Here the game binds to the RTS genre in its resource building. Three primary modules can be placed to provide bonuses to the three main resources used in the game: industry, food, and science. Industry is used to build modules and defenses, food levels and heals characters, and science upgrades those modules and opens up doors to new blueprints.
Like many rogue-likes, levels are randomly generated when you first load them. Some rooms feature goodies, like chests or survivors willing to trade for goods or even join your party. Defense is important, however, because alien attacks come often and from random locations. A room once cleared may spawn aliens again at any moment and they move quickly destroy your crystal, so properly placed turrets and choke points play an important role. The ultimate goal is to find the exit of each level and to transport your crystal into the next area.
By now you’re probably wondering why we started this preview calling Dungeon of the Endless a roleplaying game. The answer comes in a smart and pivotally important character progression system. Each character has their own set of attributes and abilities. While one character may be good at attack and defense, another may provide a life-saving buff during combat. They can also wear weapons and gear, which are purchased through vendors or unlocked through gameplay. Characters can be leveled up using the food resource. Food is also used to heal your party after big (or little) battles. Leveling up is an important step in defending against attacks through a combination of stat building, as the unlocking of passive and active abilities.
As you unlock more characters, choosing your starting party provides a compelling entry point for beginning each run. Do you build a team that sticks together or goes their separate ways? Do they support each other’s shortcomings or stand unique providing you different tools? Just don’t get too attached. Like all rogue-likes, everyone dies sooner or later and when they do all progress is lost. Character development provides a wonderful level of depth to the gameplay, however, and the accelerated pace is like playing an RPG in fast forward.
It’s been said that games are, at their core, a series of interesting choices. Set against the backdrop of an unending tromp through a space dungeon, Dungeon of the Endless constantly begs the player to make choices that will either propel them to the next level or send them to an untimely death. From simple “left or right” to resource allocation, each room is a series of decision points for the player. Do you spend industry on defense turrets or building a food replicator to level your party? Do you place many small defenses in many rooms or big ones in just a few? Do you buy out a vendor or invest in more cattle (prisoner) prods? These are the choices that turn planned minutes into lost hours.
My time with Dungeon of the Endless was all too brief this week. From echoes of crumbling debris to insect-inspired screeches of aliens on the trail, Amplitude’s latest is an atmospheric joyride that is at once mouse-slammingly difficult and captivatingly accessible. Each step offers a fresh array of choices that change the course of the game; the promise that each attempt will be different from the last, if for no other reason than each run is different from the last. The full release also promises four-player co-op, adding in yet another layer to an already lush package.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I can fit in just one more run…Christopher Coke / Chris has been playing MMOs since the days of MUDs. His first RPG love was Final Fantasy. These days he can be found traipsing the hillsides of Telara or Ingi-signing Drowners in The Witcher. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight