Retro games have a massive audience in the gaming world, and for good reason; these games remind us of a simpler time, when games were simple and cut right to the chase. We often play older games—and games that emulate older games—to tap into those feelings of familiarity and comfort.
Outbreak: Endless Nightmares falls into the latter camp; it’s a game that very much wants to remind the players of games like Silent Hill and the original Resident Evil titles—except those games are, you know, good. Instead of transporting players back to simpler time in survival horror, Outbreak: Endless Nightmares instead exists as nothing more than a cheap knockoff, an imitator with nothing new to offer the genre that fails to even function at the level expected of the 1990s-era games it mimics.
As the latest entry in the indie-horror Outbreak series, Endless Nightmares mixes up its throwback formula by adding roguelike elements to the mix, sending players through random room after random room in pursuit of escaping the… you know, it’s actually unclear what players are in search of in this game. The title opens with four full screens of text, dumping exposition at players’ feet and then sending them out to kill.
Endless Nightmares tasks players to kill enemies, traverse rooms of increasing difficulty, and upgrade their arsenals to survive. It’s a nearly-foolproof gameplay loop with lots of room for innovation—hence the genre’s massive popularity—but those elements feel haphazard at best here, with even the simple randomized rooms falling short when it comes to engagement. Every room, despite changes in layout, looks exactly the same. You will shuffle past the same couch, stare at the same wallpaper, and open the same door for the duration of this odyssey, and they never get more exciting.
The game breaks from roguelike in certain ways; though instead of adding an interesting wrinkle to the formula, they seem to exist only to frustrate. Like the horror titles of the 90s that Endless Nightmares shamelessly apes, this game features a near-exact recreation of Resident Evil’s inventory management system, complete with items that are ripped straight from those games. How this game gets away with using items like green and red herbs and displays like the signature Resident Evil heartbeat health monitor is beyond me, but even that pales in comparison to the game’s addiction of weapon degradation.
Yes, in Endless Nightmares weapons degrade as you use them, with most guns getting a maximum of about 15 shots off before becoming completely unusable and still occupying a slot in your inventory. These guns can be broken down for parts that can be used to repair future broken weapons, but the game doesn’t always supply you with a backup weapon due to its randomized nature. This led to multiple instances where I was defenseless in a room full of zombies with a puzzle to solve and traps to navigate. A stronger game could have made this scenario thrilling and heart-pounding; Endless Nightmares, with its wildly inconsistent AI and lack of cohesive movement mechanics, makes it an absolute chore to try and endure.
When the game isn’t punishing you with its design choices, players will be thrilled to find that the gameplay is no better. Endless Nightmares controls like an old-school horror title, meaning it features tank controls and semi-fixed camera angles—neither of which are conducive to the repetitive gameplay found in roguelike games. It’s one thing to emulate and pay homage to a style of game that many people hold dear, but it’s another thing entirely to translate those mechanics into something actually fun to play, and Endless Nightmares doesn’t make the cut. In fact, it doesn’t even get to the audition on time. The laser to aim your weapons goes only in five directions with no room to maneuver in-between, meaning you never know if your shot will actually connect or not. You can switch between third person and first person camera, but if you walk into a wall in first person the game pushes you out to third person. Baffling gameplay choices abound.
Even the way you start runs is janky. You spawn into a courtyard, surrounded by spirits that give you advice presented in cryptic and unhelpful ways, and you then enter the main building, where you can customize your loadout. However, the game never gives you any indication that you need to walk up to the third floor and interact with a piano (?) to start your next run. There’s a joke about this method being off-key but I honestly don’t have the energy to waste on it.
Outbreak: Endless Nightmares is not only an insultingly bad roguelike; it’s an insulting and borderline plagiarized emulation of games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill. The idea of a survival horror roguelike is very solid, but this game exists as an example of what happens when good ideas fall into the wrong hands. I understand that Dead Drop Studios are a small team, and their love for the genre is clear. But Endless Nightmares is the kind of game that gives small-budget indie horror/survival titles a bad rap in the gaming community. With shoddy controls, uninspired environments, frustrating gameplay design, and tedious systems, the only scary thing about Outbreak: Endless Nightmares is the act of playing the game itself.