Home Tech Updates ‘Endless Dungeon’ is a tense mix of tower defense and twin-stick hero shooter

‘Endless Dungeon’ is a tense mix of tower defense and twin-stick hero shooter

by Patricia R. Mills

My first playthrough of Endless Dungeon ended in disaster. A ravenous swarm of bugs overran the “Crystal Bot” I was supposed to defend after I left it open to attack by pulling my two heroes away to protect a resource point. Naturally, I started a new run immediately after I had a moment to curse my luck.

Endless Dungeon falls somewhere between a sequel and remake of 2014’s Dungeon of the Endless, the game that helped developer Amplitude Studios make its name. Like its predecessor, Endless Dungeon tasks you with protecting a crystal from hordes of enemies while finding your way through a mysterious multi-level dungeon. But where Dungeon of the Endless took place on a strange alien planet, this one is set on a station left behind by the Endless, the ancient alien race connecting all Amplitude’s projects.

‘Endless Dungeon’ is a tense mix of tower defense and twin-stick hero shooter

Also new to Endless Dungeon is that it’s a twin-stick shooter and features a roguelike progression, meaning you’ll need to start from the beginning of the game each time you fail your objective, but you’ll carry over some of the things you earned to make your next run easier. Additionally, Amplitude has built the game with multiplayer in mind.

“We had a lot of ideas for Dungeon of the Endless that didn’t make it into the game,” says lead game designer Arthur Prudent during a press event Sega held last week. “This time, we wanted to do something more accessible. That’s why we wanted the player to have direct control. That forced us to change a lot of things.”

Each run of Endless Dungeon begins with you picking a team of misfits to delve into the station’s depths. In the demo I played, you could take two characters with you. The final game will feature eight playable heroes, with a full team of three squadmates.

Amplitude Studios / Sega

When playing online, you and two other friends control one character each. You can only play as one hero at a time in a single-player. However, you can issue orders to your two party members. Each hero has a backstory, playstyle, and special and ultimate abilities. One of my favorites, Zed, carries a minigun into battle with her and can clear rooms with an explosive line attack.

Once you have a squad assembled, the bulk of Endless Dungeon’s gameplay involves attempting to get the cute Crystal Bot I mentioned before to the end of a level so that it can descend further down the station and you can find what’s at the center. The catch is that each time you attempt to move the robot, an endless horde of enemies will attack until the bot is destroyed or you successfully get it to its destination. Waves of enemies will also periodically attack you while you explore each level.

The action in Endless Dungeon is thrilling because it’s a tower-defense game where you don’t know the entire layout of a level when you start. You have to explore each group to find all the enemy spawn points. Some stories will feature locked doors, with a central switch you can trigger to unlock them all at once, allowing you to shape the path enemies take. My first run ended when I left undefended one of the corridors leading to my Crystal Bot.

Amplitude Studios / Sega

Every level consists of multiple rooms, and in each room, you can build turrets to thin out enemy waves. In addition to the usual assortment of damage-dealing ones, you can build turrets that slow your enemies and shield your other assets to make them more resistant to attack. Gone from Dungeon of the Endless is that game’s light mechanic where enemies would spawn in rooms where you didn’t spend Dust to power them. That makes planning your defenses more and less difficult since you need to find the enemy’s dedicated spawn points.

Building turrets requires a resource called industry. Alongside food and science, it’s one of three primary resources you’ll collect to build structures, heal your heroes, research new turrets, and more. A fourth resource called Dust Shards lets you upgrade your Crystal Bot and restore power to rooms left without any.

Amplitude Studios / Sega

Managing your resources in Endless Dungeon is its tightrope act. As you explore each station floor, you’ll find room for generators to add to your food, industry, or science stockpiles. If you have enough industry points, you can build other extractors, with each subsequent one costing more than the last. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Endless Dungeon plays out in real time, but your generators only add to your resource pool when you open a new room. Moreover, they’re one of the first things the station’s residents will attack their way to your Crystal Bot. To make things even more complicated, even if you build an industry generator on every spot you find, you won’t have enough materials for all the turrets you need to defend everything. In short, expansion comes with risks in Endless Dungeon, and the game constantly asks you to make those decisions.

For instance, collecting Dust Shards involves uprooting and moving your Crystal Bot, meaning it must leave behind any turrets you built to defend it. Obtaining upgrades from a research terminal is similarly perilous since starting one will trigger a wave of enemies.

Amplitude Studios / Sega

‘”The game is supposed to be hard,” Prudent tells me and everyone else participating in the event. Each time you fail a run in Endless Dungeon, you find yourself back in a bar that plays smooth jazz in the background. Here, you get a chance to talk to all the characters you can take on your runs and unlock the things that will make your next playthrough smoother. My second and third runs end ended, well as my first one, and I’m no closer to completing the demo than I was when the preview began.

Endless Dungeon doesn’t have a release date, but when it does arrive, you can play it on PC, PlayStation, Xbox, and Switch. Infinite Dungeon doesn’t have a release date, but you can play it on PC, PlayStation, Xbox, and Switch when it does come. Amplitude Studios wasn’t ready to preview those systems when I played the game. Without experiencing them, it’s hard to say if Endless Dungeon will have the staying power of games like Hades or Rogue Legacy 2; what I played last left me excited to see where the studio takes the game.

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