Endless Dungeon (opens in new tab) A deliberate sequel to an unexpected success. In 2014, French developer Amplitude Studios, known for 4X games like Endless Legends and Humanity, released a Chaos game that blends Roguelike and tower defense, called Dungeon of the Endless. Conceived in “A Drunk Night That Goes Wrong,” it was a skunk project in development with Endless Legend that exceeded all studio expectations when it launched eight years ago.
What surprised Amplitude the most, however, was the love for Endless Dungeon multiplayer. “It was added late in the game, so it’s pretty barebones in a lot of ways,” said Romain de Waubert de Genlis, co-founder of Amplitude Studios. But that didn’t stop players from hyping it up at conventions before the pandemic. “We were surprised to see that the best moment our players mentioned happened to be playing multiplayer.”
As such, Endless Dungeon was designed as a multiplayer experience from the ground up. In fact, even in single-player, it’s a multiplayer game that lets you control multiple characters at once, weaving between alien enemies while fending off them.
The premise is similar to Endless Dungeon, but instead of a hostile alien planet, players explore abandoned space stations. Each floor of the station is procedurally generated, and you direct energy crystals from the robot’s legs to specific bulkhead doors. But there are plenty of other doors between you and the said door, leading to rooms that hold anything from power-ups to new weapons to alien hives that periodically spawn waves after waves of enemies.
Every door you open also provides resources for healing characters, upgrading their stats and abilities, and most importantly, building defenses. Your heroes simply can’t fire fast enough to stop hordes of aliens from consuming your crystal droids like giant Ferrero Rochers, so you’ll need to place turrets on specific nodes scattered around each room, then use Reinforced shields and ‘jellifiers’, which cover the station floor in a slow force field.
While the DNA of Endless Dungeon can be seen in the game structure, in appearance and function, Endless Dungeon is a completely different experience. Gone is the simple top-down pixel art, replaced by a painterly 3D aesthetic that fills the station’s procedural bronze corridors with colour. While there are fewer heroes than in Endless Dungeon, they are more distinct. The build I played offers three playable characters, including Zed, a cross between Overwatch’s Tracer and TF2’s Heavy, who stirs enemies with her under-chain gun, and Bunker, a slender robot, dragging a heavy ballistic shield.
command and conquer
The biggest change, though, is that you can control these characters directly, moving with the keyboard and aiming with the mouse. You can also activate special abilities like the shield slam of the bunker that splashes nearby enemies, and the ability to turn Zed’s chain gun into a devastating beam weapon.
Although the project is still in its early stages, the combat feels satisfying. It’s a particularly neat feeling to switch between characters with just a tap of the spacebar. “The most challenging [thing] Jean-Maxime Moris, creative director of Endless Dungeon, said: “I tried to make hero switching feel natural. Also, when you switch, you don’t get completely lost in the dungeon, so we need to add supporting features like minimaps.”
The core loop of the game is also full of tension. You have to open doors to accumulate resources, but every door you open may add another hive of enemies to the map. Therefore, the stakes are rapidly increasing. A wave of enemies is triggered every few minutes, and if you haven’t built up a solid defense by the third or fourth wave, your crystal bots will eventually turn into stardust. You also can’t expect to toss and turn around the crystal. Eventually, you have to command it to unlock the bulkheads that let you into the next area, which means your defenses need to remain strong throughout the crystal droid’s path.
In the version I played, this was a huge problem. I only went through the first bulkhead door once, and my crystal droid was quickly destroyed. The hard part is intentional. Amplitude wants Endless Dungeon to be a challenging experience. In typical roguelike style, your characters will gain powers during repeated runs, better allowing them to stop the tide of aliens. But Morris also acknowledged that Amplitude is still balancing the game’s tower defense elements. “We need to improve it, make it more refined, make it feel more powerful,” he said. “There are things we can do to improve the position of the turrets, the feedback you get when they do something, the general dynamics and the synergy with the shootout.”
The enemy I fought in the demo was essentially a giant bug race, and while acceptable starting material for a tower defense scenario, wouldn’t be a compelling opponent in the long run. But Morris assures me that this is just one type of enemy you’ll encounter in the Endless Dungeon. “We have four enemy families, each [of which] They have four or five different enemies,” he said, “so that gives you an idea of the diversity we have. We will distribute it across ten different environments. “
It was fleeting, but I enjoyed my time in the Endless Dungeon. The tension between opening doors and dealing with any spilled thresholds is fine, and the fusion of tower defense and roguelike provides Amplitude with a base to learn from. That said, I do worry that it lacks some kind of spark. When I asked Moris and de Waubert de Genlis what this game brings to the table we haven’t seen before, they pointed to the general fusion of tower defense and roguelike, and the ability to directly control your hero. But the former shows up in Endless Dungeon, and I’m not sure the latter is something you’d stick to the back of a box. After all, there are plenty of tower defense games with direct controls.
Again, it’s too early.Endless Dungeon is currently in open development (opens in new tab), the studio works with players to help refine and expand the core experience. So maybe that spark will show up in a roguelike progression, or as a team in a multiplayer game. Either way, Endless Dungeon looks like it’s going to be a fun romp, and there’s plenty of time for Amplitude to turn it into something special.