October’s been quite the month for Sega – publishing Sonic Superstars to favorable reviews on Oct. 17 and just two days later releasing Endless Dungeon, a new title in the Endless world offering a unique blend of genres and gameplay elements.
Endless Dungeon injects roguelike and tower defense concepts into the twin-stick shooter game, with one to three players navigating the procedurally generated ruins of a long-dormant space station and fighting off the legions of hostile aliens, insects and robots that have made it their home. The action is akin to Diablo and the strategy maintains similarities with Dungeon of the Endless, a 2014 title by the same developer.
That’s where Endless Dungeon gets itself into trouble from a publicity standpoint – while it does share its setting and many conceptual similarities with Dungeon of the Endless, it’s not a direct followup, sequel, or even spiritual successor. Amplitude Studios might have made a mistake with its naming conventions, because many consumers are treating it as if it were a direct sequel.
It’s not all bad – many people who appreciated the 2014 game will love Endless Dungeon – but others may not, and it’s not necessarily the fault of the game itself. It simply won’t be to everyone’s taste. That said, Endless Dungeon is a well-made title, and it’s clear the developers put an incredible amount of work into balancing its difficulty and creating a title with engaging gameplay and beautiful visuals.
Sad as it is, in 2023 it’s refreshing to play a brand-new release that isn’t a buggy mess. No hot-fixes needed here – the game just works. Even playing online with a buddy, we both encountered zero issues with latency or connectivity. As it should be – while playing solo is a fun experience, it’s clear that cooperative play is the primary focus. Working together with friends to explore levels and defeat waves of enemies is a great time.
Endless Dungeon has a very satisfying gameplay loop – one moment you’re fighting for your life, and the next moment all is quiet while you loot each room, purchase upgrades and uncover secrets. Similar titles don’t always show this level of restraint – Minecraft Dungeons comes to mind – and players can begin to develop a sort of “highway hypnosis” where the exciting action just isn’t exciting anymore.
The game’s presentation is excellent. Its art style is reminiscent of a refined comic book or visual novel – one moment you’re taking in a beautiful, plaintive scene, and the next moment – Boom! Bam! – is an action-packed spectacle. The soundtrack brings it all home, appropriately bouncing from soft electronic landscapes to pumping rock music.
There’s only two obvious flaws with Endless Dungeon – the first is that there is no support for local co-op. That once-prominent video game feature has been less and less common in recent years thanks to improved internet speeds and rising number of digital devices per household. That said, I think this particular title could’ve been a good candidate for couch co-op.
That feature’s absence might also explain the decreased prioritization of the Nintendo Switch release – while the game is available today on Windows PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S, its Switch port has been postponed. That said, the game might struggle a bit to run on that system at all – it chews through my Steam Deck’s battery in just two hours while bouncing between 30 and 60 frames per second.
The second flaw is its confusing progression system during cooperative play. While everyone gets their share of loot, keys, scraps and so on, only the host can unlock new heroes, districts and weapon modifications. The tagalong player(s) are forced to leave the session, spend their tokens and come back.
This isn’t game-breaking, but it proved to be so unpopular that Amplitude Studios already announced their top post-release priority would be to amend the issue. I’ll be looking forward to those changes, because it’s a constant source of confusion in a game that’s otherwise self-explanatory.
Endless Dungeon is fun, accessible and a very welcome addition to the Endless franchise. It will certainly be a staple of my friend group’s game nights for months and possibly even years to come.
Riordan Zentler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.