Amplitude Studios is a team that is, at this point, completely familiar with the concept behind Steam’s Early Access. For those unfamiliar, studios can now charge customers to pay to play their beta with the promise that those who purchase the product will be a part of the development process through interactions with the developers via the game’s forums. The concept has succeeded a handful of times, and failed many more, which, in turn, has turned many gamers off to the idea.
Two games that have stood out as great examples of how the system can benefit players are Endless Space and Endless Legend. Both games were developed by Amplitude Studios, who have now taken the success and fandom they’ve cultivated through their two previous titles, and created something that is relatively far removed from their previous efforts.
Whereas both of the previous Endless games are turn-based 4X strategy games, Dungeon of the Endless is a real-time dungeon crawler, with some interesting tower defense flair to boot. It’s a combination that didn’t immediately grab my attention due to a lack of direction.
The game, like Endless Legend during it’s Early Access phase, neglects to include much in the way of tutorials. It’s base objective is pretty clear, but the finer details are less defined. You’re tasked with simultaneously defending a crystal which holds much power, while trying to explore the dungeon and discover the exit. Once you’ve discovered the exit, it’s time to grab the crystal and make your way out while battling dozens of monsters. The finer points are not explained and are left to be discovered. For example, you’re able to bring power to each room (a detail that, admittedly I may have missed). Bringing power to a room then allows you to build defensive structures within. Again, this was something that wasn’t described, and perhaps the game will benefit from a tutorial post-release, not unlike Amplitude’s previous games.
Aside from that somewhat shallow complaint, the game benefits in many other forms.
Amplitude brings their signature attention to UI design to Dungeon of the Endless, something that was well-praised in other Endless games. Many of the other games’ trademarks make their way to Dungeon including a simplistic and gorgeous menu design as well as an in game UI that is easily manageable and informative. Dungeon benefits from having far fewer details to display on-screen than the 4X games before it, so there is never a moment of clutter.
Beneath the beautiful UI are the equally astounding graphics which seem inspired by the 8 and 16-bit games of yesteryear while implementing more modern technical capabilities. It’s immediately evident that Amplitude Studios has no problems associating themselves with the recent onslaught of rouge-likes matching the old-school glory with an artistic touch that screams hand painted. It allows the game to be immediately identifiable.
Like any of the more recent rogue-likes, Dungeon of the Endless is very difficult. Luckily, the game doesn’t actively work against you, allowing you to build up your defenses (a la the tower defense genre). These defense structures are not only cannons, but also static items that give your characters special temporary abilities, such as additional damage or armor. As you explore further into the dungeon, you’ll find equipment to upgrade your characters that include new weapons and armor. Some of these lend themselves to the game’s sense of humor, including strapping kitchen gloves on our hero and sending him into battle against hordes of foes (if you need a good laugh, pay attention to the opening cinematic).
Dungeon of the Endless is promised to eventually release with a multiplayer mode. While details are scarce, it’s difficult to not be excited by what possibilities may lie within that mode.