There is an ongoing joke with this game, “what genera is this??
Tower offence with RPG style characters.
You begin in a spaceship in orbit of an unknown planet. An attack from a hidden defense station forces the crew into the escape pods. One such pod lands deep beneath the surface in a structure built by the ancient race (who’s technology everyone in the galaxy has been plundering) The Endless. The survivors must fight waves of monsters while using the pod’s power core to build defenses and power the many elevators needed to get the the surface and safety.
And if you thought the last game I reviewed was hard…
Dungeon of the Endless is a rouge like tower offence game made by Amplitude Studios, creators of pretty much every game with the word Endless in the title. You start in the remains of your escape pod, and open doors one at a time to explore the ruins, fight monsters, build structures, and die a lot. Despite being real time, the game tracks events in turns. Triggered every time you open a door.
The most important resource is Dust. Dust determines how many rooms you can have powered up at once, and can be found in some rooms and the corpses of monsters. Powered rooms can be built in, and won’t spawn monsters when waves are triggered. The other resources are Industry, which you use to build modules. Science, which is used for upgrading modules and re-setting ability cool-downs. And Food, which you need to heal heroes and level them up.
You generate those three every time you open a door. You can increase how much you generate by building the corresponding module in a powered room (just remember to keep the lights on.)
In addition to the resource generators, you can also build minor modules. Ranging from turrets, decoy holographic heroes, and this weird jelly looking thing that heals heroes in the room when a monster dies. Managing your resources and knowing what to build where/when is the biggest learning curve in the game. And can only be mastered through trial and error.
The next and equally important thing is the crew. The large collection of survivors are very well balanced. You have all rounders, those good at fighting, those who buff/operate/repair modules, speedy people who can open doors, durable people for holding choke points. Many heroes aren’t very good at low levels, but get progressively better stats and passives as they rise. Others start strong, but don’t carry well into late game. While there will be “better/worse” ones depending on your strategy and play-style, none of them feel bad. All of them have lore and even elevator banter that helps flesh them out. You start with a small number (plus any from DLC.) And unlock new ones by finding them in the dungeon, then having them survive 3 floors or getting to the exit.
Though arguably the best character in the game is the drop ship. You start out with the bog standard “no benefits, no penalties” ship, and beating the game while fulling certain conditions unlocks new ones. In a procedurally generated game, the different escape pods help you craft a strategy from the start without fully being at the mercy of RNG.
For example, the Armoury pod let’s you start with 4 heroes who have boosted damage, and an assortment of basic weapons to get you going. However, you’ll never find another hero in the dungeon, and you can’t research offensive modules.
With the Organic pod, rooms can’t be powered down, modules get damaged every turn, and can’t be repaired. But every powered room produces extra food generation, and enemies in a powered room have -100% defense.
There are 6 pods normally, with 2 more being tied to paid DLC. However you still need to unlock the DLC pods for some reason. One of regular pods is the drill pod, which features infinite floors. To quote the game “Maybe you had a life before. Now, you have a dungeon.”
The game can also be played co-op. Basic resources are split between the players, and can be gifted to each other to help with research/leveling/building. Most importantly, it gives each player less to think about at any given point.
The biggest piece of advice I have is to read a guide. Read multiple guides. Amplitude is infamous for not volunteering the information people NEED in order to play their games. Believing instead in trail-and-error. And while failure is the best teacher, there are definitely lot’s of logical things new players will do without realizing the consequences. Even advanced players will need to double check character stats and who learns what skills at what levels when assembling their team. A much needed feature would have been an in-game codex that remembers every level you’ve gotten a survivor to, and reminds you what they learn on the select screen.
The other issue I have is the tone. Obviously this is a very hard game with procedural generation. And with that in mind, the game does mock you on occasion. Unlocking a character comes with the message “now you can lead them to their deaths!” When someone dies the game comments “let the tears flow.” And the difficulty modes are “too easy” and “easy.” This kind of humour is fine, but can get old fast in an intentionally difficult game. I don’t expect the game to coddle me, but I’d rather not be condescended towards either.
According to the art book, Dungeon of the Endless started as a small side project to fill time between major releases, but thanks to the developers and the community grew into something much bigger and more involved. It’s a very original strategy game that challenges players in interesting but manageable ways. I can see this not being for everyone, but I guarantee you haven’t played anything like it.