past midnight’ marathon that has no save points to reload if a mistake is made. Permadeath is swift and final as each decision made could easily swing the needle from ‘ok I’m ready to try and leave’ to ‘OMG I wish I didn’t do that!’
Skillfully woven in the fabric of the game is a light-hearted humor and simplistic but satisfying retro graphic style that gets the point across when the action ramps up. For some, these graphics are an artistic homage to the past while others could see it as an industry fad that is beginning to be a bit tiring. That all depends upon how you feel about graphics and quality. One thing is for certain. The graphics do not hinder the animation or action or feel of the game as the color palettes used are very bright and inviting to me.
For those familiar with the ‘Endless’ storyline featured in Amplitude’s other games Endless Space and Endless Legend, the characters chosen at the beginning (as well as the escape pod) affect the story and supposedly how you play. Due to my ineffective skill, I’ve been unable to unlock other escape pods to confirm the differences but one this is for certain, I will continue to try!
While my experience with the game did not include the multiplayer mode, this is probably where the game shines. With a group of friends (or friendly strangers), I’d hope that the experience becomes a bit easier with the team discussing the resource spending and planning out their escape. I could also see the collaboration being harder as well if there is no agreement. That will certainly be the next on my ‘to do’ list after escaping on my own!
At a modest $12.99 on Steam, Amplitude Studios has offered yet another welcome addition to their ‘Endless’ franchise and even have a Founder’s Pack offering that unlocks a new mode (the Library ship complete with a new character) as well as a discount on purchase of Endless Space and one of its expansions.
3.5 out of 5