Some video games seem to have an endless amount of replayability. Most of us at some stage will have had a game that they keep coming back to, its familiarity a warm embrace after a tough day. Obviously there are constantly updating multiplayer games, that suck you back in time and time again; but for the more single player focused among us there are Roguelikes. Their random nature make them the perfect game to replay repeatedly, and I’ve put multiple hundreds of hours into some of favourites over the years. Dungeon of the Endless definitely has the potential to absorb days of your life too, once you get to grips with the tower defence/strategy gameplay.
You play as a group of prisoners (selected or randomised at the start of the run) who crash land deep into an alien facility. Your goal is to explore and escape this dangerous land, with the power crystal that powered the escape pod. This is easier said than done, as hordes of aggressive critters and robots inhabit this abandoned planet. With some teamwork and all your engineering skill, there’s at least a chance of getting to the next floor.
After a brief tutorial, you’re thrown in at the deep end with bricks tied to your legs. You start in a single room with the crystal you must keep safe. Each “turn” you can open a door with the aim of gathering supplies and finding the exit to the floor you’re on. To keep your team and crystal safe, you have plenty of resources that you’ll slowly generate to spend on upgrades. Industry can build defences, Food upgrades your heroes, Science researches new turrets and Dust powers rooms. A powered room can’t spawn enemies, so using the Dust you have to turn on the lights is extremely important.
When the enemies spawn in, the chaos begins. The baddies come in all shapes and sizes, and all have different preferences in what they’d like to destroy. Some will try to destroy your defences, some will go straight for the crystal, and others just have a taste for human blood. Setting up your turrets and allies up to deal with these situations takes real strategy, but it’s rewarding to see your defences pick apart your foes. Setup does take a lot of getting used to though, and there’ll be plenty of casualties in this process.
Despite the doors breaking the game up into turns, combat all takes place in real time. Your party can be controlled as a group or individuals, defending different choke points or running the enemies into different rooms. None of this is fiddly on console, with an easy to manage control scheme and the ability to group allies at the touch of a button. The action can fortunately be zoomed out on and paused at any time, so you don’t need to manically rush between dying allies. You can use food to heal them in a pinch (everyone automatically heals between turns) or to level them up and unlock new active and passive abilities. Using each team member and your food effectively is your only hope of proceeding past the first few floors.
You’ll spend a lot of your time in Dungeon of the Endless trying to maximise your resources. Building generators means you get more of a resource each turn, but you’ll just be wasting supplies if you’ve explored most of a floor already. It’s a fine balancing act keeping some resources for a rainy day, and more often than not I ended up wishing I’d spent more as three hours of progress faded away into nothing.
In Roguelikes, losing a run and starting over is usually all part of the learning process, and shouldn’t be lamented. This loss isn’t an easy pill to swallow in Dungeon of the Endless, as a decent attempt will take you up to 5 or 6 hours. You’ll rarely have the compulsion for “just one more run” before bed, when it could take longer than the night’s sleep itself.
If the many hours needed to beat the game aren’t enough for you, there is a host of extra content to unlock. You can find new characters in the game, and if they survive for a few floors they are added to your roster. Upon completion you’ll also unlock other game modes, including an endless mode for those with more time than Doctor Who.
To enjoy all this content however, you’ll have a climb the steepest of learning curves. The tutorial covers the most basic of systems, but without a lot of trial and error there’ll be a lot you won’t be taking advantage of. Discovering that enemies don’t spawn in rooms with a hero in took me around 20 hours, and could’ve saved me a lot of hard times. It makes the fact that the difficulty options are called Easy and Too Easy rather insulting when the game doesn’t bother to explain itself.
Dungeon of the Endless is an incredibly deep and rewarding roguelike, once you invest enough time to discover how to play effectively. The tower defense elements are a unique twist on the genre, and correctly using your team’s unique abilities is a constant but enjoyable challenge. The length of each run is a little excessive, and there’s not nearly enough guidance to show you how to effectively defend yourself, but if you can muddle through there’s hours of strategic fun to be had.
Tower defence gameplay is fun and thought provoking
Incredibly deep systems to invest time into mastering
Controls translate great to consoles
Lots of extra unlockable content after beating the game
A lot of systems remain unexplained even after the tutorial
The length of each run means you lose a ton of progress when you fail