Dungeon of the Endless is a hard game to pin down genre-wise. It’s a prequel to the recently announced Endless Legend and Endless Space and has some definite strategy to it but is more of a dungeon crawler earning the rogue-like tag but it’s also quite a bit of tower defense as you have to build up your level as you explore looking for a way out of the remains of the base you crashed in and your freedom. It’s in the early stages yet so many of the features that are coming aren’t actually in the game yet but the base gameplay is already up and running. Given that the game is still in early alpha and is very playable, albeit extremely difficult, it’s a good sign, and it’s a lot of fun.
The game starts off as we witness a ship crashing and an escape pod launching from it. As the paint peels off on entry the registry number gets charred and ends up reading “Oh Shit!” as it breaks through and we’re greeted to a large explosion on the surface of the planet. If you do get this through early access, expect this to be an intro you see quite a bit of as you play. The planet that you’ve crashed on is Auriga, a planet featured in the add on to Endless Space, The Search For Auriga. Being a prequel to both Endless Space and Endless Legend, this takes place a few thousand years before Endless Space and Auriga is relatively unknown but it was a place of importance for the race known as the Endless. The Endless were a space-faring and highly advanced people made up of several races that all spawned from the same planet. Their expanse into space was vast and they had some great technology, but wars and different ideologies won out and the Endless are almost no more except for ruins and leftover technology, and that’s where the survivors from the prison ship “Success” crashed into in their escape pod.
The prisoners were being sent to work as slave labor when the Endless defense system over Auriga came back online with the arrival of the “Success” and proceeded to obliterate it and every cell acted as an escape pod so you’re not the only survivor trapped deep in the installation underground. Realizing that you can’t survive forever in this installation you have to look for ways out of the level and up above ground. But as they say, danger lurks behind every door and you either succeed or you die. And that’s when that lovely intro plays for you again as you start a new game because you’re not going to let a randomly generated dungeon beat you, right?
The dungeon run at the moment is limited to 3 levels before you get your game completion screen, however the dungeons are randomly generated as well as what you’ll find behind the door and at the moment, which two Heroes you’ll start with, so no two playthroughs are ever going to be the same at this point. Heroes can be leveled up to level 5 and you can equip items and gear you find as you explore your dungeon to give them a more fighting chance against the hordes of monsters the game tends to throw at you. While the game’s primary purpose is to get the power crystal up and out of the dungeon you’re in, there’s also resource management, upgrades to your resources as well as equipping and leveling your Heroes and trying to make it out alive. It’s an interesting mix and even though it’s really punishing at the moment, it’s a lot of fun.
The current content here is pretty basic, including the retro 32-bit look of the game. Of the 30 Heroes the final release will have, we currently only have 7 and as I mentioned you can’t pick which 2 you start with at the moment. You have 3 resources to manage all tied to your Crystal that you’re trying to find the exit to move closer to the surface for. Dust acts like your health, currency and energy. It determines how many rooms your crystal can power for your other improvements and it’s also what you buy upgrades for. If your Crystal gets too damaged, it drops your Dust to nothing and you go into game over. Industry handles your improvements and if you have a Hero in a room generating industry it increases your production. Lastly, is Food and that’s a pretty important resource. Food heals your Heroes when they get hurt by the monsters, it helps you hire more Heroes for you, and then it’s also used to level up your Heroes.
You can move your Heroes into other rooms with doors and you always start with the same door opening off your crashed escape pod. You never know what’s behind the different doors but usually it’s not friendly and you’ll be looking at a fight. The whole idea is to keep opening doors until you find an exit, then grab the Crystal and run for the exit. This of course spawns waves of monsters that are out to kill you so proceed with caution and some kind of plan. I actually recommend picking a direction and going with it. If you don’t open a door, monsters can’t spawn in from there but there will be waves that spawn them from rooms you’ve already opened and they will go for your Crystal right away if you’re not in the way. By picking a line and going with it you can limit what’s coming at you and keep it funneled so it’s easier to deal with. You can’t always do this and you do end up losing access to some resources but it also cuts down on having to tear your hair out trying to defend from monsters coming at you from 3 or 4 fronts at a time.
The game is pretty basic right now. Heroes don’t have their active or passive skills yet. You’re limited to 3 randomly generated Dungeon levels instead of 12. You can’t choose your starter Hero. The levels aren’t as varied as they could be as far as what is behind the different doors. There’s a list of features that aren’t in there yet. But this is an Alpha release and they’re working on moving up to Beta and this is kind of what you get with Early Access. Their open to suggestions for features and while the game is extremely unforgiving at the moment, they are working on balancing the game out as they go. It definitely has a lot of potential and I’m looking forward to seeing where they go with it.
Of course this all hinges on you liking tower defense games mixed with some rogue-like in a sci-fi and fantasy setting. If you don’t you’ll want to keep on going. There isn’t a great deal of control over your heroes other than leveling them and what room you’ve dropped them in and keeping them healthy. They have their own mind as to what they’re attacking and at what ranges so if you’re looking for a more traditional RPG experience, you’re not going to find it. This is most definitely a unique hybrid and is its own kind of experience with some great atmosphere. If you’re looking for something of a challenge and want to see the game evolve a bit before final release and like exploring with a bit of danger, then Dungeon of the Endless is right up your alley.