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Dungeon of the Endless

By Azeebo16-01-2014
StuntmanLT (editor)
Bobfish (editor)
Dungeon of the Endless

The Defence

Amplitude Studios
Amplitude Studios
Indie, Strategy
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce 8600
AMD equivalent
1 GB
500 MB

Hard is the new easy nowadays, so naturally, the hardest genre in gaming has suddenly become incredibly popular. This is of course the ball crushing, soul destroying, time eating domain of the roguelike. Enter Dungeon of the Endless, a spin off from the very good Civilisations in Space 4X game - Endless Space.

Dungeon of the Endless is not the first 4X to be spun off into a roguelike. Infact the most recent is Sword of the Stars: The Pit. Such a conversion is not that hard to imagine considering the similarities between the 2 genres. I mean, think about it, both are turn based, both are randomly generated and both have a bunch of complicated mathematics going on in the background. Unlike The Pit, DotE also throws in some Tower Defense mechanics, which interestingly enough, flip the genre on its head and makes for a very interesting blend.

You start off in a room. Yes, a room. You are in control of 2 randomly generated characters with differing statistics, weapon preferences and skills, and there is a strange object in your possession. This object is you “base” of sorts, and is the key to everything you do in your extremely short lives. The goal is to open doors, to find new rooms to eventually find the exit to the level all the while defending your base. Oh, and just to make things a bit more freaky, you have to then pick up your snazzy “base” and move it to the exit without getting murdered by the endless hordes of enemies that start to spawn.

Every game starts here.

Every game starts here.

You will quickly begin to realise that trying to go Rambo in DotE, like in any roguelike, will inevitably get you killed. So you have to be cautious and plan your moves. The best way to do this is to set up defenses, which not only defend your base, but power up the room in which they are stationed. This is a key mechanic because any door you open, also opens up a potential spawning point for waves of enemies. To counter this, you have to power up the room, however this comes at a price. Your base can only sustain a few rooms at a time meaning you have to be very anal about how you prepare yourself for coming masses.

You may be asking, why do you want to open doors if they become portals to the metaphoric hell in which your enemies come from? Because they also grant many, many bonuses which will help you in the long run. You see, your base generates 2 resources every time you open a door: Industry and Food. The former lets you build things, the latter lets you level up. So the only way to defend your base is to explore, which then puts your base at risk. A classic double edged sword scenario if you ask me. As you explore you will come across various modules on the floor, these come in 2 size: big, and not quite so big. The smaller of the 2 let you build defenses like turrets and the bigger ones let you increase your production of Food or Industry by setting up power nodes. Naturally, these are good places to defend as they let you build more, and get more powerful.

But resources are not the only reward for having balls, oh no. Each room is random and as a result very, very bad things can happen. On the plus side, some moderately good things might happen too. You could find a hidden stash of food, or on the flip side you might find a horde of enemies who trigger a massive wave of enemies from all sides resulting in your doom. Oddly enough however, both of those results have benefits. Big enemies drop dust, and dust is what powers your core. Every 10 dust you acquire is another room you can power, meaning more resources, more turrets and a longer life.

Getting here is easier said than done.

Getting here is easier said than done.

DotE has a really messed up vibe. All roguelikes favor caution over balls to the wall antics, and Tower Defense games naturally want you to be passive. But DotE needs you to be aggressively expanding your domain to increase your power in the long run. It is a clever system, and one that does keep you hooked as you play.

Unlike death in most roguelikes, dying is not actually the end. Well actually, it is, but only for that character. You start with 2 characters, so if one dies you have a “backup”. Sure this makes the game much harder, but you live with your mistakes for another few seconds at the very least. You also find more characters as you explore who you can recruit for a hefty food parcel.

What makes DotE different from a lot of roguelikes, and games in general, is that it actually feels a lot like a board game. You move from room to room, but you cannot actually move within a room. This is a bit of a pain, as you cannot reposition your characters so your big burly melee fighter takes all the brunt and your nimble pistol user takes pot shots from behind. You also cannot single out specific enemies to kill, which is a bit of a shame. It is an interesting mechanic, and it does play really well into the room exploration mechanics, it does feel a bit too restrictive.

Now, DotE is currently in Early Access on Steam, which means the game is not actually finished yet. So there are features missing, there will be more bugs than you can shake a stick at and other typical Alpha issues that come with game development. Oddly enough however, DotE almost feels like a full game. The content on offer is varied enough for many hours of gameplay, I have yet to encounter any bugs and whilst yes, there are missing features, those features are not needed to enjoy the game in its current state, and will only make the game better as time goes by.

Whatever is coming out of the dark, can't be good.

Whatever is coming out of the dark, can't be good.

To compliment its surprisingly stable performance, DotE also has a very nice visual style. Whilst the game is entirely sprite based, the sprites are absolutely gorgeous. Not in a hand drawn, super modern kind of way, but in a super colourful retro kind of way. Each room is bursting with colour, and shadows, and it really is a treat for the eyes even if it is basic. It even has rock solid sound, as the soundtrack is upbeat but eerily tense, and the sound effects are just top notch.

Dungeon of the Endless is not a finished title, but unlike most unfinished projects, you can't really tell. This is a game that will only get better with age, and when the final product is released, we will hopefully have an amazing game worthy of endless praise.

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