Always Deeper Down The Rabbit Hole
HIGH Absolutely dominating with a level 5 Magnum.
LOW Traps that one-shot the player with no warning.
WTF Are there seriously just three monster types?
Outbreak: Endless Nightmares tests the limits of nostalgia.
A little while back I reviewed Phantom Dust, which was essentially Resident Evil with a top-down camera and mouselook aiming. It wasn’t fantastic, but seeing that classic game recreated with a new perspective was charming enough for me to give it a pass. Endless Nightmares attempts to do essentially the same thing by remixing the first Resident Evil‘s gameplay, setting, and monsters into a roguelike context. Sadly, it’s considerably less successful in mining familiarity thanks to a series of bad design decisions.
The game kicks off with a character arriving in a strange dreamworld where mysterious cloaked figures hover about, offering advice. From this basecamp the player can warp into four different, nightmarish recreations of previous entries in the Outbreak series. Players will fight monsters, solve simple block-pushing puzzles, and search for the mystical coins they’ll need to unlock new missions and eventually escape.
Mechanically, it’s all presented in classic RE1 style. Players watch the action from fixed camera angles and their movement options are limited to walking forwards or backwards and turning left or right. Players can switch to first-person and over-the-shoulder third-person camera angles if they prefer, but the characters control the same no matter what camera is selected.
This setup and its inspiration seems to offer a solid, proven premise, but OEN screws up every element of the gameplay in one way or another.
First, there just isn’t enough map variety for the amount of replay OEN is built around. To complete a ‘run’ of one of world and collecting the reward coin, the player will have to travel through seven randomly-selected maps. Unlike most roguelikes which generally have generic maps so they can be easily mixed and matched, OEN features a small number of specific, themed maps.
These maps are designed around one of four classic RE settings — the mansion, a torture basement, an underground factory, and a secret lab. Visually, they look great, but the problem is that OEN expects the player to do dozens of runs in each zone, ensuring that they’ll see each room at least thirty times over the course of the game, causing the environments feel old incredibly quickly. The only thing the game does to mix things up is randomize the enemy and trap placement from a handful of options.
Making this repetition worse, there are literally four enemy types in the entire game. There are no bosses deep within dungeons, and no changes to color or abilities to mix things up. No, players will spend the entire time shooting the same four creatures, and they all have the exact same behavior — they stand around until they spot the player, then run up and start slashing. What’s worse is that all four enemy types can all be found in the first zone. There are no surprises after the first hour or two.
OEN‘s traps are even worse than the monsters, though, and their implementation is an absolute disaster. Seemingly no thought has gone into how traps should function in a world of fixed camera angles, and the vast majority of my deaths were due to running into a trap that wasn’t visible before the camera angle switched.
The game offers two other camera modes to help players cope with certain traps, but neither is acceptable. While it’s useful that players can swap between camera angles simply by clicking the thumbstick, asking players to constantly be switching their point of view to be able to see traps is a full-on frustrating experience. Players will have to do this frequently, as there’s at least one trap type that’s effectively invisible for each camera type.
Things get worse as OEN goes on, with zones 2, 3 and 4 ramping up the difficulty far too quickly, turning enemies into ridiculous bullet sponges that eat up so much ammo that players will have drop back down to an earlier zone to farm munitions after nearly every run. Things reach their nadir in the lab area where enemies take multiple magazines of ammo to kill, traps can drop a character from full health to death in a half-second, and enemies get trapped in doorways, glitching out and becoming impossible to kill while also blocking the level exit. It’s a complete fiasco.
OEN‘s one decent feature is its arsenal. With a wide variety of handguns, rifles, and grenade launchers to use, there are plenty of ways for players to express themselves via violence. During runs the player can find kits for upgrading their favorite weapons, increasing their power and durability. This weapon maintenance and ammo-crafting is the most in-depth part of the experience, but the power of the guns don’t keep pace with the enemies, and the shotgun has a firing rate so low that it’s basically useless.
Outbreak: Endless Nightmares might be the worst game that I’ve played for over 50 hours. It was a frustrating, unsatisfying experience, and yet I couldn’t stop because I wanted to see if it would get better — and it never did. As a longtime fan of RE-style games and roguelikes I’m the exact target audience for this title, but it honestly had nothing to offer. Plagued by one bad bit of design after another, I can’t recommend Endless Nightmares to anyone who doesn’t have an unusually specific passion for survival horror roguelites.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Dead Drop Studios. It is currently available on PC, PS4/5 and XB1O/X/S Copies of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the XBX. Approximately 50 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. Approximately 3 hours were spent in multiplayer modes.
Parents: The game was rated M by the ESRB, and it contains, Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language, and Partial Nudity. There’s some mild swearing in the game, but the extreme gore is the real focus here. Enemies explode into fountains of blood and guts when shot. The ‘partial nudity’ refers to a bunch of scantily clad statues in one of the zones.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be be altered and/or resized. I played most of the game without sound and encountered zero difficulties. The offscreen enemies don’t make any sound, so it’s equally difficult for all players to keep from wandering into them. This game is not fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, the game’s controls are not remappable.