"We were drunk."
Amplitude Studios Game Director Max von Knorring introduces Dungeon of the Endless to me at Gamescom with the story of a late-night, booze-infused, group brainstorming session. He recalls that when his team stumbled into work the next morning, they all had ideas for a new game: something retro-inspired, a roguelike with elements of tower defense, RPGs and Dungeon Keeper, and something to play with friends.
One week later Amplitude had a prototype for Dungeon of the Endless, a 2D pixel romp set in a 3D world, within the sci-fi-fantasy universe of Endless Space and Endless Legend. A brief trailer teased Dungeon of the Endless earlier this month, showing an emergency space pod crashing into a nearby planet, the crew of three inside brushing off, standing up, and one of them opening the door to fire a pistol at ... something. The trailer ends with the question, "What's behind the door?"
The second reveal trailer answers that question in two parts: Monsters. And then dead monsters.
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Dungeon of the Endless
The gameplay is a balance of meticulous planning – allocating resources and strengthening defenses in each conquered room – and the rapid-fire battles that begin immediately as the next door slides open. In each stage, players must protect the generator in the main room, since it provides power to all other electrical gadgets deployed in other spaces, including lights. When the lights go out in any room, monsters come crawling out, and they want blood. Keeping the generator running is the only way to survive without constant panic and fear – and gruesome death, most likely.
Dungeon of the Endless supports up to four players in co-op, with 30 heroes to choose from. Von Knorring shows off a few sprites in the demo, and he calls the girl character a "ninja," since she's sneaky-fast but weak, while the hulking guy is the tank, and two others are the shooter and the engineer. Each hero has a skill tree with unique strengths and weaknesses, whether in combat, science, maintaining the generator, defense or a range of other skills.
Calling these characters "heroes" may not be the most appropriate term – the ship players land in was deployed from an overrun jail barge, and the characters players meet along the way are all prisoners. They're capable of becoming allies, but they also might stab you in the back. One character, for example, seems like the nicest guy, friendly and helpful – but it turns out he killed his entire family, von Knorring says.
This ragtag group of criminals ends up crashing deep into a mountain, and as players crawl through the caves, toward the surface, the game transitions from sci-fi to fantasy. Specifically, it's the brand of fantasy featured in Endless Legend, a new 4X strategy game Amplitude revealed during the same meeting. The planet that players crash into is the same one they try to conquer in Endless Legend. Meanwhile, Endless Legend is a prequel to Endless Space, Amplitude's first 4X strategy title.
This rich backstory adds to the atmosphere of Dungeon of Endless, the only game in the series designed as a retro roguelike – Amplitude wants Dungeon of the Endless to be brutally difficult and infinitely replayable, but to have a strong narrative that pulls players into the Endless universe. It's due out on Steam Early Access this year, and Amplitude wants players to chime in, spotting bugs and providing creative input before the final build goes live.
I already have one suggestion: The Amplitude team should get drunk more often.