Amplitude Studio’s latest Endless entry certainly has it’s limits. It didn’t take long for me to find the cyclical gameplay loop wearing thin on my patience. Don’t get me wrong, Endless Dungeon does some interesting things, with it’s tower-defence aspects probably being the most unique to the roguelike genre and utilising twin-stick shooter controls for exploration. But the moment-to-moment gameplay I found to be a little repetitive and lacking.
This is only surprising as Endless Dungeon is the spiritual successor to the fantastic Dungeon of the ENDLESS, released a short nine years ago. But Endless Dungeon feels as though it’s more of a simplification (maybe for the sake of console players?) and 3D-ifying exercise rather than an improvement on their previously winning formula. Packed with a lot of style, with frequent and very pretty explosions with each of your shots being a colorful blast into the room and onomatopoeic effects bursting from your special attacks. Performance on PC was solid as you’d expect, thought on the PS5 it seemed there were a few smaller graphical glitches resulting in bright flashes coming from dark-rooms unintentionally and it never seemed to hit 60fps, but maybe somewhere around 30-40. I’m no Digital Foundry, but it felt more stutter-y on PS5 than on my PC.
The luscious soundtrack from Lera Lynn, whom you might recognise as musician to some episodes of True Detective, is also very fitting to the Saloon that serves as your central hub. But the world building that’s told entirely through the odd line of written text from an NPC (who sometimes then becomes an playable character) and then other collectables in each run for the specific characters you’ve chosen feels as though it’s a bit of an afterthought. Collecting strings of sentences to learn about a character’s backstory while listening to them audibly repeat the same unrelated grunt or groan became a chore. But this hands-off approach to storytelling felt bolted on to me, though I’m sure someone spent a lot of time writing the tome of information that’s been chopped up and poured into the RNG in an effort to try and entice you to keep jumping back in.
Not helping the matter is that each run eventually feels the same as each room is randomised, but that is very much the extent of what changes. You may never play the same dungeon twice, but when the rooms themselves don’t really matter with most being hallways to other rooms, you’d be hard pressed to remember how one run differs from the previous. With the idea being that each room you enter has a risk/reward aspect as to wether there’ll be enemies behind or not. However, if there are enemies hiding in a room, you’ll have absolutely no issue clearing them off as there’ll be just a handful to deal with. If there are no enemies you’ll just increase the likelihood that the next wave of enemies will start marching their way to the Crystal Bot you’ve been tasked with defending. You’ll still be given a generous countdown before this starts. The threat level is represented by wiggly line above the mini-map that shakes more and turns red when the chance of triggering the wave is increasing to dangerous levels, but I found this irrelevant as you’ll need to open every door to gather enough resources and find the exit to the next floor anyway.
For each door you open you gain a small number of resources within three categories; Science, Industry or Food. The number of resources you gain per-door can be increased by building generators of that particular type at a few locations scattered around the dungeon. The strategy here being you’ll always need more of the Industry resources as they’re required to create the turrets you’ll be placing around the map to assist when an enemy wave starts, you’ll need Science for researching new turret types and Food resources to generate medkits if you get lucky enough to have a medkit exchanger on your floor. The rub here is that you’ll always need more Industry resources to make more turrets as the enemies will also attack your resource generators when they spawn for a wave and it’s impossible to defend a generator across the map while also defending your Crystal Bot.
This is where multiplayer comes in. While the game has serviceable “AI” teammates you are also able to jump into a team mate to control them or issue orders to your teammates. Having a real human on your squad definitely makes things easier so you’re not having to issue a stay or follow command to your teammate while enemies attack. However, there is currently no form of couch co-op and no online matchmaking. Two aspects I feel would make a huge difference to the longevity of Endless Dungeon. This means you’re limited to joining the game’s Discord to find teammates or roping friends to play with. There’s a lot of downtime between each wave, so much so I actually fell asleep while playing the game at least once, but I suspect having a conversation while playing would alleviate that issue.
There’s a good game here in Endless Dungeon, but it’s missing the heart and humour that was so prevalent in Dungeon of the ENDLESS. While changing up the mechanics enough to make this a new game it also somehow lost the aspects that made it’s predecessor so good to begin with. I didn’t have the capacity to make it through a full run of the game, something that will take anyone time as it’s designed around multiple attempts, but I definitely feel as though I have seen everything Endless Dungeon has to offer currently. Hopefully it’ll receive updates to increase the variation to the objectives and find some new ways to keep the time between waves engaging.