High Difficulty. Steep Learning Curve. Deep Gameplay. –
Although Dungeon of the Endless is defined as a rougelike, it isn’t entire true as tower defense and RPG elements are also placed with heavy emphasis. Even though the overall difficulty level is drastically steep and the learning curve is high, this dungeon crawler can prove entertaining once the player learns the ropes.
The premise is rather simple; your spaceship has crash landed on a foreign planet and the player must keep a crystal safe as it is the only reason you are still alive. Like other rougelikes, each map is randomly generated, the player can initially choose between half a dozen playable characters each with strengths and weaknesses, and once a character dies, they are gone forever. In other words, the gameplay is brutal and unforgiving.
Unfortunately, the biggest problem with Dungeon of the Endless is the lack of tutorial. Because this game can get overwhelming with menus to navigate, resources to harvest, an inventory to manage, and defenses to build, it gets complicated quickly. It actually took me over an hour of trial and error before I started to grasp the overall mechanics. You can watch me struggle through some gameplay from the live stream below.
From screenshots, it might be easy to assume that the player directly controls each character like a Diablo clone. This is very much not the case as the player essentially acts as a cursor, simply indicating where the characters should go. Once a door is selected, that specific character will walk to it, open it, and walk through. If there are enemies in this newly discovered room, the character goes on autopilot, fighting anything that comes your way. When the room is cleared, health kits will be automatically administered and the characters will idle, waiting for the next order. While this might sound limiting, there is actually a wealth of strategy involved because the player must decide when to open a door, whether or not to break up your party, use the resources to build a generator or gun placement, or sit back and defend your crystal.
Combat wouldn’t be what it is without the tower defense mechanics. With each unlocked room, the player has the option to activate power to it by tapping the Right Trigger. Once a room has power, the player can see what is going on in that location at all times, removing the fog of war, and has the ability to place resource creating generators and tower defense turrets. However, the balance comes into play by only having access to a limited number of resources and a limited number of rooms that can be activated with power, furthering the element of strategy. Again, this entire process can get rather complicated and requires a learning curve but winds up being surprisingly satisfying.
Once a floor has been cleared of enemies, the player must then carry the crystal to the elevator on the opposite side of the map to reach the next floor where the entire process repeats. But once the crystal is picked up, an endless horde of enemies swarm the player, the path they are on, and of course the crystal. After several attempts, I was only able to make it as far as floor 3 – not even close to reaching the top floor end game. Also, the game only has two difficulty settings too: very easy and easy. These names are rather misleading as the difficulty is super high no matter which setting is chosen. You will die and you will die often. If you are luckily, you can find a couple other characters to join your party along the way and can eventually be permanently unlocked with enough skill. Filling out the entire roster as well as earning all the Achievements will not only take a bunch of time and skill, luck will also need to be on your side.
There is a multiplayer component to Dungeon of the Endless but was unable to test it out during the early preview access. However, I assume one player controls each character which should make multi-tasking significantly easier with dedicated players.
Visually, the game looks a lot like Another World (aka, Out Of This World) and is a welcomed visual style. The problem, however, is all of the game’s text is so small it is nearly impossible to read. With many resources to collect and lack of tutorial, it makes the learning curve even higher. It took me over 15 minutes to realize that I need to push the “X” button to actually pick up the crystal once the floor was cleared about because I could not even see the tiny, dark X icon.
Dungeon of the Endless will most likely confuse the hell out of you for the first hour to two. From the passive combat, random environment and encounters, and high difficulty factor, this Xbox One digital download might force players to rage quit and never pick it back up after just one attempt. But for those that stick with it, there is actually a solid game and rather deep experience for those willing.
Also Try: the Etrian Odyssey series
Sort Of Reminds Me Of: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles
Wait For It: Out Of This World 2
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com