Dungeon of the Endless: Apogee is certainly endless. The roguelike dungeon crawler, originally released on PC and later console, produces a wide array of emotions and actions describable as endless: endless panic, endless frustration, endless rumination, endless adrenaline. This despite it not being, in fact, endless. The game is the brainchild of Amplitude Studios and the third installment in their loosely connected Endless series, the prior two being Endless Space and Endless Legend. Dungeon of the Endless is unique in that it does not fit the 4X strategy genre its predecessors do. In fact, there is no one genre that stringently classifies this game. Published by Playdigious, the studio responsible for bringing the indie success Dead Cells to mobile devices, Dungeon of the Endless transfers its many charms and assets to a technically clunky port.
Dungeon of the Endless follows a team of prisoners who flee from the destruction of a massive space freighter via escape pod. Following a cutscene depicting this turn in events, the player can either pick their team or choose a randomized set of characters. A newer player may have a hard time drafting a team based on the characters’ stats, as each individual stat is identified only through an icon and a colored bar. As a result, they may need to pick characters based on the aesthetic merit of their portraits, pixel-based in-game models or titles. Frustration again arises here as the coolest characters based on those characteristics are locked. They are obtainable only by recruiting them in the dungeon and surviving three levels with them in your party. There is an assortment of pods as well, which add bonuses often coupled with drawbacks. However, these are unavailable initially and only unlocked through completing certain in-game challenges.
One Small Step
After picking a team composition, your pod will crash land on the surface of a mysterious planet. You will enter the first level and begin a tutorial. As far as tutorials go, it is sufficiently elucidating for newcomers and gives one the chops necessary for delving through the perilous dungeons that await. The tutorial introduces you to the basic object of the game: Navigate each floor in search of an elevator that leads to the next floor and hopefully a way out of the god-forsaken dungeon. Conjointly, you need to protect and transport a large yellow crystal throughout your perilous trek.
Along the way, you will encounter swaths of monsters. Some of these foes will engage your party directly in combat. Others will charge right by you to lay siege upon your power crystal. At your disposal are four resources that assist you in defending the crystal and traversing levels in various ways. The first of these resources is Industry, which allows you to build defensive, healing and temporary stat-increasing modules. Science lets you research new modules. And Food permits you to heal, level up and recruit characters. Each new room you enter lacks power and is dark, which produces enemies. Your final resource, Dust, allows you to power these rooms, illuminating them and nullifying their monster production. While the first three resources amass automatically each turn, Dust accumulates more intermittently. As a result, deciding how to allocate it across rooms can often be a tedious process.
Jack of Most Trades
One of the most intriguing qualities of Dungeon of the Endless is its dynamic gameplay, which allows it to fit into multiple genres. For starters, especially in later levels, accruement and proper allocation of resources determines success in this game. The game also uses a rough turn-based system. Each turn results in the acquisition of resources and the potential for posses of monsters to spawn from darkened rooms. However, even opening a door uses a turn, possibly leading to a fight.
On the other hand, combat is executed in real time. During these moments, the game is in marked turn-based strategy and real-time strategy form. The defense of the power crystal from large bevies of enemies adds a tower defense aspect to the game, especially when considering you can use stationary turrets. The ability to choose your team of characters, who all have brief but entertaining biographies, and level them up as you progress displays the game’s RPG roots. Nonetheless, the most suitable label is roguelike. After all, the player’s goal is to travel blindly through randomly generated maps to get to the end alive.
Frankly, Amplitude does an admirable job of coalescing some of gaming’s most prominent genres into a cohesive and compelling experience. The genres practically never converge in a negative way. For example, whereas most RPGs see your character level up through beating opponents, in Dungeon you spend food to level up. In a more traditional RPG, this might be too taxing. But Dungeon is also a roguelike and a strategy game, a combination that makes players consider their resource expenditures that much more. Using food to level up when you may need it for healing later seems an appropriate risk. The dichotomy of careful deliberation and frenetic action embodied throughout the game is patently captivating.
Honey, I Shrunk My Screen
I was largely impressed by the gameplay in Dungeon of the Endless. Largely, but not endlessly. The game’s mobile port makes for a notably hindered experience, mechanically and otherwise. The game’s UI compresses well enough by mobile phone standards. However, the UI has too many components to ever be adequately minimized. The pause button is one of the most significant burdens. Pausing is an essential part of the game as you increase in levels and the hordes of enemies grow more sizable and resilient. The pause button is about the size of a Skittle, which is being generous, in the corner of the screen. Actually pausing the game may take three to five tries, which greatly benefits the monsters. However, making the pause button larger would likely obstruct the rest of the UI and the game itself.
Another big issue is how easy it is to click the wrong thing and how damaging that can be. Powering rooms on and off requires a long click. Playing on mobile, a device which requires your fingers to constantly be on the screen, accidental power-offs are quite frequent. They are especially frustrating when you power off a room that was feeding power to two, three or four other rooms and subsequently shut those down as well. Furthermore, to advance in levels, you must select a character to carry the crystal and have them walk to the elevator. Accidentally moving the crystal-bearer to an unintended location has the potential to lose you the entire game. A simple patch could not fix these issues. The game’s flow runs into conflicts that are inherent to mobile gaming. Some games just don’t play well on mobile.
Is It Hardcore?
Most of the time.
Dungeon of the Endless: Apogee is an engaging, fast-paced, dungeon-crawling atmosphere which effectively combines elements from several favorable genres to create an enjoyable experience. If you can see past its unmistakable porting issues, which will certainly take effort, it is a worthwhile game to dive into.