Dungeon of the Endless
Developer: Amplitude Studios
Genre: Strategy, Tower Defence
Platform: PlayStation 4
Age Rating: Pegi 7
Release Date: 19/05/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
2008 was the year my love for strategy and tower defence games started. It was this year that I saw Tim Curry escape “to the one place that hasn’t been corrupted by capitalism… SPACE” in Red Alert 3, and Savage Moon had me building mortar towers faster than a charging insectoid. Dungeon of the Endless has recently crash-landed on the PlayStation network; should you plan an all out attack or make a tactical retreat?
Starting With A Crash
A damaged prison ship is breaking up in the void of space. Your small team of survivors climb into an escape pod and blast away from the wreckage. The tiny pod smashes into the depths of an alien planet, can you make it to the surface alive? I love the set-up to Dungeon of the Endless, it’s simple yet smart and is done effectively through largely visual storytelling.
Your tactical decision-making skills are tested before the game even gets going. A pre-game set up screen allows you to choose a specific evacuation pod and crew to take into the dungeon. When starting the game, you have only a standard escape pod and limited crew available. A further 7 pods and a total of 23 crew members are unlockable through gameplay and in-game challenges.
All the evacuation pods have different perks or restrictions and varying space for crew members. The starting escape pod has no particular perks or restrictions and space for two crew. This pod allows for a well-rounded game for starting players. The armoury pod allows 4 crew, provides performance buffs and starting weapons, but strongly restricts the construction of defence towers. The drill pod allows two crew, has no resources available and is labeled as an “endless mode: unwinnable game”
Any Pod In A Storm
The variety of the pods certainly adds a range of play possibilities and styles. Some seem like they have been designed with torture rather than fun in mind. Dungeon of the Endless is not a particularly easy or forgiving game. Something the game is mockingly aware of; there are two initial difficulty settings: easy and too easy. Neither setting is a push over.
Choosing a balanced and complimentary crew is the first step to success. The crew characters are a random selection of prison staff, prisoners and native aliens. All the characters are well developed and distinct, an odd but enjoyable bunch. Around half the crew are available from the start but additional characters can be unlocked by finding them in the dungeons, and either keeping them alive for three levels or completing a game with them in your crew.
You have Professor Josh ‘Ntello, a weak but fast know-it-all that can really boost your production levels early on in the game. Or Ayairi Whairydd, a cute little pug that is ready for war, strong and tanky plus armed with a mallet. You can even recruit the boss man, Warden Mormish, a slow and sturdy but highly resourceful elderly man in a levitating chair.
All characters have statistics which are split between four categories; health, speed, attack power and wit. These stats determine the performance and attributes of the character. Every character also has two active and a number of passive abilities that are unlocked through leveling up.
Blind Date Meets Prison Break
A bit of mixing and matching experimentation is needed before you land on a winning crew. Many combinations of characters have existing relationships, which trigger unique conversations between floors and provide special buffs or abilities. All characters can be equipped with a wide range of weapons and passive equipment to improve their base statistics.
Dungeon of the Endless gameplay draws from a lot of familiar sources and well used mechanics of the genre. The main aim is to transport an energy crystal from a starting point to an end point. Sounds simple, but there are multiple layers of mechanics and a whole lot of doors between you and your goal.
First and foremost, you need to explore the dungeon to find the level exit. This means opening a lot of doors; each door becomes similar to a move in a turn-based game. Each door you open adds resources to your inventory but also triggers alien attacks. Aliens spawn from unpowered rooms, and power is yet another commodity that you must ration and use wisely. Tactical choices of which rooms to power and which to leave dark can have drastic consequences as the waves of attackers pile up.
In order to push back the alien forces and protect your crystal, you need to build a mixture of defensive modules along the route to the exit. More deadly and advanced defenses need to be researched by investing in special monoliths hidden around the dungeons. The variety and depth of the available armaments is impressive and allows for a wide range of tactics.
“Unlimited Power” – Emperor Palpatine
The main commodity of the game is power (known as Dust for some reason) but there are three other vital resources (industry, science, and food) that must be wisely managed to escape the dungeons. You obtain a small amount of each every time you open a door. Industry allows you to build modules and defences. Science allows for the development and upgrading of defenses and modules. Food allows you to upgrade your characters and replenish their health mid game.
There are a whole host of options and variables to every level of Dungeons of the Endless. It really is up to you how you want to play and what strategies you will use to reach the goal. The random aspect of dungeon layout allows for variation but it also puts you in a ‘build first and hope it’s right later’ situation far too often.
Another slightly frustrating element is that there is no pattern or indication of enemy wave strengths. So you really have no idea what is behind every door or lurking in the next wave. Planning for the unexpected is less than effective at best, outrightly mocking at worst.
This game would reach and be enjoyed by a wider audience if it was a little more accessible and a little less patronising with its difficulty settings. I fully completed one game of Dungeons of the Endless, it took from the early hours of darkness to the first rays of light the next day! I got into the zone, saw it through to the end, and enjoyed the experience. It was a bit too close to an ordeal for me to be rushing back for another go anytime soon though.
Escaping The Dungeon Or Left To Rot?
There’s a lot to like in this game; I personally love the sci-fi themes, minimal yet clever storytelling techniques, and well rounded characters. A little extra element I adore is an album of photographs and text that unlock as you discover characters and complete the game. The story in this album hints towards a prison break plot and search for a new life in a strange world. It’s a fantastic way of fleshing out the story and details behind the events of the game.
When I started playing Dungeons of the Endless it seemed to live up to its name, endless! But after spending some time with it I see that there is an end in sight, you just need the conviction and smarts to get there. Do you feel up to the challenge?
Rapid Reviews Rating
You Can Buy Dungeon Of The Endless Now From The PlayStation Store