Endless Dungeon is a rigorous mix of tower defense and tactical roguelite action


Endless Dungeon is a rigorous mix of tower defense and tactical roguelite action

Endless Dungeon, first announced last year, is a top-down tactical roguelite hero shooter set in Amplitude’s Endless universe – your types Endless Legend and Endless Space. Lots of things without end, basically. It’s also sort of a sequel to Dungeon Of The Endless, a 2014 turn-based game that laid much of the groundwork for Endless Dungeon’s core loop of dungeon runs and wave survival. I was able to try out one of his earliest levels with three different heroes in a recent hour-long preview session, but came away with mixed feelings. If you can get a foothold in a run, that’s awesome, but getting that foothold in its current state can be frustrating.

You start out in a hub area populated by a bunch of aliens and robots and have a few drinks near the bar. I’m told this cozy space will develop a bit between runs, with NPCs commenting on your progress and new people dropping in for a chat. It’s not a Temple Of Styx a la Hades, though, so don’t expect strict customization options or branching paths to expand it. There is a large pad on the ground that takes you to a mission, and this is where you select the heroes you control and switch between them with a press of the spacebar, while the AI ​​takes control of the others when you play alone.

I got to try Zed (mini-gunner), Bunker (robot with shield), and Blaze (four-armed cowboy sniper), each equipped with three abilities that put them in a specific archetype: tank, damage dealer, a bit of both. I was only able to take two heroes into the example mission, with the third slot locked until I discovered the “Procedural Factory” during a run. I was told there will be eight heroes at launch, so that’s a reasonable number to shake up the action.

Once you enter the abandoned space station, the game’s less-than-typical rogueliting kicks into gear. Similar to The Binding Of Isaac, Hades or Rogue Legacy, you move through procedurally generated rooms. Sometimes these rooms will have loot chests or a shopkeeper selling you goods. That’s largely where the similarities end, however. The trick to surviving in Endless Dungeon isn’t so much in picking the right mix of power-ups as it is in making wise investments in both your future and infrastructure.

A little robot with a crystal brain is your everything – you have to protect it with your life. The goal of the game is to open doors, find the escape room, and then successfully escort Robo-Bud out of the slide. Of course it’s not that simple. Some rooms house alien nests that spew out swarms of sticky bees and crunchy blobs. To fight the baddies, you need to set up tower defenses in as many rooms as possible: regular shootybangs, support modules that buff their armor, and pylons that emit a slowed radius are the basic trio on offer at the start.

And yet there is more. You can’t just build these things like that! You must spend industry tokens, one of three currencies – food and science being the other two – which will automatically fill your pockets every time you enter a room. On your hunt for the exit, you’ll occasionally find generators that can be converted into additional sources of income and add a few extra tokens to your pocket when you open a door.

Sorry to argue about the game’s generators, but they really make or break runs. Each generator only supports one type of token, so I went the science route at first, since collecting science unlocks new towers – at least that’s what I thought. Turns out I never had enough industry markers to even build the towers. And as for the food? Well, that’s given out to machines for passive buffs and heal packs, but again, it never seemed as important as industry.

Three heroes fend off a swarm of aliens in Endless Dungeon.

Industry was everything in my preview build, as investing in something else early meant you’d never be able to mine turrets. Resources have also generally been scarce, which can make it difficult to stabilize a bad run when you’ve made some bad investment decisions. It’s a fine balance, but for me at least, it probably is a little to good for my taste. For example, there didn’t seem to be much room for experimentation, and if I hadn’t decided on industry early on, I’d be at Scheissbach. We hope that food and science don’t always play second fiddle to industry in the final version, as it would have been cool to mix things up a bit. That’s the fun of roguelites, after all.

I hope this will change with the inevitable polish and balance tweaks as we get closer to release (which is still TBA at the time of writing). However, based on what I’ve played, Endless Dungeon hasn’t quite found its own rhythm, and I think that’s why investments seem so fragile. Waves of enemies will periodically break out of their nests and swarm around you, leaving you with no choice but to run somewhere and defend some When the time comes, but when you’re out of resources and haven’t had a chance to put up a lot of towers and all your generators burst into flames, it can all feel a bit much, you know?

Three heroes stand in an overgrown area of ​​the abandoned space station in Endless Dungeon.

Somewhere deep within my frustration, however, lies a shiny nugget of joy. The game is a melting pot of gun defense, wealth management, and hero shooter, and when you find the right balance of all three, it’s really fun. When the choices you’ve made with the three currencies all pay off, there’s great satisfaction in positioning your turrets tactically and watching hordes of aliens halt at their gates. And the heroes have cool abilities like Bunker, whose shield bash slices through waves, or Blaze’s mines, which provide explosive cover for your favorite towers. Skillful use of these moves will also allow you to counter the horde when you’re struggling. For example, Bunkers Ultimate sees him arming up and laying his shield on the ground for cover, turning him – literally – into a brick wall for a gun to poke through on the other side. I credit Bunker’s shelter with most of my crystal robot’s survival.

I timely invested in science on a magic run, which means I unlocked a flamethrower turret and one that spits acid balls, which made a fantastic combo. And particularly successful turrets were upgradeable too, giving off a glow to show they’d worked hard and could use some reinforcements. After a little tinkering, I spiced it up – for free! If only these highs came a little more often. While I couldn’t quite find my rhythm with Endless Dungeon, there’s definitely potential here, and it’s a roguelite worth checking out, especially if you’re looking for something a little different from your usual room-bashing. There’s no release date for it yet, but you can follow its progress on Steam (and sign up for the Open Dev program, which starts next month).

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