Speaking from personal experience, Rogue-like games are scary. They’re difficult, they’re punishing, they pull no punches. When you die, you’re dead, back to the beginning you go. It can be deflating, irritating, downright infuriating - but when you succeed - when you succeed, the feeling of elation holds few equals in gaming.
Every door opened grants industry, science and food, all of which are carried to new floors. Dust is never a guaranteed pick-up and resets between floors, making it the most valuable of the bunch. Rooms not powered by Dust have a chance to spawn enemies with every door you open, meaning you'll need to think carefully about what rooms you do and don’t power in order to not leave your crystal open to attack, and thus invite game over.
You’ll rarely, if ever, be able to power every room on a floor, and this is where the tower defence aspect comes into play. Your heroes can’t be everywhere - though you can recruit up to two additional companions to help you on your way - so defence modules are a must to protect the crystal and avoid ruin in your absence. It’s fairly standard and entirely functional tower defence fare; you’ll want to combine a considered range of modules in appropriately placed and sized rooms to ensure maximum monster-slaying efficiency.
It should probably come with a health warning, as you’ll undoubtedly forego exercise and sustenance in favour of clearing just one more floor… and then another… and then another.
Gameplay as a whole is a constant balancing act - do you splurge on defences to ensure your safety and subsequently head down to the next floor at an industry disadvantage? Scrimp and risk defeat at the hands of greed? When you find the exit, do you explore the remainder of the rooms for potential equippable loot and guaranteed resources, or avoid the risk and get out? These bouts of self questioning remain constant thanks to the unpredictable nature of the randomised dungeons. You can’t just settle into a routine and employ it for every run, because it won’t always be applicable, you’re kept on your toes and will need to improvise.
Having previously released on PC and touch devices, the controls have been reworked to be compatible with a gamepad. They’ll take a little getting used to, but given time things click and become perfectly comfortable. If you do struggle in the absence of a mouse or touchscreen, it's possible to pause the game and issue commands in your own time, which should negate any potential lingering issues.
You’ll want to take advantage of the pause function, not just for added efficiency, but because one tiny mistake can spell your demise. We once pressed X instead of A, which picked up the power crystal and launched an all out enemy assault instead of defending the room whilst leaving the crystal be. It was disastrous, three hours went down the drain. Failure can also fall in part to random chance, or RNG, which will definitely be deflating enough to put some people off - runs are not short and a lot of your time is placed at risk.
The lovely ambient soundtrack helps suppress any anger when the former occurs, encouraging you to persevere. For those who do, each failure is a learning experience. You step back into the dungeon with a better idea of how to overcome whatever’s thrown at you, how to manipulate the odds to your favour. Gaining this sense of control is more satisfying than defeating any boss.
As good Rogue-likes tend to be, Dungeon of the Endless is incredibly addictive. It should probably come with a health warning, as you’ll undoubtedly forego exercise and sustenance in favour of clearing just one more floor… and then another… and then another. Winning whilst meeting certain criteria also unlocks new escape pods, which serve as modifiers to alter the manner in which you play, and ensure longevity through added challenge and variety. We can easily see people sinking hundreds of hours into the game.
Amplitude Studios’ first Xbox One outing is a triumph. They’ve managed to take numerous quite complex systems and package them in such a way that it's accessible, whilst still very challenging and hard to master. It’s risk/reward gameplay condensed to a pure form - whatever the outcome of the risk taken, whether or not you receive a reward, it helps you to grow as a player. Most importantly, despite the frustrations of failure, you’ll have fun either way.
Note: The Xbox One version of Dungeon of the Endless features added co-operative multiplayer for 2-4 players via Xbox Live. Due to the review being conducted ahead of the game’s 16 March launch, we were unable to try and therefore rate this feature. Rest assured, it can only add value to the package.