Endless Dungeon, the successor to 2014’s Dungeon of The Endless, is a tower defense twin-stick shooter created by French developer Amplitude Studios; and after my hands-on session at Gamescom 2022, it has the potential to be the next big roguelite.
Interestingly, this upcoming roguelite is more a reimagining than a sequel. Instead of the point-and-click navigation and automated combat featured in the first game, players now directly control characters and weapons in real time. Endless Dungeon reimagines its predecessor’s pixel art dungeons into larger, gorgeously-lit 3D spaces. Also, up to three friends can play cooperatively.
You play as members of a shipwrecked crew, each representing a western cowboy trope, stranded on a mysterious space station. But unlike the other poor souls trapped amidst the stars, your squad might have a chance to escape. To do so, you’ll have to fight your way deeper into the terminal.
Endless Dungeon is as much a twin-stick shooter as it is a dungeon crawler and tower defense game. Every dungeon begins in a closed-off safe room with a crystal in the center. You must protect the crystal at all costs because if it breaks, you die. Your goal is to escort the crystal to an undisclosed exit somewhere within the zone. You don’t know how many doors are between you and the exit, so you better get to opening them.
But what lies beyond each door is a total mystery – it could be new weapons, gadgets, or possibly a nest or swarm of enemies. The crystal cannot follow you, so you must simultaneously protect it while exploring new spaces. The best way to protect the crystal is to build turrets.
Construction nodes line every room, and you can place many turret types on top. Some modules produce a slowing field, others shield everything in their respective area, and the most basic ones automatically shoot enemies. It might be obvious, but the challenge comes from a limited pool of resources, requiring players to place turrets where they offer the most utility. You can find more resources by exploring rooms or building extractors in unique spaces, but each extractor can only produce one type at a time. Of course, everything you build is at risk of attack from hostile robots, aliens, and other enemies.
Once you discover the exit, the crystal will begin its journey across the station. But the crystal uninstalls itself from the system to move, triggering waves of enemies to spawn and hunt it down. Your job is to protect it, of course.
Every character in Endless Dungeon possesses unique passive and active abilities. Bunker, a robot sheriff, stands in the way of enemy fire with its giant shield, Blaze is an explosives-toating zoner, and the newly-revealed Shroom carries potent healing elixirs to buff the team. You can switch between characters on a whim and order party members to stay or follow. Again, Endless Dungeon will offer multiplayer support at launch, so up to three players can each pick their favorite character.
I’ve played many excellent games at Gamescom this week, but Endless Dungeon might be my favorite. Its twin-stick gunplay is polished, and its tower defense elements pair well with dungeon-crawling exploration to create tense scenarios. I see myself sinking dozens of hours into the final release – whenever that may be.
But the studio only recently “found the fun,” a phrase often used to denote a successful prototype design. Before that, the team was pulling their hair out in frustration.
“Up until two months ago, I have to admit, Endless Dungeon was not that fun,” says Creative Director Jean-Maxime Moris. “We were a bit wary of straying too far away from the original.”
It wasn’t until roughly six months ago that the team decided to control characters and weapons in real-time. Moris continues, “When we introduced real-time, that made it, so you were on your toes the whole time. And even if you have to traverse the entire level, it doesn’t feel that long because you’re always looking for danger.”
“We came to a place just a few weeks ago, where now I can play the game. And this was my vision for the game: if you get good at it, you carefully place your turrets and upgrade them when they need to be repaired. I take great pleasure in not having to fire a single bullet, just watching the carnage unfold and going through the level while watching the turrets do their jobs.”
Now that Amplitude has established a core gameplay loop, the studio focuses daily on level designs to vary the game’s pace and amount of challenge. The project doesn’t currently have a release window, but Endless Dungeon could be a breakout hit if it continues along the same trajectory.