As more and more games are released on Steam daily, it becomes more and more important that they have a mix of quality features. It’s not enough to have only fancy graphics or a unique combat system, because plenty of games have tried to ride their one-trick pony to fair and been hit by a train on the way. That’s why games like NeverEnd are baffling to me, games that do nothing in particular well and just… hope to do well anyway? I don’t know what anyone expected of a game with endless boring gray rooms and sticky combat and an actual grind at the heart of its gameplay, but I can tell you it isn’t any kind of good.
NeverEnd at least pretends to have a story, even if it isn’t reflected in the gameplay at all. You, a generic adventurer, awaken in a world not your own. There’s no sun or sky, and everything exists in a massive grid of samey stone chambers. With your trusty stick and shield in hand, you must venture forth through waves of idiot enemies to find a way to survive and get home, maybe? It doesn’t much matter because you’re going to be wandering around a vast assortment of extremely similar rooms, fighting the same four monsters until you die or get bored, and I bet I know which one comes first.
I’m not real plussed with NeverEnd because it does the absolute minimum to be considered a game, and seems entirely content with that. You tool around rooms Zelda-style until you come to one with monsters. The doors lock, you fight them off, and the doors open so you can keep wandering. The further from the center you get the harder the groups get, but that only means more monsters per room. I’ve only fought four, an uninspired selection of zombies, spiders, wolves, and a big purple blob that makes spiders so I guess it’s a nest. Supposedly there are bosses but boredom and more importantly frustration claimed me before I ever found any.
Here’s the thing about combat in NeverEnd. You start with a stick, and your attack is waving it back and forth. You are frozen in place while you wave your little stick, and it has no knockback or stunning ability to it. That means that if any enemies are moving towards you and you don’t kill them in one or two hits, you’re getting hit. This is nowhere more infuriating than with the zombies, who steadily trudge towards you and require three hits to kill. You need to get your spacing absolutely perfect to complete your swing animation, hit them, and escape before the start eating you. Start too soon and you swing at air, start too late and they get a hit. You only get three HP, and coupled with the half-second of invulnerability when you lose HP you can be killed very fast and very easily.
If that were it I would consider sticking out the garbage combat to see what’s in store, but every part of the design is garbage here. You earn money by killing monsters and filling a meter, like leveling except you get nothing except a single coin. New items cost at least 4 apiece and you’re going to need cash to get more HP potions or use the fast-travel system if you don’t want to spend ages backtracking through near-identical rooms. New swords can take some of the tedium out of combat but you’ll always be a hair’s breadth away from death, and lest you forget this is a roguelike, death claims all of your progress every time.
There are some additional systems bolted onto this mess like fishing and buying a mount but I never found the items or saved the money up to explore them. The pools of water I presume you fish in were a rude awakening to me the moment I started the game. I went one room up, saw a big square of sparkly blue stuff, stepped on it and died instantly. There’s an achievement for dying in the first 10 seconds of the game and it didn’t even pop for me, perhaps because my death was too ignoble for the pity award. Roguelikes are a crowded genre and they simply have no room for no-effort wastes of time like this. Anything NeverEnd does has been done far better elsewhere, without the additional pain of boring rooms, boring combat, and boring deaths.