Endless Dungeon review: Fun but flawed rogue-lite tower defence

Endless Dungeon review: Fun but flawed rogue-lite tower defence
Images via SEGA

Written by 

Dani Cross

Published 

23rd Oct 2023 17:33

For a tower defence game, Endless Dungeon is rarely a stationary experience. You move between rooms to find upgrades, and each new door opened increases the chances of enemies spawning. You’ll set up your defences on the fly, building turrets as you dart between rooms dodging bugs and robots.

You can even teleport back to your Crystal Bot, the heart of your team that must be defended at all costs, any time you want. When this bot dies, you're warped back to the "Saloon" to start the whole run over again.

Mobility is just as important as building strong defences. You’re not just defending one area - you’ll have to move your crystalline buddy along to new areas and set up camp multiple times in one level to progress. When it’s moving it’s most vulnerable, so you’ll need to explore as much as you can, set up as many turrets as you need and improve your weapons or abilities to make sure you’re equipped for each brief expedition.

It’s a decent gameplay loop, and the game fuses its main mechanics well, but a few gameplay tweaks and more variety would go a long way towards making Endless Dungeon a more memorable venture. I had fun with it while I was learning the game’s mechanics, but once you’ve seen most of what the game has to offer, it lacks the replayability that rogue-lites need to keep your attention.

GGRecon Verdict

Endless Dungeon is well worth a shot if you're after a co-op rogue-lite to play with your friends. As a solo player it might be a bit too repetitive for a full completion, but there's still plenty of fun to be found here.

Tower Defence Gone Rogue

Shelldiver, a boss from Endless Dungeon
Click to enlarge

Some of the best “endless” games are fast-paced action titles, constantly pushing you to move around the map. Inevitably things get too out of hand for the average player to deal with, but any run could be the one where you get just a little bit further. Tower defence games want you to stand still and hold the fort, which sounds like it shouldn’t mesh with the rogue-lite style of gameplay on paper, but Endless Dungeon is able to make both concepts work in tandem.

There’s a feeling of constant danger here, even when no enemies are around, which makes each run compelling. The Crystal Bot has limited health and enemies will swarm it in droves. Even a few minor mistakes might cause a bit too much damage to the bot, and that could be catastrophic later when things get even more dicey. 

Endless Dungeon has a dark and oppressive feel, and knowing that enemies are right around the corner at all times means there’s rarely time to relax amid the chaos onboard the station. Sometimes the lights go out and enemies start to appear all around you, forcing you to scramble through the shadows to restore power.

At times, I neglected my turret-placing duties to explore a little further, only to get promptly punished by waves I wasn’t prepared to defend against. You have to be smart and plan your actions in Endless Dungeon or you’ll struggle to descend to its deepest levels - even with your friends backing you up.

Endless adversaries

Different monsters from Endless Dungeon.
Click to enlarge

Endless Dungeon has a simple damage type system: There are four kinds of elements and four enemy types, so naturally each one has a specific elemental weakness.

Bugs are weak to fire, while Bots fall faster to electricity. The annoyingly-tanky Blobs are weak to acid, and Blurs can be thwarted with light. It’s a very basic system but serves an important purpose when it comes to your defences - if you know you’re heading to a floor with lots of bugs and blobs, you’ll want to upgrade your fire and acid turrets and place them by the appropriate enemy spawner.

Unfortunately, you don’t get too many options for defences. You only start with a simple turret and any others have to be researched. Whenever you research new types you’ll have to fight a wave of enemies, and researching a bunch of stuff at once means wave after wave to contend with. This is where the gameplay loop starts to falter - waves usually play out the same way, and you don’t get much creativity in combat. There's a risk and reward element, but the risk isn't really there - these waves are generally not too difficult and just make your runs longer.

The enemy designs themselves are solid though, and the bosses are great too. Each one is unique and requires a different approach. They’re huge and imposing, often surrounded by a horde of their brethren, and make for memorable moments to cap off certain sections of each run.

But like so many other games in the genre, they can get repetitive, and fighting the same boss again and again eventually loses its charm.

Random chance

Battling through the Core in Endless Dungeon
Click to enlarge

Another issue with Endless Dungeon’s gameplay is the weapons. A lot of them feel underwhelming - some fire extremely slowly, others fire fast but barely make a dent on tough enemies, and most aren’t worth picking up over the few good ones.

Finding a chest or a vendor with new weapons should force you to stop and make a decision about what to go with, but I ignored a lot of weapons right away due to low DPS. This hurts the game’s replayability too. There are plenty of modifiers and characters to try, but when the core of the game is firing guns, those guns need to feel different and impactful.

Other random elements that don’t quite work are the random buffs and debuffs that can spawn in any room you open. Sometimes these are pretty huge downgrades, and you have to use consumables to get rid of them.

It feels like you’re punished for exploring sometimes, or that you’re not really getting stronger as you progress. You can upgrade your character and your turrets, but the random nature of them means some runs are inevitably going to feel pretty bad.

Perhaps that’s just a symptom of a wider problem within the genre, but at the very least it should feel like you’re growing stronger as you progress. Instead, Endless Dungeon can feel unsatisfying as you cross a whole floor with barely any meaningful buffs to rely on.

What this game really needs are some distinct upgrades that drastically alter your weapons or abilities. Finding 20 extra defence or slightly better turret repairs just isn’t exciting, and barely becomes noticeable as the enemy waves grow larger and more dangerous. 

Luckily, the upgrades you can purchase at the Saloon between runs are a lot more significant. Permanent stat increases, Crystal Bot buffs and even a larger squad size go a long way towards making your team stronger.

Characters & collections

The character upgrade screen in Endless Dungeon.
Click to enlarge

Endless Dungeon is great if you’re a completionist. There’s a ton to collect and discover across the various districts where the game takes place.

If you like the game’s vibe, you could easily get absorbed in hoarding as many collectibles as you can find. There are quests for each character that evolve as you progress deeper, and then there are the keys to unlock new areas, story tidbits to discover, and tons of resources to gather and upgrade with.

All of that would be pretty worthless if the gameplay wasn’t good, but thankfully it is. The issue is there’s not enough going on in the game to warrant going for all of it. I was interested in advancing my favourite character’s quests, but there’s not enough variety to justify heading back in with ones I didn’t like as much. I enjoyed the runs I played for the most part, but doing a ton more while playing as less enjoyable characters just isn’t a thrilling prospect.

Cartie is easily the best character. She’s a cute bug girl with a giant Gatling gun and a penchant for slaughtering her fellow insect-kind. The plague-mask medic Shroom was always my go-to companion, as when you play solo, you have to bring a second character in that you can swap between at any time. Shroom’s healing abilities were a huge boon while I ripped through enemies with Cartie’s heavy weaponry.

There’s a character for everyone here, and unlocking them is quite easy. It only takes a few runs to grab all the district keys you need to add new areas and heroes to your roster. 

  • Check out our Cocoon review to find out what we thought of the game

Dungeon drawbacks

 

The hoist that transports you to new floors in Endless Dungeon.
Click to enlarge

Annoyingly, some small details dampen the experience a bit. Even with the UI scale turned up to the max, the icons and text on the screen are quite miniature. The game has a sleek art style but the visual clarity doesn’t extend to the information presented to you at times. There’s a glossary if you need to check something, but it can be difficult to keep track of everything in the action.

Characters quip constantly, annotating moments here and there with fluff that doesn’t really serve much of a purpose. I found the overly positive attitude of characters like Zed to be a bit grating, especially when I was forced to play as them in the early stages of the game.

And co-op play isn’t perfect either. This has been addressed by the devs at the time of writing, but at launch, it wasn’t possible to play as characters you’ve unlocked if you’re not the host. It’d be better for players overall if co-op progress wasn’t as restricted - the game’s fun to play with friends and we need all the good co-op games we can get.

Thankfully the team is aware of some of the game’s bugs and issues, and claims to be working on a fix. That they’re so quick to jump on these changes is a very good sign, so hopefully that bodes well for the game’s future. I want it to succeed despite those issues I found on my runs, and updates may solve some of my biggest qualms.

The Verdict

Endless Dungeon is generally a quality rogue-lite adventure. It’s constantly throwing hordes of enemies at you and feels genuinely challenging. With more variety and better weapons and upgrades it could’ve been an excellent sci-fi romp to replay. It's still a lot of fun at times, but some restrictions hold it back.

Descending each floor of the dungeon and reaching the reactor will keep you hooked for a while, but at its core Endless Dungeon’s flaws hold it back from being a truly memorable advancement for the genre. It does more for tower defence than it does for rogue-lites, which certainly isn’t a bad thing, but it never quite makes the impact I was hoping it could.

3.5/5

Reviewed on PC. Code provided by the publisher.

Dani is a Guides Writer for GGRecon. She graduated from university with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, then worked as a freelance writer before joining the GGRecon team as a full-time writer in 2023. In her opinion, the best game of all time is Elden Ring – but her favourite is Halo: Reach, a game that created lifelong friendships and somehow started her down the path to a career in media. She’s also way too invested in Pokemon cards, and a big fan of guinea pigs, cats and other cute creatures.