Endless fun in a dungeon!
Title: Dungeon of the Endless
Platform: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Switch
Developer: Amplitude Studios
Release date: May 15th, 2020
Tl;dr: Crawling around dark and dingy dungeons has never been so much fun
Price: PS4: £24.99/$29.99 / Switch: £29.99/$34.99
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I don’t like Roguelikes. Dungeon crawls don’t really do it for me and that permanent death stuff? Psh. Give me life any day. At least, this is what I was thinking before being handed the keys to Amplitude Studios latest success in waiting, Dungeon of the Endless, a PS4 port of the original 2014 PC title that saw rave reviews and great community feedback. And I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I’d go as far as to say I was – and still am – downright addicted. Bravo.
Firstly, Dungeon of the Endless isn’t just a Roguelike. Part Tower Defense, the game sees players take control of their chosen character and crawl their way through a dark, dingy dungeon in the hope that at some point they’ll stumble across the exit. Monsters will come at them, players will fight them, and then they will either live to fight another day or will die an unfortunate and permanent death. Ok, that does sound pretty Roguelike, but I did say this game was part Tower Defence too, right? Having stumbled around for long enough by now you’ll have noticed that most rooms have a number of nodes set into the floor, normally a large one surrounded by 4 or 5 smaller ones. On the large node you’re able to build Generators/Replicators that produce either Industry, Science or Food points. Each time you open a door in the dungeon you’ll receive additional points relevant to these 3 things. I’ll tell you now, it’s handy to have a lot. Industry, for example, is used to build bigger, better Generators/Replicators, Support and Debuff items, as well as Offence weapons. Science is used to research and improve these units. And Food? Food is used to Level Up characters, recruit new members, and to exchange for goods at the ‘Shop’ for armour, buffs or weapons. I say ‘Shop’ here because it’s actually an NPC that you occasionally stumble upon who’s often found muttering some slightly disturbing things… Me thinks thou hath been in thy dungeon too long, Shopmaster.
Anyway, back to those tower defense tools and you’ve got a whole host to choose from. On the Defense side of things, Support items such as Biomass Factories, which convert dead bodies into Industry units, and Dust Fields, which up Defence qualities of heroes and NPCs in a particular room, can really help turn the tide when the monsters are piling up. On the Offensive side, your standard Prisoner Prods are handy little shooters but you’re going to want to deploy things like Claymoar Mines, which deliver high damage to enemies in the room, and KIP Cannons, whose attack power is determined by how much Science you’ve got stacked, if you really want to survive the night (and the day). Obviously all these things can be upgraded with Science to be more heavy hitting, more damage inducing, or more effective in Support or Debuff, and the further you climb/crawl the more you’re going to want to make sure you do so. Trust me.
Which brings me to another point: you’re going to want to spend. Spend, Spend, Spend. For the love of God, spend. If you don’t, You. Will. Die. It’s as simple as that. I found this out the hard way, allowing my arrogance and greed to get the better of me. ‘I’ll be out of this dungeon in a jiffy’, I thought. ‘No need to bother upgrading anyone or anything, let alone building new contraptions to protect me’. Cue lots of monsters, lots of panic, and lots of death. Well, only one death because death’s permanent in this genre, but you get what I mean. Yes, you might at first scoff at the idea of spending 40 Industry points on a new Third Gen Industry Generator, claiming you’ll just ‘get by’ with a First Gen one, but you won’t, and by the time you find yourself stuck in a room with 2 extra weapon nodes but no money left to build anything, or 4 un-upgraded and ineffective Prisoner Prods unable to protect you as countless monsters pile in and tear your team to shreds, you’ll be screaming, ‘Why O Why didn’t I just spend the money?!’
I do have a little niggle, though, and that is that in the easier mode, providing your character has the speed, when the going got tough I sometimes found it simple enough just to run past – or through – the hordes and to the exit. This wasn’t something I did – or could do – all the time, if at all on the harder settings – but something to keep in mind if you’re wanting to play it on an easier mode as it does somewhat ruin the point of constructing much in the way of offense/defence. My PS4 also occasionally seemed to struggle with the frame rate in the later levels, when the hordes got bigger and there was more action happening on the screen, becoming sluggish and jerky, which is a tad annoying when alarms are going off everywhere and you’re trying to put out a million metaphorical fires. These small things aside, the game does almost everything right and really not much wrong in the way of gameplay; it’s mostly fast, slick and fun, with layers of upgrades and swathes of items to get your teeth into.
Dungeon of the Endless also has a cool addition that needn’t have been added but that in doing so shows that the developers have put a lot of time and effort into crafting a game that’s got a heart and isn’t just a run of the mill cut-and-paste job. ‘Album’ is accessible from the Main Menu and as you progress through the game, recruit new characters and encounter different monsters, you’ll unlock artwork that, when viewed, will tell you a little bit more about that particular thing. For example, after encountering the serpent-like monster, besides its cool artwork in the Album is scribbled, ‘Vile Snake. Uses paralysis. Want to run away, but can’t. Terrifying’. It’s a nice touch, and can actually be quite helpful for identifying what a monster’s specialities are, such as strength, magical buffs/debuffs or, as this example shows, paralysis. It acts a little like a scrapbook, and I found it has almost the same effect on me as the slogan ‘Gotta catch ‘em all!’ does with the Pokemon games I’m savagely addicted to, weirdly egging me on to do better and crawl further – to ‘catch ‘em all’! In addition, for those of you who like the competitive side of gaming – speedruns n’ all – Journal is also included, which keeps track of your high scores and game statistics for bragging rights.
Story-wise, well, there really isn’t a story – or much of one, anyway. But there is a War Pug. Recruit him and he’ll cause all kinds of trouble for those demons hell-bent on destroying your power crystal. But I digress. The story? Your prison transport ship’s been attacked on its approach to Auriga. Before it’s destruction you and 1 other climbed aboard an escape pod (you can choose between a number of unlockable ones each with their own gameplay buffs) and jettisoned it, hurtling down to the planet’s surface and crashing, rather, unfortunately, in a local dungeon – the dungeon of The Endless. Your ship’s a no-go and your pod’s destroyed but the sparkly power crystal’s still a good’n – you just have to crawl your way out of a dungeon infested with sparkly-power-crystal-hungry monsters with it and you’re golden. In doing so, you’ll also discover the true secret of Auriga and The Endless. It’s short and sweet but it needn’t be anything else because you’re not really here for the story, you’re here for Roguelike Tower Defence fun, and Roguelike Tower Defence fun is definitely what you shall have.
It’s worth mentioning the character roster here as well, which is large and full of quirkiness. Aside from the ‘regular’ humans, there are aliens, robots, someone driving a bulldozer, a fake Arnold Schwarzenegger, that pug mentioned beforehand, and loads more, all with their own strengths and weaknesses. Choose wisely – there’s nothing worse than an unbalanced team. There’s also a little added character depth in the form of short biographies if you so wish to delve, really more pleasantry than a necessity, though players who like a little more flesh on their characters will likely appreciate it. It’s also worth mentioning that, although the characters don’t have much dialogue in the game, when they do speak it’s often in quips, and they can be pretty hilarious, especially the ones when they’re in the elevator travelling between floors.
Overall, I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed playing Dungeon of the Endless. It’s found a good balance between being both fast & fun and frantic & frustrating, is incredibly addictive, and its pixel artwork looks rather nice as well – this coming from someone who also doesn’t normally like pixel art! There’s a large roster of quirky characters, items and weapons, and its replayability is through the roof. Plus, the addition of a collectable ‘Album’ of sorts really is the cherry on top. If you can forgive the occasional frame rate issues, Dungeon of the Endless is well worth the time and money you’re going to spend on it. Now, where did I leave that power crystal…
- Fun, fast and frantic gameplay
- A whole host of upgradable items, equipment and offence/defence weapons
- The addition of a collectable Album
- Highly addictive (maybe this is bad…?)
- Can often escape monster hordes easily on easier modes
- Some frame rate issues when the action gets a little too intense
Dungeon of the Endless is rated PEGI 7 and T for Teen by the ESRB. Contains pixel art blood, violence and threat.
This review is based on a retail code of the game supplied by PR for the purpose of review.