Co op games are like rollercoasters. I mean this in the sense that they’re a system in which you consent to being put under a lot of stress in the name of fun. Make no mistake, I absolutely adore Endless Dungeon- the confusingly-named sequel to Dungeon of the Endless. It harkens back to a very specific type of co op that feels like it’s fallen out of vogue- one where you’re absolutely powerless against the game’s systems.
We got to try out the Closed Beta for Endless Dungeon ahead of the game’s launch next month- and got a game experience that really knows how to make the rogue-lite formula more fun.
As a rogue-lite adventure, Endless Dungeon has you exploring giant labyrinthine ruins all while protecting your crystal. The contents are randomized every run, including your access to any potential upgrades and the like.
Like so many things in life, Endless Dungeon shakes up the formula with gambling. Not in the sense that you’re gambling for new characters- but in the sense that you’re going to have to choose how to invest in generators. Generators give you resources every time you open another section, and each of the possible resources you can generate is for a different kind of upgrade: Character, health or just raw number of turrets.
As a result you can end up in some pretty dire situations- I could invest more in Science and hope to get a research station, only for the dungeon I’m in to only have character upgrades instead. Alternatively, you can play it safe and just invest in technology- you’ll always need raw turrets, so why not, right?
The Joy Of When Things Go Wrong
Arguably the best thing Endless Dungeon showed off to us is its ability to shake things up. My biggest issue with rogue-lites is always level structure- it always just becomes a run to the right of the screen, or just surviving waves of knife-vulnerable aliens. Instead, Endless Dungeon is structured much more like a game of Left 4 Dead- you explore the dungeon, potentially triggering wave events where you’ll need to defend your core and any other important structures you’ve built. It just creates a very efficient use of space, since you’re made to backtrack to your home base once the waves start pouring in.
While the game can give you an AI controlled teammate, it really shines with the three-player co-op here. Just like a game of Left 4 Dead, Endless Dungeon shines like a neutron star when things are absolutely going wrong. One of my teammates raised the danger level too high, triggering a wave event that caught everyone off guard.
Worse still, the fact that this particular dungeon spawned our generators a few rooms away from the core, we were now left with having to split up our forces to protect as much of our underground slice of heaven as possible. It’s that kind of frantic screaming and panic-induced mania where Endless Dungeon really comes together. Suddenly you find out your clever turret placement wasn’t so clever after all, and you’re stuck having to double your efforts saving the core from giant cockroaches.
Of course, one thing that Endless Dungeon has unique to it is the hero selection. In an otherwise procedurally-generated hellscape, your hero selection is the one thing you can always fall back on. I really like just how solid these skills feel- I stuck with a police robot with a pretty good shield bash, on top of an ult that turns you into a turret. In a way, it was fitting- I found myself being the responsible one in the squad and had the character with tools to specifically survive an onslaught born of poor turret placement.
Chomping At The Bit For More
While we didn’t get to see the full roster of characters coming to Endless Dungeon, what we have seen makes for a pretty solid gaming experience. Admittedly, its biggest gripe comes from the writing- I’m a sour old grape who’s not always a fan of quirky, quippy characters. But any game that allows you to accidentally trigger a horde, pissing off the rest of your squad is A-OK in my book, and I certainly can’t wait to see even more this October.