The first thing you need to know about Endless Dungeon is that it is not your standard roguelite. There are familiar components in how you play, but this isometric sci-fi shooter requires you to strategize your defence just as boldly as your offense. I found out exactly why in a recent hands-on with the upcoming game.
Endless Dungeon is a follow-up to 2014’s Dungeon of the Endless, but it is described to us as a “spiritual successor” rather than an all-out sequel. It looks and plays a lot differently, with a more vibrant 3D aesthetic and a new control system for players. The first game unfolds primarily in a turn-based style, whereas Endless Dungeon puts you in direct control of your characters’ movements and attacks. But that change is only part of what makes Endless Dungeon a fascinating new experiment in the genre.
The core dungeon loop is still present in Endless Dungeon; your character is dropped on an abandoned space station, and the only way to escape is to escort your Crystal_bot to The Core. While we’re unsure what is in The Core, we do know that’s absolutely imperative to reach it unscathed. Unfortunately, there are waves upon waves of monsters in between you and The Core, and it’s up to you to take them out while, crucially, making sure your fragile robot companion remains safe. That constant back-and-forth is what marks this game out as different from its peers. Endless Dungeon is a dance between blasting forward to discover as much loot as possible, while making sure your defenses are top notch and capable of protecting your Crystal_bot, research stations, and — if you’re playing with a group — fellow teammates.
Endless Dungeon stands out from the roguelite crowd because your defenses require forethought and proactivity; you’ll need to be prepared for threats before they even arrive. A room full of bugs will benefit from a deftly placed flamethrower, or a swarm of robots can be kept in check with electrical EMP blaster turret. However, you’ll need to research how to build these, and make you have enough resources to dedicate to it before the waves begin. All of this makes this the rare roguelite in which skill isn’t just about the moment-to-moment combat, but in learning how enemies work, and countering them.
You’ll progress through the station room by room in classic roguelite fashion, clearing the area while hunting for resources that’ll aid you in your journey. This can be offense inventory such as devastating elemental guns; it can be revelatory, in the form of new lore; or you can add upgrades to the turrets than can be placed as defenses in any area you’ve previously been to during your current run.
Your team’s resources are also shared, so if components are scarce, you’ll have to collaborate on what to spend it on. Perhaps the decision to push on into another room will turn into a fatal mistake if your resources are misplaced – collaboration is truly a necessity, and sticking together can sometimes be more important than progressing.
It’s this blend of tower defense, tactical gameplay and roguelite that makes Endless Dungeon feel unique. The primary objective is to blast your way through the station room by room, while mowing through the hordes along the way, while crafting a safe path to escort the Crystal bot out of the area and into the next one. Some rooms contain monster spawners, and the more you unlock, the more overwhelming these waves will become. Even opening doors requires strategy; if you enter a new room that’s too close to your Crystal bot, it might allow swarms to reach and chew it apart faster. If you’re unlucky, you’ll trigger a rare, deadlier wave with much tougher enemies. This is an extremely rare occurrence, (although we encountered this on our third wave, making for some extra chaos).
Once your character dies (and they will) you’ll be transported back to a hub world known as The Saloon, which is oozing with space western appeal. Creative Director Jean-Maxime Moris tells us that this area draws inspiration from the likes of Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Wars’ Cantina scenes to create a space that attracts a humdrum of oddballs.
Here, you can switch up your character’s look, grab a drink at the bar that will give you a selection of enhancements, or check out the library to read up on the monsters you’ve encountered. While you don’t necessarily need prior knowledge of this world to jump into Endless Dungeon, existing fans will also find connections to previous instalments in this loosely connected universe. And, of course, the more you know about your enemies, the better equipped you’ll be to take them down, and help your team survive just that little bit longer in the next run.
It’s all the more motivation to get stuck back into another round, and if our playtime was anything to by, there will be many, many more rounds of Endless Dungeon when it launches May 18.
SEGA Europe Ltd