As much as Sega is known for Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio and Sonic Team, it’s easy to forget that several major strategy game developers are under its purview. Creative Assembly and its Total War games, Relic Entertainment and Company of Heroes, and Two Point Studios with Two Point Hospital are some of the better-known ones. However, there’s also Amplitude Studios, which is best known for its Endless franchise.
Its 4X titles, like Endless Legend and Endless Space, are pretty entertaining, but it also created a niche title called Dungeon of the Endless. Before Auriga Prime played host to diplomacy, combat and territory disputes, it was where a prison ship called the Success crash-landed. Trapped in a deep, dark dungeon, its inhabitants fought for survival while protecting The Crystal. While classified as a roguelike, Dungeon of the Endless mixed tower defense, exploration, heroes, loot and extraction mechanics in a smorgasbord of tense action.
"You’re limited to three players in a single team, each with unique abilities, weapons and upgrades, and the environments are fully 3D."
As you’ve probably guessed by now, Endless Dungeon has the bones of Dungeon of the Endless. However, instead of an underground facility on Auriga Prime, it’s set in a dangerous space station where the Core has seemingly gone rogue. Trapping various passersby and serving as a prison from which they can’t leave, the player must escort the Crystal Bot and hopefully discover a means to escape.
Another departure from its inspiration is the isometric, overhead view and tactical shooting. You’re limited to three players in a single team, each with unique abilities, weapons and upgrades, and the environments are fully 3D. The result is more of a roguelike shooter, but one where planning your route, placing turrets, exploiting chokepoints, and managing resources is as important as painting the walls with the remnants of Blobs, Bots, Blurs and Bugs.
When solo, Endless Dungeon involves selecting up to two heroes (with a third slot eventually unlocked) and selecting a floor. As you start in the first zone, you need to open doors, each providing a set amount of Science, Food and Construction resources, to discover a path for the Crystal Bot to reach the next zone. Repeat this to access the elevator for the next floor. Of course, it’s not nearly as easy as it sounds.
You have little to no idea what lies beyond each room. There could be an empty slot to construct a Science, Construction or Food generator, thus increasing the amount of that resource earned when opening a new door. You could stumble upon a terminal to upgrade your heroes or construct stims for healing (both requiring food). A research terminal may pop up, allowing you to upgrade different turrets and research new ones. There’s also Dust, a resource which can power up rooms, allowing you to access their facilities and build turrets.
"As such, decisions must be made on which turret to research. Do you improve the flamer turret for more damage or invest in a Light turret to deal with the Blur enemies that go invisible?"
There may be the odd chest or two lying around with Cells, the meta-progression currency, and weapons of different rarities. However, more often than not, you’ll discover enemy spawners. When a new wave approaches, either when researching something or just out of the blue, a limited number of enemies emerge. Since they can effectively destroy stations and assail the Crystal Bot, you need to set up defenses, which means turrets.
Turret types include the Straight Shooter, which deals neutral damage, and it’s all well and good. However, you’ll want to exploit elemental weaknesses and construct specialized turrets that spew fire, electricity and acid. Support turrets that improve the performance of others (and your heroes); Shield turrets which increase the defense of heroes and turrets in a room; and more, can further tip the scales in your favor.
But in yet another twist of fate, resources are limited. You may need to enlist various kinds of turrets since certain floors can have more than one enemy type. As such, decisions must be made on which turret to research. Do you improve the flamer turret for more damage or invest in a Light turret to deal with the Blur enemies that go invisible?
It’s possible to have one of each elemental type for a turret by the time you reach the third floor, but deciding what to min-max is the real challenge. Even the Crystal Bot can get upgrades, though you’ll need to survive a harrowing journey to mine the necessary resources. Still, unlocking passives like one that slows enemies in the same room as the bot while reducing their defenses is pretty great.
"Perhaps the only real issue with the loot is that it doesn’t provide that same rush as obtaining a super-rare or powerful item in other roguelikes."
Whatever you decide to do, blowing too many resources on a single floor, let alone a zone is a recipe for disaster since they don’t carry over to the next. It’s a careful game of balance, examining the best coverage and elemental type for the job. As noted earlier, planning your route is also key. The fewer open doors to the Crystal Bot, the better, but you may want to risk opening more doors to gain further resources. Remember: the bot will take that same route to advance to its destination (assuming it doesn’t follow you), so plan and construct turrets accordingly.
The perspective and direct control of heroes also lend an extra dimension to the gameplay. Since environments are fully 3D, compared to the pixel art of Dungeon of the Endless, you can take advantage of corners and fire into other rooms. The range of your weapons is limited, so you’ll need to consider that as well.
As for the combat, the weapons have the right amount of heft and responsiveness. Snipers with charged shots feel weighty and powerful while Gatling Guns spew heaps of bullets (that seem to fall off in damage later, but it depends on the build you go for). Some weapons are preferable to others, particularly the ranged ones, but aside from one or two, they each have their place depending on the situation. That elephant trunk-looking flamer may not seem great with its ring of fire surrounding your hero, but it works well in claustrophobic scenarios against Bugs and doesn’t impose a movement penalty when channeled.
Perhaps the only real issue with the loot is that it doesn’t provide that same rush as obtaining a super-rare or powerful item in other roguelikes. Higher rarities for existing weapons mean more damage and better stats, as opposed to any game-changing passives. When I obtained an Endless quality gun, I expected it to be a big deal, but alas.
"The AI is robust for the most part – it’s no substitute for going hands-on, but it gets the job done, even if I wish it would use a hero’s Ultimate when things get messy."
The overall movement is solid, and each hero’s abilities feel good to use, if unextraordinary in their functionality. At the very least, their play styles are varied enough, whether it’s Blaze’s mines, Cartie’s traps or Sweeper’s passive that improves turret fire rate. New heroes are unlocked as you progress further, and each has unique Hero Quests that will unlock passive upgrades, which can be slotted before a run.
These quests usually involve going to a floor and either eliminating an enemy or fulfilling an objective, like not losing a resource generator on your first floor or slaying a set number of Bot enemies. One nice feature is that you don’t necessarily have to play as the hero in question. Just add them to your party and travel to the biome – with special keys allowing you to access later biomes at the start of a run.
You can switch between the heroes in your team at any time, but otherwise, the AI controls them. The tactical commands are limited to having them follow or stay behind in an area, which can be good if enemies attack from multiple doorways or when a resource station needs additional protection. The AI is robust for the most part – it’s no substitute for going hands-on, but it gets the job done, even if I wish it would use a hero’s Ultimate when things get messy.
While the shooting is mostly on point, it’s also incredibly simple. Various stats like fire rate, critical hit chance and damage can be increased, along with other stats, and you can acquire modules that add passive bonuses. There’s also a Shove mechanic, which can knock enemies back and repair/boost turrets. It could feel janky for the most part, often whiffing completely. While it’s not the biggest issue, it does explain the lack of a melee class.
"Perhaps the only other drawback to Endless Dungeon is how samey some runs can feel."
When you die, whether it’s to a boss or become overwhelmed by enemies, you return to the Saloon. This is the hub, which can be upgraded with Scrap earned after every run. Unlock advanced chips for heroes, improve weapons with Chips, or repair the stage with Scrap so the band can play. If you discover beverage recipes, they can be turned into the Cafe to mix special Challenges, like causing Shoves to restore some health at the cost of hero defense and Stims granting brief invincibility. They change your approach in different ways, though they’re not earth-shattering by any means.
Those expecting a comprehensive story throughout may be somewhat disappointed, but the lore surrounding Endless Dungeon is still as intriguing as ever. While exploring the station, you’ll discover various lore bits about day-to-day happenings before everything went wrong. These are charming but not particularly compelling in reinforcing the narrative. On the other hand, the pieces you discover and add to the Archives unlock lore scenes explaining various aspects of the universe are pretty good, despite the limited animation.
Even if the overarching story is nothing crazy, it feels like there could have been more interactions and personal stories given the unique individuals in the Saloon. Like Hades, new conversations and features open up depending on your progress. However, don’t expect people to react to your previous run or have extensive conversations. Having more ways to interact with the hub’s denizens and flesh out their stories would have been nice.
Perhaps the only other drawback to Endless Dungeon is how samey some runs can feel. While each biome looks unique, with the animated art style looking especially fetching as you’re overwhelmed by enemies and bullets illuminate your surroundings, there aren’t too many differences in terms of how you approach them. Regardless of the biome chosen, you’ll face one enemy type, then two in the next and three in the next. A boss will always appear on the second floor, with its type varying based on the biome you enter. Credit where it’s due: the boss fights are good and introduce an interesting wrinkle while still being in line with the exploration and defense aspects of the gameplay.
"The mysteries of the Endless may never be fully resolved, but they make for a fun, though conservatively quirky, adventure."
The Core offers all four enemy types, and I liked the meta-game that involved deactivating its defenses to disable debuffs it would place on your heroes. Random events like Blackout, which shuts off electricity in all rooms and requires you to activate specific terminals to turn them back on while enemies scurry about, occasionally pop up. There are also pylons, which can bestow positive and/or negative effects, like increased enemy movement speed at low health or HP recovery while they’re in the same room (with the solution being to build turrets outside of it). Leave them as they are or disable them with Dust – the choice is yours.
Presentation-wise, Endless Dungeon embodies that Space Western aesthetic well, from the voiceovers to the music. Characters and portraits are well done, and performance is solid with pretty much no bugs (at least none outside of those trying to slay my team). As noted previously, shadows and lighting are done well, while the textures and environmental details are on point. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to try out much co-op, but even for solo players, there’s plenty to sink one’s teeth into.
Like its inspiration, Endless Dungeon won’t reinvent the roguelike genre. Nevertheless, it translates several genres into one compelling mix, with the new perspective and progression mechanics offering more long-term investment. The mysteries of the Endless may never be fully resolved, but they make for a fun, though conservatively quirky, adventure.
This game was reviewed on PC.
Strong visual style with great lighting and environmental details, coupled with solid music and voiceovers. Tower defense, escort and dungeon crawling mechanics combine well for some tense moments and strategic planning. Gunplay is on point and each hero's play style feels distinct. Good amount of upgrades and the lore of the Endless remains endearing.
The Shove mechanic could use some more polish. Runs tend to feel samey due to lack of major distinguishing mechanics in each biome. Loot doesn't feel very exciting, even at higher rarities.