Gaming

Endless Dungeon Is a Tactical Roguelite that Brings On the Pain (in a Good Way)

If you’ve played Dungeon of the Endless, then you’ll know the biggest hallmark of the tactical tower defense game is its incredibly high level of difficulty. Defending against countless waves of enemies as a squishy hero while managing scant resources to use for tower defense was often a humbling experience. With successor Endless Dungeon being a roguelite, you might wonder if developer Amplitude intends to use a lighter touch going forward. After several hours of getting absolutely dabbed on by various bugs and robots in Endless Dungeon’s harrowing space station, I can safely report that no quarter is being granted – and that’s great news for gluttons for punishment like myself.

A lot has changed since 2014’s Dungeon of the Endless, but the core formula is still immediately recognizable in Endless Dungeon. I took on the role of two heroes stranded on a space station, searching for an exit with the help of a mechanical spider who I had to protect at all costs. Managing resources, obtaining new gear, and building defensive towers all became essential skills to surviving the brutal and relentless waves of enemies that easily overwhelmed me despite my not-insignificant tower defense chops.

Even with my characters’ extremely useful abilities, like Bunker’s skill of becoming invulnerable for an extended period of time, I quickly learned that a fast trigger finger would never be enough to prevent my untimely death on its own. Instead, I had to proceed with extreme caution as I explored the derelict space station and made my ultimately futile attempts at reaching the exit. Each new room I entered brought with it the anxiety and excitement of hoping I’d find some useful resources, while bracing myself for the inevitable monster’s den I was probably walking into. Suffice it to say, I didn’t have a single successful run in my limited time with this harrowing dungeon-crawler, and I consider that a testament to its bonafides as a hardcore roguelite – it just wouldn’t feel right if they made it easy for me.

But just because Endless Dungeon calls itself a roguelite versus the roguelikes of the past doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. It’s true that the final version will feature a meta progression system that presumably makes the going a bit easier with each consecutive playthrough, but Amplitude describes that progression as horizontal unlockables versus vertical ones that make the player more powerful. For example, you might unlock new characters that give you more options to tackle the dungeon and its enemies, but you won’t be able to make your existing characters much more powerful than they are initially.

Grinding your way to unrivaled power is not on the menu.

There are exceptions to this rule, like weapons that can be improved to give you an edge or mod slots that can give characters certain permanent boosts, but for the most part if you want any hope in surviving Endless Dungeon’s brutal waves of relentless enemies, your skill will need to improve – grinding your way to unrivaled power is not on the menu. With this model, Endless Dungeon straddles the line between being somewhat more approachable than a fully Darwinian roguelike, without putting the same kid gloves on that’s common with roguelites.

That said, the version I played had no progression system whatsoever, so I ended up just getting repeatedly eviscerated by hordes of enemies until I learned to carefully put my resources to their best use and got a tiny bit further with each attempt. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart and although I got my butt kicked every step of the way, it was an experience that left me wanting more. I look forward to getting humiliated again when Endless Dungeon comes to Early Access later this year.

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