Reviews

Endless Dungeon review — The end isn’t really that far.

Endless Dungeon, from developer Amplitude Studios, is a complicated mix of genres. It is definitely a roguelite, but it is also a tower defense game as well as a dungeon crawl-ish thing. Such an ambitious mix of popular genres has a lot to live up to and it takes more than wide reaching appeal to be successful in the flooded game market. Does Endless Dungeon punch through the competition or is it not quite that endless?

Gameplay

The mix of game types at work in Endless Dungeon blend together pretty seamlessly. After the introductory cinematic, the player wakes up on a mysterious space station. The top floor of which serves as the hub for selecting characters, upgrades, and missions. This is the roguelite part of the game. Between runs you can buy permanent upgrades for the different weapons, permanent buffs to the characters, and even a third character slot or other passive benefits for your next run.

In addition to buying upgrades, you will select what area to begin in for the next run and what characters to include in it. At the beginning of the game you can only select two characters to begin with, but a third is unlockable as a purchasable upgrade. The characters in the game are all visually unique, and the nine characters you can choose from have a mix of skills split between offensive, defensive, and support.

Each character starts the run with a unique weapon and they each have their own set of three skills. The first skill is always a passive that fits in with their character flavor (offense, defense, support) with the other skills being activated with cooldowns or charges that need to be built up. The final skill is a powerful ultimate ability.

Once you begin a run, the object is to find the exit as quickly as possible. You always start in a closed room, and from there half the game is guessing which doors to open so that you can find the exit. Opening doors does three things. The first is resource generation. Building towers, upgrading your character during the run, and researching new tower types all take resources. Every time you open a door, you generate resources based on your income levels. Income can be increased by building generators on select generator locations. The second thing that happens is pretty obvious, you get access to a new room. Most of the time the new room is simply one more room in the maze, but it can also be a monster generator. Every monster generator you find is another location that you have to worry about when a wave strikes. The third thing that happens is the threat level increases. When the threat level gets too high, a wave is triggered.

The monster generators are always one type of elemental monster. The monster type will have an attack type and a weakness, for example, one of the types attacks with acid and is weak to fire. Within the elemental type, there are various subtypes with different skills and attributes like flying, or fast, or ranged attacks. Some of the more difficult types can become invisible, or spawn additional monsters, or have powerful ultimate type abilities of their own. The more monster spawners you have found, the harder each wave will be. Generally monsters will take the most direct path back to your crystal and attempt to destroy it, but they will also stop to destroy any resource generators in their path as well. Part of the strategy of the game is opening doors in such a way that you can funnel the monsters into more easily defended choke points.

Winning each level with guns and character abilities alone is impossible. This is where the Tower Defense part of the game comes in. Every room has a series of nodes on the floor that towers can be constructed on. You start the run with access to a single non-elemental tower, but can find research stations to unlock additional towers within the levels. Some rooms will have more nodes than you could possibly want, while others will be so sparse that they are rendered strategically unwise to rely upon as a defensive position. The limitation of the node locations forces the player to make smart decisions about what doors to open and which ones to leave closed in order to force the monsters into rooms that you can actually defend.

Regardless of the zone you are in, once you find the exit, you have to guide the crystal bot to it while an endless wave assaults you. If you can successfully do that, you will proceed to the next level. There are five levels to play through each run, with boss battles on levels three and five. The level three boss is going to be different depending on which zone you are in, but the level five boss is always going to be the same. The boss fights rely on severely restricting build locations and increased number of  monster  spawners  in order to create difficulty and tension for a fight that would otherwise be a trivial exercise in dodging telegraphed attacks from the boss.

It can take quite a while to work through all five levels, but you are able to save your progress at any time and exit the game. You cannot return to the hub level mid run, but being able to save and pick it up later is a lifesaver for the more time constrained gamers.

Visuals

Endless Dungeon has a cartoony aesthetic that appeals to me. The levels are split into themed zones that feel pretty samey from a gameplay standpoint but are visually distinct. All of the monster types provide visual clues into their weakness type so parsing who to attack with what is pretty easy. The different monster types are unique and provide some nice visual variety to the swarms you will be dealing with. From the killer robots, to grotesque blob creatures, there is alot to feast your eyes on while playing.

The elemental enemy and weapon types feel impactful and will have you swapping weapons and strategically placing towers to be successful. Unfortunately, the implementation of this is mostly just different colors of the same weapons and towers. A fire gun feels like an acid gun feels like an electric gun, with a few unique exceptions.

So what  do  I think about it?

Endless Dungeon is a bit of a conundrum. The different genres are woven together in a way that I think works, but I’m just not sure how fun it is. Obviously this is just one man’s opinion, but I found myself slogging through the five levels to complete the game. The reason? I’m already in love with another roguelite, tower defense, dungeon crawl-ish game.

For me, Dungeon Defenders does everything that Endless Dungeon does, but better. This mostly comes down to the restrictions that Endless Dungeon places on the tower defense aspect of the game. As a roguelite, there are so many amazing games that Endless Dungeon does not do enough to stand out on its own, so tower defense is what should give it an edge.
Limiting the build locations provides difficulty and some puzzlyness but also detracts from the fun. In addition, starting the run with access to one tower and having to research additional towers in the run means you will likely only have three to five towers by the end of the run depending on how many research stations you found and if you chose to research new towers or upgrades. Compare this to Dungeon Defenders with no restriction on build location, each character having unique tower types, and access to all of your characters towers and upgrades every level, and Endless Dungeon feels like it’s restricting the fun.

In the end, Endless Dungeon is a fine game. It is technically competent, visually interesting, and enjoyable with friends. You could do worse, but you could also do a lot better. If you are looking for an excellent Roguelite,  I would recommend Hades. If you want to mix in some tower defense, check out Dungeon Defenders.

Lead Tabletop Editor | [email protected]

A life long video gamer, Mark caught the Tabletop itch in college and has been hooked ever since. Epic two player strategy games are his favorites but he enjoys pretty much everything on the tabletop, just no Werewolf please. When he gets a break from changing diapers and reading bedtime stories he can usually be found researching new games or day dreaming about maybe one day having time for a ttrpg. Some of Mark's favorite games are Star Wars: Rebellion, A Feast for Odin, and Nemesis.

65

Alright

Endless Dungeon

Review Guidelines

Endless Dungeon tries to do a lot and is largely successful. However, the mix of genres and focus on roguelite elements over tower defense falls a bit flat in the crowded roguelite space. It provides a few hours of fun, especially with a friend, but Endless it is not.

Mark Julian

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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