It’s no secret that ENDLESS Dungeon by Amplitude Studios and SEGA is one of the most anticipated roguelite games of the year. In fact, we were so hyped that we received access to its Closed Beta Testing phase that we wanted to play more once the CBT was done.
Well, the wait is finally over because ENDLESS Dungeon was released a few days ago, and we were able to review the game in its entirety. How did the game fare? You’ll find out shortly!
Destruction is an open door
At its core, ENDLESS Dungeon is a hybrid of three genres: tower defense, twin-stick shooter, and of course, roguelite. We’ll talk about the roguelite aspects later, but for now, let’s focus on tower defense.
For those who are not aware of what a “tower defense” is, by definition, “Tower Defense” is a subgenre of strategy games where the goal is to defend a player’s territories or possessions by obstructing the enemy attackers, usually achieved by placing defensive structures on or along their path of attack. In this case, the two main things you’ll be defending are yourself, of course, and the Crystal Bot, a spider-like robot that acts as a key to access further instances. If any one of these targets dies, it’s back to the Saloon for you! Though not as important as yourself and the Crystal Bot, you also have to protect the generators and research facilities you find as the former gives you more resources whenever you open doors while the latter gives you access to bigger, badder turrets in exchange for Science points: one of the resources in the game.
This next concept is probably foreign to everyone but in order to gain access to other rooms, you have to open the door that connects your current room to the next. I know, it’s pretty riveting stuff, but what you’ll soon realize is that these doors are made of adamantium or vibranium or whatever sturdy metal there is that exists because enemies can’t go through it! With this in mind, your first layer of strategy is to know which doors to open first so that you won’t have to deal with a gazillion enemies from the get-go.
The mixture of opening select doors to get resources while trying to not get overwhelmed by the swarm and gaining access to better defenses and upgrades to build turrets in certain areas to get as many enemies as possible is what makes ENDLESS Dungeon such an addicting game.
The game is a pretty straightforward isometric twin-stick shooter, so aside from the aim assist which is very helpful, we’re not going to delve deeper into that. What we’ll focus more on though is the multitude of characters that define how you want to play the game.
For example, if you want to control the field by slowing down the mob while dealing decent damage, then Sweeper is your guy. More of a support-type player that heals your teammates? Then Shroom is for you. Damage? Either Zed or Blaze gets the job done. There are plenty of options for you to choose from that define your runs.
Another element that makes shooting bugs into smithereens is the plethora of weapons at your disposal. Each hero has their default weapon, but within the dungeons lie treasures that may or may not contain weapons that are usually better than your standard ones. I’m talking about rifles, gatling guns, grenadiers, and a whole lot more! You can carry one alternate weapon to support your main weapon, and switching between them is just a mouse wheel away!
Of course, being a roguelite, the progression in this game is there, but I like how you can achieve different kinds of progression differently. You have the usual in-game currencies in Cells and Scraps that improve your character and Saloon, respectively, and then you have Mementos you collect in your adventures that, while they don’t necessarily upgrade any of your characters, give each character some depth by informing you about their lore, and District Keys that unlock new levels for you to explore.
Unlocking these meta-progressions will definitely make your character stronger, but make no mistake, it will NOT make you overpowered. You can be invincible all you want, but remember, that will all be for naught if the Crystal Bot dies!
I love me some overpowered builds, but I think having none of that in ENDLESS Dungeon is the right decision. Even if you’re strong enough to one-shot foes (which has never happened to any of my runs, for the record), you still need to be on your toes to make sure that the Crystal Bot and your other resources stay alive which is what makes the game so great!
Procedurally-generated maps are the staple of roguelite games, and it must be said that there were times when the generated maps were just not in your favor, destroying your team before you could get your defenses ready. On the flip side, it can also heavily favor your team. Either way, one minor thing we hope gets patched in the future is the fluctuations of these instances, especially early on when players are at their weakest.
The game is built for Co-op, for better or worse
If there’s one thing that you need to know about the game, it’s that it is built for co-op play. Sure, you can play solo while “controlling” up to three other characters by using a command wheel, but the experience of playing alongside your friends and being able to cover each area or blasting away at swarms of enemies is incredible.
Not only is it exponentially more fun, but it’s also miles better strategically because you don’t have to build more turrets to compensate for having an AI teammate which isn’t really the best teammate out there. Instead, you can formulate plans on where everyone should be, execute said plan, and then maybe put a turret or two for good measure.
That being said, there are a couple of things that, while not entirely ruining your multiplayer experience, could be a bit annoying or limiting. The first one is that the game uses delay-based netcode, meaning if you are far away from the host (which happened to me when I played with Kinix and Puppeht), you will experience a LOT of delay in your shots as well as multiple rubberbanding. I know, I should play with people that are closer to my location, but Street Fighter 6’s amazing rollback netcode spoiled me.
The other is more serious. Whenever you play co-op, unfortunately, only the host gets to progress, while the rest of the players do not. I’m not sure if this is intentional or an oversight, but this highly discourages players from playing co-op especially if they want to unlock heroes they want to use. As of this writing though, Amplitude Studios has addressed this issue and is making this their top priority, so expect a follow-up patch soon.
Minor missteps aside, ENDLESS Dungeon lives up to the hype. Mixing three different genres in one game and making all of them stand out is an incredibly tall order, but Amplitude not only made it work, but they did so with flying colors!
The game is definitely one of the best roguelite games of the year, if not THE best roguelite game of the year. Who knew opening doors could be this fun?
More fun with friends
+ Definitely built for co-op, but solo is fun too
+ Great strategic tower defense mechanic
+ Multiple heroes and weapons
+ Above average meta-progression
– Heavily fluctuating procedurally generated maps
– Co-op host only gets to unlock heroes (for now)