It’s yet another port from a few year back coming to the Nintendo Switch. This time we have Amplitude Studios’ Dungeon of the Endless. A game that came out for PC in 2014, then released for other formats across the years before joining the ever growing Switch family.
In its simplest terms, Dungeon of the Endless is a Roguelike, Tower Defence with retro styled graphics. However, scratch a little further and you’ll find a game that brings both of those elements together to feel incredibly unique.
Again, because this is a game that has been out for a few years, it is easy to find reviews that go into details about the mechanics and such, so I’ll only touch on these throughout the review where needed. What you do need to know is that Dungeon of the Endless is a fantastic game that comes from that team that brought you Endless Space, Endless Legend and the upcoming Humankind. Their name is a sign of quality.
I’ve praised games in the past that don’t rub how bad you are in your face. Yet Dungeon of the Endless does that all the time. After every run you are scored and given running stats that show you how many attempts you’ve had and how many wins. In my case Tries = Lots, Wins = None. At first I was concerned that’d really affect me, as I know I’m not wonderful at certain games. That wasn’t the case though and I found it actually reinvigorated me to go on another run.
Approaching the game takes a little getting used to. Going exploring is vital to progress, but doing so without thought can end a run almost as quick as it begins. Slowing it down should then be the simple answer right? Well sort of, yet to gain the resources, you need to explore further and open more doors and increase the risk.
This is where the tower defence element comes into it. You need to protect the power core at almost the expense of everything else. That gets destroyed, it is game over. You start with some basic turrets, but can then upgrade them, or research new once. Placing these strategically will help with approaching enemies.
There are points where it seems like you have enough resources gathered that you can fill up all the spaces in rooms, but in doing so, you could leave yourself under prepared for the next floor. So you find that you almost need to balance your approach on a knife edge. Too much of any one thing and that run is ruined.
The first time I found a floor exit I had to make a decision. There was still plenty to explore and thus gather more resources for the next area. But that meant the power core was at risk with the more doors I open and the more enemies that can make their way to it. In deciding to be a bit greedy, I made a fatal error and within 3 rooms, I had my two starting characters killed. Game over.
So the next time it happened, I decided it would be smarter to just grab the power core and go to the next floor. Yeah, I was completely unprepared and lacked the resources to build enough combat and support elements. I barely made it a few rooms before death hit again.
This is where I really fell in love with Dungeon of the Endless Other strategy games I have tried tended to make me feel I had no choice but to learn the perfect way to play the further it went on. Here though it is all about learning and adapting, there is no single way to get through and what you did in one run, might not work the same in the next.
I saw this when the first time I made it to the end of floor 2, I had actually scored less than an earlier run that ended before I’d even found the exit on floor 1. So in one run I got further but did things ‘worse’ and in the other I had done the ‘right’ things and barely got anywhere.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are still best practices that will help you, but you really cannot approach each new run the same way. Especially as you can meet new characters within a run and unlock new ones to use from the start. Who you choose and who you meet will also have an effect on any particular run.
Dungeon of the Endless is a game that manages to be both stressful and relaxing at the same time and the uniqueness of the exploration being turn-based in a fashion and the combat then being pure real-time makes it stand out from a lot of other games in a real positive way.
On the original PC release I did bounce on and off the game. There was too much to play on the bigger screens and Dungeon of the Endless felt like something I wanted to be a more personal thing. I was desperate for a Vita release at the time. But now the Switch port has come and for me and as cliche as it sounds, it has found its perfect home.
I won’t lie, I was expecting to pick this one up for review, give it a good going over then move on. Yet Dungeon of the Endless has been added to my daily rotation alongside Animal Crossing, Lonely Mountains, Tetris 99 and one of the various Picross titles. There aren’t enough hours in the day and I was trying to make a pun about needing them to be Endless, but yeah, that didn’t work.
It could be easy to look at Dungeon of the Endless and ignore it as a 6 year old port looking for a late money grab. However what we have here is a game that could be timeless. There is so much discovery within it and it keeps bringing you back in for more, even after so many hours. I am so happy this is getting a new audience.