Dungeon Of The Endless Review (Xbox One)

Dungeon Of The Endless Review (Xbox One)
Review Score:

It’s a known fact that I love a good dungeon crawler. And even though I love to hack and slash with the best of them, I also enjoy taking on a different experience from a different perspective, with a different twist — and “Dungeon of the Endless” delivers just that. DOTE is quite the “rogue-like-meets-tower-defense-like” game, developed and published by Amplitude Studios. It was first released back in October 2014 for Windows and Mac OS X, then in August 2015 for iOS handheld devices, and then in March 2016 for the XBox One. DOTE is Amplitude Studios’ second game of their loosely connected “Endless” series, which includes “Endless Space” and “Endless Legend”.

While DOTE may look very simple at first, don’t let those looks fool you, because this game is anything BUT that; and much kudos to Amplitude for wrapping so much into such thoughtful and excellent design. The game features randomly generated levels and the notion of “permadeath” (that’s right fellow gamers. Once you’re dead, you’re dead — you won’t find any “1-Up” icons or respawning here), which guarantees that each run-through of the game is different. DOTE is based on directing the survivors of a prison spacecraft (crew, prisoners and civilians, oh my) — after the spacecraft’s escape pod had crash-landed on an alien planet — through several levels with hopes to escape from said planet. You assume the role of these survivors, and in order to escape, you must take an energy crystal through several floors, all the while as each floor is full of dangerous creatures. To aid in your mission to escape though, you can have your survivors explore each level to collect resources in order to generate power to various rooms and have the ability to build turrets to help fend off the enemies, as you move the crystal from its starting point to the elevator leading to the next floor.

The graphics and sound in DOTE are kind of on the minimal side, but in this case it’s certainly not a bad thing. The game is 100% pixelated from start to finish, which had my retro gaming heart beating in a frenzy. Who says you always have to have the latest state-of-the-art graphics for a game to look good? I’m actually very thankful for this type of graphics, because the in-game action can get very busy, so I can only imagine what it would be like if this game was chock full of current-gen graphics instead. The sound isn’t much of a factor here either, but the supporting soundtrack is excellent. And as far as the controls go, they do take some getting used to, especially if you’re so used to being right there in the middle of the monster-killing action as opposed to directing your heroes where to go. And don’t worry, your heroes are indeed monster killers in their own right, provided that they’re equipped with proper equipment of course.

Dungeon of the Endless Xbox One

So now let’s discuss the gameplay, shall we? At the start of the game, you’re presented the option of selecting a basic escape pod to begin your mission on, and you get to choose two characters, with each character having different stats such as health, attack, defense power, and movement speed, as well as a number of abilities. You’re able to control each character separately or in tandem by having them move to various rooms on the current level or open doors on that level, as well as initiate any special ability or heal them. Otherwise, your characters will act automatically, such as fighting off any enemies that enter the room to the best of their abilities. On the first level of the game, your characters will start in the crashed escape pod with the energy crystal; on subsequent levels however, they will start on the elevator that they took from the previous level.

The goal for each level remains the same: to find the exit and transport said energy crystal in order to power the lift to the next level. Behind each door of each level, there may be a swarm of monsters, some kind of an artifact, a socket for you to use to build a factory, or one of a few other options, with the doors acting as turns in the real-time action. For instance, special ability recharges aren’t based on time that passes, but as doors open. Simply put, you’re constantly pushed to move forward, and seem to never have quite enough supplies.

DOTE as a whole, mainly plays out in a turn-based fashion, with every turn marked each time when a new door on a level is opened. At the beginning of each turn, you gain fixed amounts of three resources: Industry, Science, and Food. Industry is mostly used for the building of turrets and resource generators. Science is used to research new types of turrets and generators, and food is used to help heal your characters or increase their experience levels so they can improve their stats and acquire new abilities. Aside from what was mentioned above as to what can be found behind doors, there are certain rooms that may have objects which can be scavenged for more of these resources. Additionally, rooms will also have Dust, which powers the energy crystal. As that crystal continues to increase in power, you can then “activate” a limited number of continuous sets of rooms, allowing them to build resource generators and turrets in rooms which have been previously activated. On the flip side of that though, you can also deactivate a room at any time as you wish, to reroute the power to a different room, which in turn will disable the turrets and generators in that room. Other rooms may also include item chests, shopkeepers, or even other survivors that you can recruit to your party.

Dungeon of the Endless Xbox One

Should you open a door that causes monsters to appear, they will show up in random rooms of the level that you’re currently on, across the map in any room that isn’t activated oris lacking its own power source. The monsters will attack both your party and the energy crystal — killing the creatures has a chance of creating more Dust to help run the crystal. Your characters will lose health with attacks, and will eventually die if their health drops to zero. Keep in mind, though, that as soon as all the newly spawned monsters are killed, your characters’ health is fully restored. If the monsters attack the energy crystal, it will lose Dust permanently, and should the crystal’s health drop to zero, then the crystal is destroyed and subsequently your game is over. During the monster attacks, you can freely move your characters around between the open rooms so you can obtain the best tactical placement, such as fighting monsters alongside numerous turrets. And once any spawned monsters are finished off, you can move your characters about and build defenses freely until you opt to open the next door.

Once you have found the exit on a level, you must then have one character grab the energy crystal and carry it slowly from where you started on the level to the exit point, while the other character(s) protect your crystal carrier from waves of monsters that happen to appear at this point. One thing to remember here though is, if your crystal carrier dies, then the game is over. But if all your survivor characters make it to the room with the exit, then you get to advance to the next level. Eventually you’ll start unlocking more complex escape pods that have different attributes and modifiers, once you win more games.

So what do I think of the game? It’s definitely a unique, interesting take on dungeon crawling for one thing. It’s truly a brutal, enthralling, and very persistent experience that keeps Dungeon of the Endless — well, endless. Plus, having the ability to conquer difficult levels and increasingly difficult waves of monsters will certainly have you chomping at the bit. The game’s difficulty options of “Easy” and “Too Easy” are totally tongue-in-cheek here and there is a tutorial, but it really only covers the absolute basics. The initial learning curve of DOTE is a double-edged sword, in the sense that it’s both a bit too steep and it’s very easy to overlook important stuff like leveling up your heroes with some food, as opposed to just healing them or hooking them up with better gear. For me to say that there’s a lot going on in this game is above and beyond an understatement.

Dungeon of the Endless Xbox One

If I were to have any kind of gripe with DOTE, it would be that I feel there’s a lack of a story there. I know that there’s a wealth of information with the characters and the picture album — which only unlocks certain information when criteria is met, by the way — but it still would’ve been nicer if there was a little bit more story or info, especially when it involves character understanding and interaction, despite the fact that all you really need to know is that you were previously aboard a prison spacecraft, and that you have now crash-landed on an alien planet. Since DOTE is an installment of the “Endless” series, it would’ve been nice to at least have a brief introduction or something, telling what may have happened previously. But with my nitpicking set aside, this game is an absolute gem and I highly recommend it to anyone who craves dungeon spelunking from a different approach.

Sean Boley
Platform: XBox One
Developer: Amplitude Studios
Publisher: Amplitude Studios
ESRB: T (Teen) — Blood, Violence
Price: $9.99

Dungeon of the Endless Official Website:
http://g2g.amplitude-studios.com/Games/Dungeon-of-the-Endless

Review Score
Graphics
The pixellated, retro-classic PC graphics absolutely rocks.
Sound
The game's soundtrack is very enchanting.
Gameplay
Despite the steep learning curve, it's a very deep and involved game.
Overall
4-player support, lots of unlockables and achievements, and so much more. How can you not love Dungeon of the Endless?
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