endless dungeon

ENDLESS Dungeon Review – An Absolute Blast That You Won’t Want To End

The NeverEnding Story with decidedly more guns.

The limitless potential of the science fantasy genre offers unparalleled freedom to creators, making it the perfect setting for countless of our favourite movies, books and of course, video games. It should come as no surprise then that the folks at Amplitude Studios have pivoted away from the (relatively) more grounded approach of their previous title Humankind and have instead turned back towards their beloved and award-winning ENDLESS Universe for their latest sensational release, ENDLESS Dungeon.

The tags for ENDLESS Dungeon read a bit like a grab-bag of popular gaming buzzwords; rogue-lite, tactical, procedurally generated, tower defence and twin-stick shooter all paint an ambitious and potentially messy picture of what the game is trying to be. Miraculously though, Amplitude has managed to pull it off and delivered a fresh and frenetic foray that will tax your mind as often as your thumbs. While all of that might raise some red flags for fans of the 4X strategy space operas in the ENDLESS Space series, I can assure you that there is plenty for you to love here too, with exceptional narrative writing for the characters, setting and lore of the universe.

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ENDLESS Dungeon opens with the classic sci-fi premise of your ship crash landing on an unknown space station. After a (very) brief moment to mourn the rest of your crew, you are introduced to Zed, a gun-toting rockstar who tasks you with defending a cute little Crystal Bot from the hordes of ravenous enemies that fill the halls of the derelict station and find a path forward. This is obviously no easy task and every door you open has the potential to lead to salvation, or salivating masses hell-bent on chomping the Crystal Bot and anyone who stands in their way. It’s not as simple as straight exploration and extermination though, as progression also increases your risk triggering a ‘wave’ of enemies, who will spawn from set locations on the map and make a beeline for your bot.

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Fortunately, you need not only rely on your shooting skills, or that of your companions, as each room in the station hosts nodes that allow you to build various turrets to bolster your expedition and thin the herd. Once you’ve located the ‘exit’ it’s time to uproot the Crystal Bot from its cosy recess and escort it while it ambles towards the door, as it’s the only way to unlock the different districts and floors you’ll need to conquer. Should your team of adventurers fall at any time, or if you allow the adorable Crystal Bot to perish, your run is over. Like all good rogue-lite games though, death is not the end and you’ll quickly find yourself respawning in “The Saloon.”

endless dungeon

The Saloon acts as ENDLESS Dungeon’s hub space, a place where you’ll be able to take a breather, explore the narrative elements of the game and engage with the meta-progression system of using unique resources you find to gradually increase your odds of survival. More importantly, you’ll also be introduced to the cavalcade of kooky characters who have found themselves in the same situation as you, to learn their stories and perhaps even invite them to join you on your next dungeon delve. Although you’ll start with only having access to three characters to fill two available extra slots on your team, exploring the station and unlocking boons at the Saloon will eventually grant you the ability to select from the full roster of eight, each with their own unique passive, active and ultimate skills.

Characters like Comrade can drop extra turrets to reinforce defences, Blaze can unleash homing missiles to decimate a wave and Shroom can heal companions, helping to extend your adventure. The weapons that your chosen team start with, and indeed the ones they find along the way, can also be granted bonuses by unlocking upgrades at The Saloon’s kiosk. Once you’ve regained your strength and composure, it’s time to once again descend into the station and work towards finding an escape for all of your newfound family.

endless dungeon

Once you’re back into the action, each door you open as you progress deeper and deeper will grant you a handful of three resources, Science, Industry and Food. Industry will likely be the resource you use most as it allows you to build turrets at various points in the rooms, creating choke points or kill boxes for the bad guys who’ll be aiming to kill you and the Crystal Bot. You can also use Industry to build resource generators in certain rooms (also targets for the monsters), which will grant you more of the chosen resource every time you open a door. Science points can be used to research new kinds of turrets, some with specific elemental damage types, and upgrade the ones you already have unlocked. Food is used to purchase much-needed med kits and temporary upgrades for your heroes.

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Resources persist between districts and floors (levels) so it’s important to find a balance between building the turrets you need to survive and planning for the future, as arriving at a district with empty pockets is a quick path to a hard time. Random enemy wave events and boss battles won’t be the only dangers you’ll have to contend with in ENDLESS Dungeon, but I’ll leave that for you to discover on your own. ENDLESS Dungeon is punishing in all the right ways but thankfully it also offers lower difficulty levels for players who may be new to the kind of gameplay on hand, or indeed those of us who just want to experience the narrative elements without getting stomped constantly.

endless dungeon

If any of this sounds familiar, it might be because, like me, you played Amplitude’s Dungeon of the ENDLESS way back in 2014. Although it is indeed a precursor to this game, ENDLESS Dungeon is far more of an evolution of the critically acclaimed experience as opposed to a sequel. For starters, the game is played in a somewhat isometric 3D space with gorgeously-rendered visuals for the characters, enemies, locations, and guns. Everything from the moody lighting in the hallways to the blazing bullets flying from your turrets looks awesome and is backed up by some stellar sound design. I love hearing my characters nervously chatting as we moved through dark rooms just as much as I love hearing the squelch of the last alien exploding centimetres from my beleaguered Crystal Bot.

The game’s soundtrack is also incredible, with blood-pumping tunes to accompany your alien slaughter, but also some that have clearly been inspired by favourites like Bastion or Transistor. The cinematics are also beautifully illustrated and narrated to make the story of the game and the expansive lore of the ENDLESS Universe a bit more accessible for newcomers, but reading nerds like me will find plenty to dive into between runs. Even the interaction between characters in the Saloon takes its cues from titles like Hades, giving so much personality to their charming hand-drawn portraits. This is a long way of saying that the presentation on offer from ENDLESS Dungeon is pretty well flawless.

endless dungeon

Given this is a twin-stick shooter, I played using my Xbox One controller and I found the controls to be as snappy and responsive as you’d want in a high-octane game such as this. I tried using a mouse and keyboard for a little bit, and it was perfectly serviceable, but I highly recommend playing with a controller if you can. I also encountered only a few bugs while I was playing, most of which the developers are aware of and have stressed will be fixed for launch. There was one strange instance where the boss of a level spawned in but was invisible, leading to me being able to damage him but not see the secondary mechanic needed to put him down for good. Although this led to me dying and my 40-minute run ending unceremoniously, I was only mildly frustrated and the next time I encountered the boss it was fine.

endless dungeon

ENDLESS Dungeon also offers online multiplayer for up to 3 people, though I wasn’t able to get a proper feel for this during my initial review period. I’ll definitely be checking it out after launch so if that is important to you, be sure to check back once I’ve had the chance to play it. Thankfully the in-game AI is perfectly capable for solo players, though I imagine that replacing them with some friends or random internet strangers will be an absolute blast. There also looks to be an ability to purchase some different skins for the selectable characters, however I also didn’t engage with that during my review period.

endless dungeon
Conclusion
ENDLESS Dungeon is an exceptional example of genre-crossing excitement that offers players an ever-changing adventure in rich surroundings. The love, attention (and Dust) that Amplitude Studios has clearly poured into this title elevates it to a worthy addition to the already-fantastic ENDLESS universe.
Positives
Exciting and ever-evolving gameplay
Dynamic characters and arsenal to play with
Beautiful visual presentation
Excellent voice acting and score
AI companions hold up in solo play
Negatives
Meta-progression feels a little limited
Some gameplay elements are unclear to begin with
8.5