Dungeon of the Endless Review
Amplitude Studios’ Dungeon of the Endless is the kind of game that needs at least a week to sink in before you fully grasp what you’re doing. Well, that is if you’re stupid enough to try playing it like the big, bad gamer you are without going through the tutorial first. Listen to the voice of experience for once. You can activate the tutorial on the first level; it only takes a few minutes and will definitely come in handy.
Now that we have our words of wisdom out of the way, let’s move on to better things. Dungeon of the Endless is an odd title for such a complex game; it would have been nice if they had used something flashier. Going in based on the title alone, you’d assume Dungeon of the Endless was probably a typical RPG crawl, but you’d be totally wrong. The main storyline revolves around colonizers spreading into the Auriga system, coming upon forgotten technology and man-made cavern complexes of a race called the ‘Endless’. You’re on one of the prison pods that crash-lands into the center of one of the planets, deep into what seems to be the core of one of the Endless’ constructions. Your goal: gather resources, research, and get the hell out of there. I’ve summarized the story of Dungeon of the Endless for you here, but really, it’s already starting out awesome. If someone put that much time into the plot, it’s probably going to be good.
Dungeon of the Endless has several layers and two main types of play. Control is done via your mouse as well as a number of keys on your keyboard, combining elements of strategy games like Starcraft or Civilization and mixing it with ‘point-and-click’ games that were the stuff of legend. Think of Maniac Mansion or Sweet Home and you’ll get the idea. So, you have elements of action and strategy with just a hint of RPG in a science-fiction setting with dark, technological corridors, aliens, and plenty to discover. You select your player and then hit the dungeons, unlocking more advanced ones as you conquer. In single-player you start with two characters – and one character in multiplayer, with the ability to recruit more.
So once you get the basics down, and again I highly recommend that tutorial, you start to see how absolutely dense this game is. Dungeon of the Endless sets you through tons of different rooms — all randomly generated, might I add — so you get a different game each time you begin. Or rather, each time you restart after you die, because that will happen quite a bit. For each new door you open, you get more resources: industry, science, and food. Industry enables you to construct modules with a variety of effects (such as more food generated per door opened), science enables you to research new constructions (such as new defense pods for protecting your characters), and food permits you to heal your characters or level up, as well as purchase items (though sometimes other resources enable this as well). These three resources are the essential elements, and once you understand what to do, Dungeon of the Endless is a seamless game. The main goal is to take the crystal you have in your starting room, find the exit space, and get it there without dying with all remaining characters at the exit. Each time you open a door there’s a chance at alien life appearing randomly throughout the dungeon, and they’ll go for the crystal and your modules. If they kill all of your characters or destroy the crystal, you’re done. As you progress you can power up rooms using the energy of the crystal, which is limited, and this reduces enemy spawn numbers and allows you to set up modules and defenses throughout each level. Now let’s consider each mode of play.
This option is recommended before even trying the multiplayer option. In Dungeon of the Endless’ single-player you start by selecting one of two characters, or going random (only four potential options at the start unless you get the extra one via the Founder’s Pack). They’re rotated by using the mouse or pressing number keys 1 and 2 (3, 4, etc. for each added character). The dungeons work the same regardless whether you’re playing alone or not, so starting here is your best option. There’s a story element, as well, with some twists later, but otherwise it functions the same.
The multiplayer option in Dungeon of the Endless enables you to join random games of other players all over the world, or start your own. Four character slots can be filled, which does not include any additional characters recruited in the dungeon, which are controlled by whichever character picks them up. The task in multiplayer is the same, though you’ll find it important to have different players focusing on different things. One on defenses, another on module research, etc. Of course, as you’d expect, teamwork is key. The chat box works quite well for getting things together, but headset is the way to go, if you’re with friends, because currently there is no speaking option in-game. Lots of players have a habit of moving without thinking, and without teamwork a good run can be quickly ruined in a few seconds, with no exaggeration. In addition, even though you have at least ten levels of a single dungeon to conquer, if one player dies, they’re done. Of course, that’s sticking to realism, but if you’re on one of the last floors and everyone else has died, it’s basically over for you, because no one can join a game mid-session and the difficulty is horrifyingly insane. Dungeon of the Endless’ multiplayer functions just like single-player, otherwise, but make sure you’re playing with people who are familiar with the game, because if not it’s going to be a disaster.
Dungeon of the Endless is a spectacular game, generally speaking. Lots of detail, awesome difficulty, great integration of strategy with action; it’s set to be an excellent game with a huge player-base if done properly. There are a few kinks that might need to be ironed out, or additions to consider for the creators. Single-player is a simple ride, really no complaints to be had there, other than perhaps the ability to level and retain these levels for multi-player action. It would be nice, for example, to see advanced multi-player when the player base grows; where, similar to something like Diablo II, you can enter upper-tier games for more challenge and experience playing with those who’ve been in the game longer. Of course, part of that requires a larger player base than currently exists in Dungeon of the Endless (at what is normally a peak playing-time there were only four open games and frequent booting because of inactivity). Leveling that’s retained after a dungeon would also be ideal, as well, because currently other than leveling within a single dungeon, it ends there. You start fresh each time, essentially, other than the game keeping tally of your number of plays and deaths. When players are dead, they’re gone, and in upper levels of a dungeon, it’s a disaster. It might be feasible to allow players to enter mid-game, but there would have to be certain restrictions enacted (level of player vs. level of dungeon, etc.). Regardless, the best thing would be for players to have the option of continuing their character’s history and even personalizing them to some extent later.
In its current form it’s clear that Dungeon of the Endless is a true gamer’s game — you can’t simply jump into it with your years of experience behind you, it’s not going to happen. Once you run the tutorial, you’ve got the superficial elements down. But getting your skills honed well enough to actually complete a single floor, let alone an entire dungeon, is another matter entirely. You need to learn to use your resources well and balance character usage, and thankfully Dungeon of the Endless is set up in such a way to encourage thorough playing; it’s not something you can just load up, play for a few, and call it quits. The awesome environment and concept is a welcome experience in modern gaming, and it takes a level of skill and thought you rarely find in games anymore. The balance of strategy with great atmosphere and graphics reminiscent of the 16-bit era makes for one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences this reviewer’s had in a long time. Needs some work, but even in its current form Dungeon of the Endless is an excellent game.
- + Unique plot and storyline
- + Detailed strategy elements
- + Seamless play, excellent integration of story
- – Extremely difficult for first-time players
- – Multiplayer needs more active players and play options