Thursday, August 20, 2015

IOS Review #101: Dungeon of the Endless

Title: Dungeon of the Endless
Developer: Amplitude Studios
Platforms: iPad
Price: $4.99
Some games are laser focused on a single aspect, fine-tuning a mechanic or element to perfection. The reflex-testing evasion of Super Hexagon or the fourth wall-breaking storytelling of The Stanley Parable. And then you have games that straddle numerous genres, like the deck-building action brawler Hand of Fate or A Dark Room. Dungeon of the Endless fits firmly in the latter category: a sci-fi dungeon-crawling, tower-defense, squad-based roguelike that blends aspects of those genres to deliver a challenging and unique experience.
Dungeon of the Endless starts out bad for your team of bounty hunters, assassins, and criminals, as their prison transport vessel is destroyed by the mysterious alien force known as the Endless. And it only gets worse from there, as the escaped survivors find themselves deep underground, in the subterranean corridors of an Endless complex. Alien monstrosities lurk in the dark rooms and halls, waiting to attack your heroes in overwhelming waves. The exit is twelve floors up, past industrial tunnels, dilapidated research facilities, and organic hives. 

The easiest way to describe Dungeon of the Endless is to break its gameplay down by its individual elements. Each floor is a procedurally-generated maze, and you guide your team room-by-room, searching for the level exit. You never know what awaits behind the next door. Much-needed resources, a merchant, a new hero to recruit, more ruthless enemies?
While you can't choose your heroes' actions directly, you must still use their skills intelligently to make it out alive. Some wield powerful guns but move slow, while others slice enemies down with blades and spears and run quickly. Special abilities can boost damage and speed, regenerate health, among other useful buffs.

But your team alone isn't strong enough to survive the Endless. Each room is peppered with slots where you can place various modules. These act like the towers in a tower defense game, each with different offensive, defensive, and support capabilities. However, you can only place modules in powered rooms, and that's where the true challenge emerges.
Power is emitted by the Crystal; if it's destroyed, then all hope is lost. Upon finding the level exit, you must transport the Crystal there. In this phase, the cautious room-by-room approach morphs into a desperate escort mission as you designate one person to carry the Crystal. The rest of your team must protect that defenseless hero as relentless waves of enemies endlessly spawn from every un-powered room. You never have enough power to illuminate all the rooms so pre-planning is crucial. Did you place enough modules? Which route will you take, which rooms will you power up? Which hero will guard the rear, which one will rush ahead to guard the carrier?

All of the game's varied elements mesh together at that moment. The cautious dungeon crawling to find the exit, the tower-defense aspect as you build modules for support along your route, and the squad tactics as you lead your team out of the level.
Surviving in Dungeon of the Endless is always thrilling, tense, and challenging, and discovering the synergies between modules and heroes is equally rewarding. A varied array of modifiers adds replay value, including an endless mode, a hardcore mode, and other twists on the core gameplay. The game controls flawlessly on touchscreen, joining the likes of FTL and Paper's Please as examples of excellent PC ports.

Dungeon of the Endless is available for $4.99 on iPad.

You can also purchase the game on PC, through Steam, Humble, and Green Man Gaming.

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