2 out of 5. The randomness of its loot system clashes with the extreme scope of its level design, resulting in quantity over quality that makes it harder to recommend over so many other options.
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How Metroidvania is it? High Fit. Endless Memories has a vast sprawling world with ability upgrades that change how you interact with that world, although most of those abilities require environment objects to use.
Primary Challenge: Melee Combat
Time to beat: ~13 hours
Review Info: Endless Memories was played on Windows PC using the Steam version

More Info

Developer: Homunculus Games
Publisher: Homunculus Games
Sub-genre: Igavania
Features: Map System, Leveling System, Multiple Difficulty modes, 2D Platformer, Melee Combat, Fast Travel/Teleporters, Crafting System
Difficulty: Medium
Linearity/Openness: Open Low Gating - No Handholding
Platforms: Windows, Steam
Release Date: 2020/10/19
Available Languages: English, Spanish, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese

Store Links

    Steam    

Buy Endless Memories if you like…

  • Randomized Loot
  • Vast Areas to Explore
  • Upgrading Equipment
  • Crunchy Combat Hits
  • Souls-like Death mechanics

▼ Review continues below ▼

Endless Memories presents an intriguing idea. You play as Rem, a young dreamer who escapes into the laboratory of dreams. From there you can enter other sleeper’s dreams and eventually uncover a means to escape from the laboratory itself. This fantastic premise could be a catalyst for exploring relatable characters or existential concepts. Endless Memories also innovates by injecting ARPG-style randomized loot into a set “handcrafted” world, providing a unique twist on familiar gameplay mechanics. While this game’s ambitions were great, it unfortunately went down the rabbit hole of quantity over quality. Size and scope matters, and so often when you focus more on size, you lose sight of the details. A vast gigantic world isn’t as impressive when it’s tedious to traverse through. There are a lot of things that Endless Memories gets right, however, some of its clashing designs holds it back from being more than a passing novelty.

Combat is the primary focus of Endless Memories, and from the start it feels fairly good. Hitting enemies makes a loud crunch sound, and being hit back provides the kind of feedback that makes you feel the pain. While the animations could be a bit tighter, you get a sense of control over the game’s space that makes any given moment a mostly pleasant experience. This is aided by the breadth of movement options you’re given right out of the gate. You can double jump and dash both on the ground and in the air – the kind of maneuverability that you don’t normally expect to have until you’ve completed some percentage of the Metroidvania exploration. Enemies don’t always telegraph their attacks clearly, but you’re more than capable of dashing in and dashing out of their range that you can make up for most of the game’s weaknesses in this regard.

Where the combat falls apart is with the enemy AI. This isn’t as much of a problem with regular enemies as it is with the bosses. Even on normal mode I was able to walk right into almost every boss’ face and smash my attack button until they were dead, taking whatever damage they dealt to me with little worry of depleting my entire health bar. Part of my ease in this regard was due to pure luck which I’ll talk about later, but even with that taken into account I wasn’t given much incentive to use my tools in a more interesting way. When enemies are actually a threat, that threat feels slightly unfair. Some regular enemies can freeze or stun you, and rather than mixing up their attacks to make that stun an integral part of a fun pattern, they’re perfectly okay just spamming their stun attack and keeping you locked down almost indefinitely. You do potentially have counter methods that can address these problems at a range or by stunning that enemy first, but it does present a bit of a beginner’s trap. Most attacks don’t do a ton of damage to you, which conditioned me to be a bit reckless, but then suddenly I might contract the burning condition which takes off more than two thirds of my health over time. Neither of these instances are a common occurrence, but I bring them up to argue that there’s little consistency with the difficulty or damage numbers. Coming into this game with a lot of experience with breaking game systems, I had an easy time with it, but lacking that experience I could totally see someone calling this game completely unfair. There is an easy mode that you can switch to every time you load your save file, but that’s just a band-aid fix at best.

Besides enemies having inconsistent damage numbers, your own tools are equally just as random. You do level up in this game, but the stats you gain are determined by the number generator. You can find stat boosts through exploration, but the result is essentially a slot machine. Your gear can be scaled by rarity up to a level four “Epic” rarity, which gives that gear three bonus traits, but you have no way of choosing what those traits will be. You can upgrade your weapons and spells using money and materials, but that has a max to it, making your only option at that point to get a new weapon or try again at the weapon trait lottery. The thing you have the most control over are the magical runes; you can equip up to three of them and they will adjust your stats in specialized ways. Which runes you have to choose from though is still determined by random drop – and it was unclear to me whether specific enemies had a higher chance to give you what you might need or if it’s all completely global. I happened to find a rune early on that basically broke the game for me. The rune made it so whenever I took damage the enemy also took damage, and this damage was quite substantial. Some earlier bosses seemed to die just from me running straight into their attacks, and while this strategy wasn’t viable past the halfway point of the game, it was still a rune slot I had no incentive to fill with anything else.

The weapons in this game also lack any consistency or balance. For melee weapons, you have your typical fast weapons that deal small damage quickly, large slow weapons that deal large amounts of burst damage, and your medium weapons that are somewhere in-between. However the damage numbers do not reflect the speed of the move sets at all. The slow big weapons were too slow and didn’t do nearly enough damage to make up for the medium weapon’s spammability. Small weapons didn’t do enough damage to compete with the slight speed increase, although there is an argument for using them to stack on status effects like stun or freeze. However, this doesn’t always work on bosses and you can’t choose the status effects you can inflict anyway – at least not without using precious rune slots. It might seem like a good idea to carry multiple sets of weapons to address specific situations, but the universal strategy of “do a ton of damage quickly” meant I usually only focused on one. It was brought to my attention that when this game was originally released you were only able to carry one of each weapon type at a time anyway, and the game seems to be designed around that premise. The problem with this approach it leaves little room for experimentation, which is not something you want to combine with a random loot system. Being unable to carry more than one weapon also means you could be saddled with a terrible weapon just because you wanted to try it out for a while. With more recent patches you can now carry two weapons at once, and store a third back at the base, but these should only be used as a backup in case you completely ruin your main weapon and run out of money while trying to roll a different set of bonus traits. I could go on whole lot longer about how all the randomness completely breaks the game, but I think I’ve said enough to make a point. The weapon system is cumbersome and confusing, but if you make the right decisions then you never have to worry about developing any kind of skills.

The worst thing about the randomized core systems is how it affects the value of exploring the game world. There are permanent upgrades that are worth seeking out. For instance you can upgrade your health and mana. These universal exploration rewards are only a fraction of a much larger whole however. Most of the time what you’ll find is a treasure chest or a node you can mine for money and materials, and once you get settled into a viable build it’s disappointing every single time you find one of these. You can also collect souls to unlock progressive rewards, but these rewards are more treasure chests.

The world of Endless Memories is humongous. It has six dreams that you can enter, each with a main map, and many of them having equal sized sub-maps within those maps. Most maps have a door or gate of some kind where you have to find three macguffins or three switches in order to open them to progress forward. This means the core loop of the game is checking every dead-end until you find those three objectives. Considering every irrelevant corner is likely to have progressively more useless gold or a weapon you don’t need, it’s just unsatisfying.

It doesn’t help that the world design is completely nonsensical. You can’t just decide to go straight to the macguffins and move on to the next level because on a first playthrough there’s no logical way to deduce where those macguffins might be. There are vague flavors of locations within the level design, but overall Endless Memories lacks a sense of place. Thematically speaking this could make sense, since you are exploring the dreams of other people, and dreams often don’t make sense. However, this excuse doesn’t make it fun to blindly move through disappointing room after disappointing room until you happen find the room where you need to go. I was very bored by the third stage, and I still had three more stages – and a final dungeon – to go from that point. Regardless of how good the game feels for any given five minutes, stretching those positives over ten hours of fruitless wandering is going to wear thin. In my opinion the choice to combine random loot with limited carrying space is completely at odds with the ludicrous scope of the level design. Endless Memories needed a large inventory space and a ton of options that you can change throughout the course of the game to make the level design work, or the level design needed to be scaled back immensely so the systems couldn’t as easily wear out their welcome. Personally though, I think both aspects could use a complete overhaul. This isn’t even mentioning how some of the movement abilities are awkward, making platforming or just moving through the world a bit of a chore.

One way that Endless Memories could have redeemed itself while changing nothing else is by really focusing in on its story. You are exploring a character’s dreams, so you could have learned a lot about that character as part of the level design. There could have been a “Yume Nikki” quality to this game, where everything is caked in symbolism or perhaps pretentious imagery; the kind that’s fun to analyze and discuss with your friends. That doesn’t happen. In fact besides a short conversation with each of the dreamer NPCs upon completing their level, you don’t have any meaningful interaction with them. I honestly had no idea who the final boss was or why I was fighting them. It’s possible that I just wasn’t paying enough attention, but most of it just seemed like words for the sake of words to me. Good ideas aren’t enough to make a good story. The stakes need to be attached to the player somehow, or a relatable protagonist needs to be presented. I got a sense that there was a greater vision behind the characters I met, but there wasn’t enough of foundation built for it to stand as anything consequential. There is a lot of potential with the story’s premise, but it wasn’t at all realized.

If you decide to pick up this game and start playing it, those first hours may give the impression that it isn’t as bad as what I’m making it out to be, and you’re probably right. My feelings are from playing the game start to finish over the course of a little under a week. It’s like if someone gave you a giant bag of cotton candy and asked you to eat the whole thing all at once – it’s a bit fluffy but it still tastes good, however that much quantity will make you sick. If you pick this up as something that you play only once in a while, clearing small sections of the map at a time, I think there’s still some value here. If your favorite part of playing Metroidvania games is just filling out parts of a map, this game delivers. Judging the experience based on the challenge it presents, or the story it delivers however, it’s a bit hard for me to recommend. Its systems are too random to make any strategies interesting, its story is incoherent at best, and the exploration is undermined by a lack of structure and meaningful rewards. There are a lot of good ideas in Endless Memories and a few places where it is successful, but when I’m presented with its grand offering of quantity, I would prefer looking somewhere else where I can find quality.


Final Score

2/5

Scoring system overview


Metroidvania Breakdown

Combat
– 2.5

The sound design is crunchy and satisfying and the core mechanics are there, but the enemy AI never gets complex enough to offer up any legitimate challenge

Platforming
– 2

When Platforming is required you have to fight with some of the game's mechanics, particularly with the grappling hook. Like many of the Igavania games though, it's not a major part of the game

Exploration
– 2

The vastness of the game world primarily serves to frustrate progression rather than reward the curious, thanks to the random loot mechanics

Puzzle
– 2

I can only remember one puzzle in the game, and it was slightly frustrating to execute

Story
– 2

A bit incoherent and hard to follow, made slightly disappointing because the concept is very interesting

Graphics
– 3.5

Not everyone is going to like the style but generally speaking the graphics are nice

Music
– 2.5

No memorable tracks, and while ambient atmospheric music can be nice, it tends to get a little repetitive here

Replayability
– 3

There are a huge pile of weapons to try out, and dozens of viable setups using the magic runes. The ''handcrafted'' world never changes though, and its enormous size makes it daunting to go through it all again


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