Endless Dungeon brings the twin-stick shooter up to speed with stunning style and substance

Endless Dungeon
(Image credit: Amplitude)

"Don't do that!" screams one of my team-mates during our limited downtime between enemy waves in Endless Dungeon. The 'that' in question is me grabbing an upgrade that I didn't really need. The 'that' in question has now cut our downtime short by a significant margin. The 'that' in question has kick-started a rush of blood-thirsty, super-aggressive and poison-spouting Refluxer and Nasquito bugs, who want us dead and our Crystal Bot demolished. If the latter falls, it's game over. And I might have just compromised our entire mission. "I'm sorry!" I whimper into my headset, and we all laugh but I'm not sure it's sincere. 

With our team of three on the ropes, our defense turrets all but destroyed, and our morale at an all-time low, it's time for me to step up. I'm filling the beer-soaked shoes of Fassie, a hybrid creature with the head of a bighorn sheep and a dragon's body, who's also a bartender and mixologist dressed in a tuxedo because, well, of course they are. This is Endless Dungeon, remember, Amplitude's incoming tower defense twin-stick shooter and successor to 2014's Dungeon of the Endless. Just like its esteemed forerunner, the procedurally-generated action here is fast and frantic, its enemies are unsightly and unpredictable, and its heroes are, clearly, hardly what you'd call orthodox. Especially when Fassie's special abilities include using cocktails to boost allies, and starting bar fights whereby nearby monsters turn on each other to your advantage. 

"Bringing these characters to life is an interesting, very iterative process," says game director, Jeff Spock. "The design [team] says we need certain gameplay archetypes. The artists say: 'Hey, look at this, look at that, look at this!' And it's about finding a balance. Endless Dungeon is a space western, so I have archetypes in my head from western movies."

"But it's really about the groups getting together, pitching back and forth and sharing ideas. I love cocktails, and I love going to cocktail bars – but it was one of the artists who had this idea of a dragon with the vest and the jacket as a bartender. I was like: 'Yes! Thank you!' And then [the design team] came up with these hilarious skills. Creating these characters has been really fun and really collaborative. We don't have a structured process, it's way more chaotic than that."

Your round

Endless Dungeon

(Image credit: Amplitude)

That sense of chaos bleeds into my own playstyle in Endless Dungeon. Breaking rank from guarding our Crystal Bot, I make a beeline for the trio of Nibblers closing in from the door at the foot of my screen. A couple of shotgun blasts clears the way, before I use my bar fight ability on two incoming Royal Shyness (Shynesses? Shynai?) who immediately begin locking horns. I leave them to it, but just as I start for home, I'm caught in a blast of projectile nets from a group of flanking Webmasters to my left. And, just like the real-world spiders these blighters mimic might do, I'm picked apart from all angles while slowed down to a snail's pace. Bugs are among Endless Dungeon's weakest foes – compared to Bots, Blobs and Blurs – but they're at their strongest in groups, something I now know first-hand. 

Miraculously, I actually made it out alive in the above ill-planned scenario (shout-out to my long suffering team-mates), but the ordeal underlines one of Endless Dungeon's redeeming features: its penchant to entertain during its unscripted, incidental moments. Games of this ilk thrive in these circumstantial situations, granted, but the moment-to-moment action in Endless Dungeon is so fast and erratic, that's its scope to surprise and keep you on your toes – or, you know, balled up in a spider's web begging for mercy – is a joy. It couldn't function nearly as well without it, but that's testament to its design: whereby players are given the tools and freedom to either thrive or die. 

"Seeing players pushing the boundaries of what's possible in the game makes it all worthwhile," Spock continues. "What we sometimes saw in our 4x games (Endless Space, Endless Legend, Humankind), we'd have four or five players getting together, playing a game, and then afterwards writing a full after-action report – you know, this is how our battle went, that kind of thing. You love that! And because Endless Dungeon is procedurally-generated, you never quite know what's going to happen and it's quite magical."

"Particularly in Endless Dungeon, you might set up this corridor where you hope the monsters will come down. But then you need to open another door elsewhere, and suddenly those monsters start coming that way, so then you're running over here and there and you're yelling at your buddy; he wants to build this kind of tower, and you're yelling: 'No, no no! Not that tower! This one!' Ultimately, you have these moments that are really wild and really fun."

Endless Dungeon

(Image credit: Amplitude)

"From its centralized saloon hub to its unforgiving murder-grounds, Endless Dungeon knows exactly it is, and complements the experience with a suite of genre-staple features".

And it's that sense of unpredictable fun that makes Endless Dungeon so enjoyable. It's what made the first so entertaining almost a decade ago, and it's great to see this long-anticipated follow-up not only retaining that vibe, but also pushing it forward in style and substance against today's standards. From its centralized saloon hub to its unforgiving murder-grounds, Endless Dungeon knows exactly it is, and complements the experience with a suite of genre-staple features, such as its library of eccentric characters, stat-invested resources, skill-boosting modules, defense-supporting traps and turrets, and roster of repulsive baddies. 

Nine years on from its forerunner, Endless Dungeon is now gunning for its May 18, 2023 release date on PC, PS5, Xbox Series X, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. If my next set of team-mates can put up with my bullshit, I can't wait to plumb its depths once more.  

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Joe Donnelly
Features Editor, GamesRadar+

Joe is a Features Editor at GamesRadar+. With over five years of experience working in specialist print and online journalism, Joe has written for a number of gaming, sport and entertainment publications including PC Gamer, Edge, Play and FourFourTwo. He is well-versed in all things Grand Theft Auto and spends much of his spare time swapping real-world Glasgow for GTA Online’s Los Santos. Joe is also a mental health advocate and has written a book about video games, mental health and their complex intersections. He is a regular expert contributor on both subjects for BBC radio. Many moons ago, he was a fully-qualified plumber which basically makes him Super Mario.