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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Dungeon of the Endless Review: Doors within Doors.

Everyone makes a fuss when steam greenlight drops a deuce. But little attention is paid when a title goes off without a hitch. DOE is one of the best turn based-procedurally generated-tower defense-dungeon crawlers ever made... and nobody seems to be talking about it.

That description is a little wordy, but it's not that complicated. You play as a small squad of interplanetary prisoners who crash landed into a massive ancient cave during a routine transfer. It's made up of interlocking corridors and opening a door starts a turn. You may find treasure or new squad mates, but mostly you'll find waves and waves of monsters. You can stop them from spawning by turning on the lights, you can set up automated defenses then too, but that takes energy. You don't have a whole lot of that. You need dust to keep the lights on, food to level up, industry to create defenses and so on.

I haven't even brought up science yet, but I've already dumped too much info on you. If you love roguelikes (right, it's also one of those) than this'll be your favorite new dominatrix. Because "flawless" strategies can fall apart in seconds, taking your most beloved squad member with it. This is a game of involved planning in the face of a great, dark, unknown. It's my most pleasant discovery all year and it's charming attention to character is just frosting on a cavernous cake.


There's a roster of 18 heros. Some are smart and handy with a pistol, others quick on their feet and with a sword, and others are lumbering tanks with massive rifles. All are decent characters. In fact, certain formations will net you some back story while you elevate to the next floor. I was often disappointed when I got the odd squad that would only spout canned expressions. Until I found the formation that caused my two stars to fight to the death... I didn't make it out of the next floor alive.

This game is full of surprises like that, there's literally a scrapbook of secrets and enemy clues in the main menu cobbled together from your soaring victories and crushing defeats, alike. Died a floor from the surface? Well you managed to unlock some awesome chick in a flame retardant suit. So that's cool too. Spreading yourself too thin in a level will almost often spell death. But you may run into game changing weapons, or build a massive stockpile of industry and food. This a game that lives and dies on it's risk/reward ratio and I've found it finely tuned.

It's also endlessly replayable... maybe the title gave that away, but it is. You can unlock new starting conditions (escape pods) that drastically change the way the game's played. The armory pod starts with 4 overpowered heroes but you can't make offensive turrets the whole game! The infirmary changes all power ups into risk/reward drugs and gets rid of auto healing at the end of turns! All your strategies for the vanilla game fly out the window with each pod, I haven't even began to wrap my head around most of them.

There's really not much else to say, it's quite the little gem. Like a lost masterpiece from the PS1 era that happens to have lighting effects. I think you want it. I think you want it right now.

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