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July 2020

Dungeon Of The Endless

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Strategy
Publisher: Playdigious
Developer: Amplitude Studios
Release Date: May 15, 2020


Switch Review - 'Dungeon of the Endless'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 1, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Dungeon of the Endless is a rogue-like dungeon-defense game offering a retro 2D look with modern 3D graphics.

Buy Dungeon of the Endless

"Roguelike Tower Defense Dungeon Crawler" may sound like a parody game making fun of the ever-increasing complexity of genres, but Dungeon of the Endless is a very real game. Originally released back in 2014 for the PC, it's since been ported to pretty much every system under the sun. The Switch release is the latest version, and thankfully, it's a very solid port of a fairly excellent game. Unfortunately, it doesn't do much to clean up some of the game's lingering flaws, since it's about as straight of a port as you can get.

The biggest barrier to enjoying Dungeon of the Endless is that its tutorial is a mess. It doesn't even provide a surface-level indication of how to play the game, and I had to restart two or three times because it broke and rendered it impossible for me to continue. Getting past the tutorial and into the game involves a significant amount of player energy investment. Roguelike games usually require at least some trial and error and learning the mechanics, but it can be very easy to give up before you even start because of the poor tutorial. Fortunately, there are a variety of YouTube tutorials that do a better job of explaining the game, but you shouldn't have to go outside the game for something like that.

Dungeon of the Endless is a semi-turn-based game. You begin in your crashed spaceship with a crystal and a single exit door. Opening a door uses up a turn, but then you have to deal with whatever is inside that door. Those events pass in real time, so this isn't really a turn-based game so much as you have time to plan your next move. Your eventual goal is to the crystal to the end of the level. Your characters attack and act automatically, and you can order them to use special moves, but this isn't an RTS. The pace is a lot slower than it might look at first blush.

Of course, getting the crystal to the end of a level isn't as easy as it sounds. The randomly generated layout means that you need to find the path. You do this by using your chosen player characters to gradually explore each room. You begin with two characters but can gain more, and you can issue individual orders to each character, or you can order them to move together. Each character has their own specialties. Some are tanky, some do huge damage, some are speedy, and some are particularly smart, which allows them to offer benefits by using modules in the environment. In addition, each hero also has skills that can benefit their ability to kill or survive, as well as specific equipment slots they can use to further upgrade their abilities. Finding the right combination of characters can go a long way toward keeping alive.

Once you open a room, it remains open but is usually unpowered, which means that you can't benefit from anything in the room and it remains a possible place for monsters to spawn. To power a room, you have to collect dust, which is gained by exploring or killing enemies. Gaining 10 dust allows you to power one more room. You don't have to power every room to reach the exit, but the more you can power, the safer the end run will be. You can power and unpower rooms at will, so you're able to leave some places unpowered at first and then come back later, but if enemies reach your crystal, you'll lose dust, which makes finishing the stage significantly harder.

Once a room is powered, you can place modules in it. Modules come in two types: major and minor. Major modules provide a powerful boost to the resources you gain, your defensive unit's power, healing, and other things to make your survival easier. Minor modules provide things like turrets or healing units to defend a room when enemies approach. Basically, this is the "tower defense" part of the game.

Resources come in four types: dust, food, industry, and science. You gain some resources every time you open a door, but creating modules means you can gain significantly more, especially if you have the unit that's operating it has high wits or a module-boosting skill. Food is used to heal and level up your characters. Industry is used to build modules, so it's an important resource for survival. Science allows you to upgrade modules, unlock new modules, or recharge a character's skills. Naturally, your goal is to get as much of each resource as possible, but industry tends to be the most valuable in the short term and food in the long term.

The core idea ends up being simple but addictive. You explore room by room, gradually enhancing your characters and building defenses, until you find the exit and feel confident enough to lead your crystal there. This involves taking some risks and planning things out. When exploring, any room you leave unpowered can become a monster spawn unless a hero is already waiting in there. That means the ideal method for advancing might be to send one unit into a room and then lure the monsters back to a previous room, so you don't end up boxed in or leaving your crystal unguarded. On the other hand, when heading for the exit, you want as much lit and defended as possible. It's a careful balancing act, especially because resources are precious and you don't want to spend them unnecessarily.

The Switch port of Dungeon of the Endless is fairly robust. Some of the environment can be difficult to see in handheld mode, and you may want to pump the brightness up a bit. The controls work well enough, but the interface was clearly made for mouse and keyboard, so it can feel a touch awkward at times, especially since the tutorial does an awful job of teaching you the button layout. It's still an excellent title to play, especially on the go. It has a very pick-up-and-play nature due to the turn-based design, which makes it easier to play for a few rooms at a time.

Visually, Dungeon of the Endless is charming. The sprite work is well done and has a lot of personality, and even though the environments can feel repetitive, they do their job very well. There's enough personality to carry the sometimes-basic visuals, and everything is bright and easily identifiable. The soundtrack is a bit dull, and I was hard-pressed to remember anything from it. This is the kind of game where you put on some music or a podcast while you veg out.

Dungeon of the Endless gives a bad first impression that hides an addictive, fun game. The poor tutorial and unclear mechanics might initially turn off some players, but if you're willing to push past that, Dungeon of the Endless is an enjoyable combination of dungeon-crawling and tower defense. While the Switch version may not have the best controls, its portability is a great combination for the game design, and even those who've played the PC version may want to give this one a shot.

Score: 8.0/10

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