Described as a “byte-sized roguelike” by the development team, HeartBeast Studios’ Endhall boils the genre down to its most basic elements. Should players take on its 10 levels of challenges, or is the permadeath not worth stomaching?
The story of Endhall is a basic one, told via text at the beginning and end of the game. The protagonist wakes up to nothing, until one day a torrent of data comes in that brings life. However, if this character wants to experience it, he must complete the challenges of the Endhall. It’s a basic tale, but it’s welcome and it sets the stage for its world.
If anything, it’s world-building is done through its stellar aesthetics. A constant rain consists throughout the game as players contend with bombs, droids, turrets, landmines, and other threats. Though everything is constrained to a grid format, the pixel art is well detailed and comes alive. Paired with an atmospheric soundtrack that sets the stage without being too overbearing, and you’ve got a title that makes a lasting impression that sticks with you after all is said and done.
Gameplay is up to par too. Presented in a turn-based format, players must take down all threats and progress to the next area. Starting out, four skills are available. The “Move Action” moves players two spaces, the “Melee Action” does three damage and pushes players a space away, the “Control Action” lets you control an enemy’s movements while doing damage to yourself, and the “Jump Action,” as it sounds like, lets players jump two spaces.
It might not seem like much, but it all depends on how players use their toolset. Each action can only be used once per turn, so careful planning is an absolute must. It quickly proves to be versatile, and making the most out of a little can be entertaining. In true roguelike fashion though, players will be able to earn themselves additional Actions after completing each area. Some are better than others, offering the ability to teleport and leave a mine in your former location, freeze enemies to slow them down, and perform other actions, but experimenting with each one is the key to success. There are some creative reactions to be had for those that carefully plan things out. If anything, this title offers substantial replayability due to the amount of options available.
Note that the “byte-sized” label Endhall has is not an understatement. A successful run of the 10 levels takes around a half hour, and there are no achievements to speak of. However, each stage is randomized, and the amount of variety with the Actions offers up enough change to warrant additional playthroughs.
Endhall might be small in stature, but it hits all the right notes for a compelling roguelike. Those that like to experiment will find an adventure worth their time, however short it may be.
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