Developer Amplitude Studios' squad-based roguelike Endless Dungeon offers a more rambunctious and silly narrative within the studio's Endless games, a primarily 4X strategy series with traditionally dramatic and serious stories. It's a welcoming first step into a universe I've often heard friends talk about but never managed to actually get into. Plus, it's pretty fun!
Borrowing mechanics and features from hero shooters and twin-stick tower defense games, Endless Dungeon sees you form a squad of three from a roster of playable characters. You're all shipwrecked in a long-abandoned space station, forced to work together in order to escape. To do so, you'll need to make your way through the station's 10 districts--which are filled with never-ending waves of monsters--while accompanying a brittle energy crystal that opens up the doors in your way.
I got to play through the tutorial and first district of Endless Dungeon during a preview, using a squad composed of metal music-loving Zed, autonomous police bot Bunker, and cowboy sharpshooter Blaze. I hate to stan anything to do with the police, but Bunker was my favorite, filling the tank role on the team with her massive shield. Of the three characters, I also like her storyline the most. Bunker isn't actually trying to escape the station--her partner/mentor has disappeared so she's trying to delve deeper into the station in order to find clues that could lead to what happened to him.
Bunker feels like a necessary choice for missions, where crowd control is the name of the game. The minigun-toting Zed also proved valuable, shredding threw whole crowds of enemies with storms of bullets and musical area-of-effect explosions. I didn't enjoy playing as Blaze all that much and didn't see much use for him when he was in the squad. The sharpshooter can dish out a lot of damage to a single target from a distance and create explosive traps. Those mines were also useful for crowd control but every character can create stationary turrets to help shore up defenses, so Blaze felt a little useless at times. Bunker feels far better as she can tank hits and block off chokepoints while on the move.
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Regardless of who you play, your goal is the same: Protect the squad's crystal. If your crystal is broken (or the party is wiped), you're sent back to the hub where the characters meet to converse and talk about what's happening. Enemies come at you with a hungry frenzy, desperately gnawing at you or any defenses you build in order to get to the crystal you're protecting. It's a difficult proposition when playing Endless Dungeon solo--which saw me frantically swapping between characters as the odds tipped ever more in my foes' favor. Though an AI does take control of whichever two squadmates you aren't controlling, it's really only smart enough to perform the most basic of tasks, like following you and defending a spot. Playing in a three-person party where everyone controls one character is a far more approachable experience, where everyone is working in tandem to overcome Endless Dungeon's challenge.
Following my time with the game, I emailed Amplitude Studios creative director Jean-Maxime Moris to ask some follow-up questions. The responses are transcribed below.
This isn't an entirely new genre for y'all, having made Dungeon of the Endless prior to this. What lessons did you learn from that game that you're implementing into this new project?
Dungeon of the Endless was the crazy child of the Endless Universe, a unique blend of genres and a quite crazy project that turned out amazing in terms of player reception. Its unique identity and tone were defining elements that were loved and that we made sure went into Endless Dungeon. Also, one of the things fans kept talking to us about at community events was the incredible blast they were having with multiplayer. We kept that in mind and thought why not try multiplayer with dual-stick direct control? And Endless Dungeon was born, the first title in Amplitude's history to aim for a simultaneous launch on PC and consoles!
What was most exciting about using the world of Dungeon of the Endless as a narrative backdrop for this new game? And, on the other side, did y'all face any unexpected narrative challenges with this game already tied to the world of something else?
The background of both Dungeon of the Endless and Endless Dungeon is the Endless Universe, but these two games do not share any connection. Of course, if you look closely, you will find Easter eggs and references to Dungeon of the Endless!
Endless Universe is the backbone of Amplitude, and it is great to be able to have a somewhat more serious tone in our 4X series, but then go crazy with Endless Dungeon.
Endless Dungeon retains the off-the-wall tone of its predecessor and goes for a space western aesthetic in terms of character archetypes, music, and visuals. We hope it will feel as unique to play in as it is to create.
How did y'all come up with the three-man squad? Why is a duo partnership too little and a squad of four just too much?
The three-man squad was the sheer result of iteration on single-player gameplay. We had four in mind originally but realized while playtesting that the cognitive load was too much: keeping in mind what three other heroes are doing in the midst of action can be quite challenging. We did try two but that was not as much fun and would have been limiting in multiplayer. So, three it was, the perfect balance between accessibility and fun!
How is Endless Dungeon's story told? How do characters discover or unlock more of the narrative?
Endless Dungeon's story is told in many ways and its depth grows the further you get in the dungeon and the more content you unlock in the meta. You will unlock new characters to hang out with in the saloon or to go on a run with. They'll have stories to tell and their own quests that you can complete navigating the 10 districts of the game, also unlocked progressively. You will also unlock stories about the station's history and raison d'être (the reason for being). These will echo the notes you come across as well as the game's environmental storytelling.
Is the storyline experienced in a linear manner? How confusing is it to keep up with everything?
In a procedural roguelike, nothing is totally linear yet there are key beats that will trigger throughout the game for all to experience. Hopefully, it won't be confusing at all although if you are already familiar with the Endless Universe, you get a head start in terms of piecing the lore and story together.
And how does gameplay progression work? I didn't really get a chance to see how the characters themselves might grow stronger over time (if they do at all).
Characters do grow stronger over time or rather, they are gradually given more and more options to try out in combat through meta progression. All these items and upgrades are purchased in the saloon at various stands using a meta currency that you earn from run to run. For instance, at the saloon bar, you can buy mocktails: passive upgrades that you get to equip for a run. If you collect blueprints in the station, you can give them to the Gunsmith who will turn them into new weapon attachments or new hero upgrades. You'll be able to carry a growing amount of these upgrades.
There are also upgrades that you gain during a run: the hero upgrades you buy with Food, or the Crystal upgrades you get spending Crystal Shards. You also meet the good old Merchant who will sell you weapons and devices that will in turn level up in combat!
How many different heroes will be available at launch? Number of levels?
There will be a total of eight heroes at launch. There are nine districts spread across three floors. You visit one district on each floor, descending into the dungeon. Every new run means mapping out a new path towards the core, the 10th and final environment.
Will the game support cross-platform multiplayer?
The game does not support cross-platform multiplayer across manufacturers. However, it does support it within a given ecosystem. For example, PlayStation 4 players can join their friends on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S players can play with their friends on Xbox One consoles.
How is the economy shared between players in multiplayer? Do we all pull from the same pool of resources?
All the resources you accumulate in a run are shared in multiplayer. Your chances depend on efficient communication and decision-making!
What doors shall we open next? In what order? What turret shall we research next? Who needs an upgrade the most?
These are just a few of the questions you will need to ask yourself and your friends and when pressure and mistakes kick in, that's when multiplayer will be the most fun.
In multiplayer, how far apart can I be from the rest of my party? Do we have to stick together, or can we be whole levels apart?
You can wander as far apart from each other as you want within the same zone. The three players always go through a zone together and need to reach the exit… together!
There are times when you will spread out to cover choke points or points of interest, and others where you will need to regroup to escort the crystal for instance. Try out different team tactics and learn to adapt and improvise in the face of more and more monsters!
In terms of the waves, how often do they occur? Is it determined by how many rooms I've explored? How much time has passed? Something else?
Once you find a monster spawner in a zone, you know the first wave is coming. And after the first will come many more, depending on how fast you are moving forward.
The timing between waves depends on the elapsed time since the previous wave as well as the number of doors you open. And we add a slight element of randomness to the mix!
Is there an actual antagonist to Endless Dungeon? I only saw the mindless creatures blocking my escape--is there anyone out there I eventually have to worry about?
I can't say much more today but there is a lot to worry about inside the dungeon! Fans of the Endless Universe and newcomers alike will not be disappointed!
We look forward to releasing new information about the game in the coming months as well as to getting feedback from our community during OpenDev!
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