When it comes to video games, nothing's more hardcore than exploring a brutally difficult dungeon. Dungeon of the Endless may not be your typical roguelike yet there's no denying just how habit-forming it is.
Before we begin, I should mention that Dungeon of the Endless was initially released on PCs over a year ago. Therefore, I bet making this mouse and keyboard controlled game enjoyable on a console was quite a taxing endeavor. Thankfully, it translates very well. You basically command a team of survivors from a crash-landed prison spacecraft to escape the planet that they've found themselves on. To do so, you highlight whichever character you want to move then select where you want them to go. For convenience, you can select everyone at once. Considering Dungeon of the Endless is adapted from PC, it's great to see how intuitive the controls are. Once you start to memorize which buttons do what, you'll command your team like it's second nature. You control your team to uncover new rooms (which also advances time), take out enemy forces, discover and research useful resources, set up various installations such as automated defenses, power-up rooms to prevent enemies from spawning there, use character-specific skills, and eventually descend to the next floor. This sounds somewhat simple, but they need their crystal in order to survive so once you're confident in your abilities, it's time for things to get real. After you unveil the exit and pick the crystal up, hordes of enemies will spawn and come rushing towards you. If they destroy the crystal or wipe out your entire party then it's game over and you have to start the whole thing again. Only gamers who can plan ahead and manage resources perfectly will be able to emerge alive. The road to becoming skilled enough to accomplish this is a rewarding one that'll keep you hooked until you've mastered your ability to survive.
The 2D visuals aren't particularly impressive yet this isn't the sort of game where you'd expect awesome graphics. That being said, everything is clearly distinguishable and a darkly mysterious atmosphere prevails. The haunting music emphasizes this ambience with low frequency vibes and creepy melodies that blend well with alien shrieks and the sounds of combat. In the end, you may not be blown away by its graphics but the underlying atmosphere is masterfully accomplished.
To make your team more competent, you have the ability to level up each party member and optimize their equipment. Armour and weapons can either be found in treasure chests or by purchasing them off wandering merchants. Sometimes, you'll meet new folks that you can recruit into your party. After spending enough time with them, they unlock permanently as selectable characters. There's also an album of images to fill out as you discover new things and progress further. One of the coolest features is the unlockable escape pods that drastically alter the rules of the game. Oh, and there's online multiplayer, too. As if exploring the randomly generated dungeon wasn't enough, the amount of extra content and ability to play online add a ton of replay value.
Dungeon of the Endless takes a very long time to learn how to play. It may be a tad embarrassing, but I actually had no idea what I was doing during my first five or so attempts and I even studied the tutorial on my second attempt. Luckily, there's plenty of content on the internet that helped me thoroughly understand the basics. Because of this steep learning curve, unfortunately many gamers may be put off before things start to click. Besides this, one issue that I have is that not everything is scaled for TVs. I had to sit on the floor in front of my couch and squint in order to read certain text. It probably looks fine on a PC monitor, but they could have magnified everything better for consoles. Finally, I found luck to play too much of a role in this randomly generated world. Sometimes, I could make it to floor six or seven with ease but other times, I struggled on floor three or four. This is mostly due to the fact that you never know what's behind each door so once you slowly reveal a massive labyrinth in the hopes of finding the exit, the odds of meeting your maker increase substantially. It can get incredibly maddening having to restart from the beginning just because of one unlucky floor.
Dungeon of the Endless is a magnificent dungeon-crawling RPG that I highly recommend for anyone with the patience to learn its complexities. However, if you're unwilling to take the time to master it then you should definitely give this one a pass.
- + Addictive gameplay that'll test your planning and resource management abilities
- + Superb dark and eerie atmosphere
- + Loads of rewarding content to uncover
- - Steep learning curve is a very tall hurdle to overcome before fun can be had
- - Doesn't scale well to TV screens
- - Lady luck can be a harsh mistress