Dungeon of the Endless is a bit of a mind-bender to describe. In fact, when I first heard of it, I had trouble conceptualizing what the game even was. A rogue-like melded with tower defense? What does that even look like? If ever there were two genres I didn’t expect to meet, those were it. Imagine my surprise when I found that it’s also a full-fledged RPG with definite RTS leanings. Mind. Blown.
The thing is, once you get in there and experience it, it’s a little shocking just how well everything works together. In fact, I’d say Amplitude Studios might have accomplished the rare feat of designing something that should have already existed but didn’t. Because they’ve taken game systems from a number of well-established genres, everything feels familiar – natural even – making it a breeze to pick up and play. This combination of systems also provides for a lot of depth, offering far more under the surface than first meets the eye.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Dungeon of the Endless is currently in Early Access mode via Steam with a release date set for later in the year (we don’t know exactly when). The game is developed by Amplitude Studios, who you might recognize from their other Endless game, Endless Space. It’s a bit surprising that Dungeon of the Endless even exists, being so starkly different from the studio’s other work. Where Endless Space can be downright gorgeous, Dungeon feels almost demade and reminded me immediately of 2012’s Cargo Commander. We’ve already talked about gameplay, but suffice it to say that Dungeon is also a far cry from Endless Space’s 4x leanings.
That said, Dungeon of the Endless had me at hello. It wastes no time setting the mood. The cold, gray and white title screen is set to a wonderful synth score that is at once mystical and haunting. If the two could speak – beyond saying DUNGEON OF THE ENDLESS, of course – I imagine that they would tell me how lonely floating through space must be and how frightening the prospect of meeting its inhabitants. This is the first cue of Amplitudes attention to detail and sense of atmosphere, setting the stage for a game that revels in the mystery of each closed door.
The game opens with a prisoner transport ship. It is being fired upon. You can’t see by who but the crew count is falling. An escape pod is fired, your escape pod, and what starts as 14 survivors falls to two by the time you land. The game fades to black as the pod cuts through the unknown planet’s atmosphere. When you come to, you find yourself underground, two team members standing by your starship’s last lonely power crystal and the flaming wreckage of your ship. There is only one way out, a single door to the unknown where somehow you hope to find a way home.
Following a four-screen tutorial, you’re on your own. The world is harsh and I died more than a few times before I figured out just how everything works. Using two of the three available characters (there are more but they need to be discovered before they can be played), you make your way from room to room, exploring, gathering loot and resources, and planting defenses at power nodes to defend your crystal against alien attacks.