Firstly, a TL;DR for the lazy reader:
+ Great Art and Music
+ Great lore, for those interested in the Endless setting
+ Great design and interpretation of the rogue-like genre
+ For 10 bucks, you can enjoy at least a solid 6-10 hours of gameplay and potentially dozens more.
- The game’s mechanics may not be for you, read section “Game Mechanics” for more info.
- Multiplayer is underdeveloped and riddled with problems
Dungeon of the Endless follows the lore of previous games by Amplitude Studios (Endless Space & Endless Legend) and presents it this time, in a “rogue-like” fashion. The objective is simple: Explore the dungeon, search the rooms and then get the dust crystal through swarms of aliens into the teleporter for the next floor. The mechanics of this game are somewhat profound and relatively unique, based on a turn-like system that dispenses new events after a door in the dungeon is opened. This isn’t to be mistaken with the fact that the game is very much in real-time, players will have to make very quick decisions on defensive relocations, retreats and emergency use of skills/medkits. I imagine the most convenient mechanics comparison to be drawn here is to that of Faster Than Light.
The biggest design component of the game leads me to warn potential buyers to possible disappointment- heed my word. Suppose the main feature of rogue-likes that people enjoy is the risk: reward decisions one has to make. This is tied with the subsequent “snowballing” of a character’s strengths and the increasing challenges; item collections in Risk of Rain, Binding of Isaac. At first glance, Dungeon of the Endless may not meet these expectations, decisions to develop one’s character is often met with only simply a new ability or meagre stat boosts. This isn’t an inherent flaw in the design but rather, a choice made to cater to players having to combine all of the resources: Industry, to build modules for resources and defense, food for character development and medkits, sciences for researching better modules. A player that may only enjoy, say, the character development of a roguelike will be met with disappointment here as one cannot neglect the other aspects of the game in order to succeed- the very same reason why Amplitude has curbed the potential of characters clearing whole floors by themselves.
However, when said mechanics are utilised properly the game truly shines. Players will find themselves scrutinising their floor’s layout, optimising where to allocate power and resources, what resources are most required, whether or not to save resources for the next floor, if characters should be replaced by newfound possible companions, the list goes on. Decision making is the core component of the game that gives it drive, anticipation of resources desperately needed, whether it be dust or a replacement for a fallen companion will lead players into a game that forces them to make decisions. Make no mistake, the game is balls to the walls difficult and will not hesitate to stomp on your carefully knitted floor plans whenever it gets the chance. For this, I commend the developers in creating a relatively fresh balance of mechanics in a recently inflated genre of “rogue-likes”.
Multiplayer is also quite entertaining with gameplay identical to that of singleplayer except with one character per player. This leads to less micro-managing and a larger pool of resources, making the game easier only when players can cooperate properly and plan ahead together. The biggest complaint I have about this however, is the lack of a save-multiplayer feature, thus games can often stretch out for multiple hours and leave players exhausted or unwilling to continue. Furthermore, the lack of a host migration system means that if a host leaves the game—you’re screwed. Amplitude must address these features as they are critical to the quality of gameplay and I find myself only playing alone or with a friend instead of with other players.
Art & Music:
Other than that, the only noteworthy mention of the game is its further development of the Endless lore, which I am a particular fan of and DotE does not fail to impress, new characters and revelations about the world left me relatively keen on the story of the game. Furthermore, secret character interactions are revealed when specific combinations of characters are placed in a party, leading to a more interesting play through and for the eager player, experimentation with compositions. This lore is accompanied by a pixel art style that is of an impressive quality and the usual stature of music that amplitude has impressed me with so far. Though these are subjective and you in particular may not agree with me.
For the singleplayer experience alone, I recommend the game for its listed retail price. On sale, it’s a must-buy. Though multiplayer bogs the game’s overall quality down, Amplitude is known to respond very well to player criticisms and I am confident they will address these issues. Overall a fantastic little game. On my first playthrough, I fought hard to get the crystal to the elevator and in my rash attempt to escape, left my other party members behind to get eaten by aliens. Made me think “Would play again”- and I did, a lot.