Endless Dungeon’s weary space western theme feels perfectly in tune with the pioneer spirit that runs throughout the game. This ragtag bunch of space miscreants – led by an actual cleaner wielding his mop – need to get off this drifting leviathan, but the only way to get iyt is by going through, delving ever deeper into the bones of the station in the hope that they’ll find something other than alien hordes lurking in the dark. To be fair, it’s mostly alien hordes.
There’s also an intriguing interplay of different game types lurking in Endless Dungeon. Marrying twin-stick shooting, dungeon-delving, roguelike and tower defence is an impressive feat, and one that Amplitude Studios has pulled off with aplomb. That might be because this isn’t their first go-around, with Endless Dungeon a follow-up to their earlier Dungeon of the Endless. They sure seem keen on things not ending.
The Endless universe sprang to life from the strategic wranglings of Endless Space, a 4X turn-based strategy game that frankly couldn’t be further from Endless Dungeon if you tried. However, this shared sci-fi system plays host to an array of different races and technologies, many of which you’ll encounter in the deep levels of the ship.
There’s nine levels to explore on your way down to the core, and each run gives you a choice of routes as you move ever further in. At first, you’re presented with a room. Opening a door from that room grants you a batch of resources which you can use for building towers, researching new technology, or buying health packs and upgrades.
However, every door you open raises the danger level. While there’s a chance you might come across angry aliens as you explore, if you raise the danger level too high you’ll trigger an attack wave that’ll flow out of any spawn points you’ve happened upon in your travels.
You’ve also got a little doohickie that you can’t live without called the Crystal Bot. This cute little guy unlocks areas for you, but if they’re destroyed it’s game over. They’ll snap into place in various slots around the station to unlock doors or drill for upgrades at points, but when the time comes they have to slowly wander to wherever it is you need them to go. This is where some of Endless Dungeons most frantic moments come, as you try to keep the Crystal Bot safe as enemies spawn from every direction.
To mitigate some of the risk you need to plan. Slots around the station allow you to build defensive towers, with options like the broadly recognisable gun turrets and spheres that slow enemies down sitting alongside more unusual options that buff your team if you’re in the same room.
You need to think about the routes you’ve opened up, and keeping the Crystal Bot safe, while working with the often-limited resources at your disposal. It’s a really enjoyable and cerebral system to work with; you can’t just go around plopping down turrets everywhere without thinking about it. At points, you’ll also come up against an immense boss character, some relying on the tried-and-tested technique of filling the screen with explosions, while others have you moving the Crystal Bot through multiple slots as you try to eradicate a rogue AI. These can often be run-ending showdowns, but you’ll come away with a better idea of how to take them down next time.
Endless Dungeon is awesome with friends, though I’ve also had a blast wandering the corridors on my own – you’re never truly on your own with the fairly competent AI team to back you up. However, working together, communicating about where to spend your resources, and then pulling through an epic firefight together are just better when you can shout expletives at your friends and not at digital constructs. Isn’t that always the case? Amplitude Studios are already ensuring the best experience for playing together as well, having recently changed progression so heroes unlock for all players rather than just the host, and it’s clear that there’ll be ongoing support for the title moving forward. It’s a shame though that there’s no local co-op as it feels like such a natural fit – we just have to hope that it’s something that’ll be added at a later date.
The setting is beautifully realised, the different zones and levels bringing new visual ideas into play, and I love The Saloon where all the delvers hang out in between runs, with the area taking the role of central hub for upgrading, challenges and narrative progression. The different characters are an interesting bunch, from the aforementioned Sweeper, to the plant-loving apothecary Shroom. As you progress ever further, more and more of the barflies will join up, giving you new options as they fit different team archetypes, from heavy gunners through to support specialists. You can unlock character upgrades for each of them too, boosting health, damage or their skills, with slots available to tailor each of them to your particular playstyle.
There’s just so much to think about in Endless Dungeon, and it becomes more and more satisfying the longer you play. Upgrading the saloon, unlocking challenges, discovering more about each character, uncovering the tale of the station, and tailoring your weaponry and upgrades to boost your chances of success is thoroughly engaging, no matter whether you’re playing on your own or with others. Some repetition to the basic gameplay loop can set in, but you’re not going to get to that point for many many hours.