Review: Rogue Legacy
Cellar Door Games
Cellar Door Games
Review copy provided by the publisher
Rogue Legacy has the unique distinction of being the only game where you can play a gay, colorblind dwarf with irritable bowel syndrome.
Rogue Legacy is a hard as hell rogue-like 2D platformer that is best described as the illegitimate bastard child of Ghost ’n’ Goblins and Shinobi. Also, if said child grew up with serious Mega Man envy. Rogue Legacy has you exploring a treacherous 2D castle with random rooms filled with monsters, treasures and tons of furniture you can break. Thankfully you have the aid of a big sword and aptitude with magic to help cut a path through some undesirables. You’ve also got some RPG character building elements which set Rogue Legacy apart from most rogue-likes.
The main hook here is that every time you die, you can come back as one of your three to pick up the torch and continue on avenging your slain king. All your heroes have random genetic traits that have both positive and negative effects on your adventure. Through the course of the game you’ll go through dozens of heroes to restore the peace and prosperity of your kingdom. The story is kept to a bare minimum with some journals sprinkled around the castle to give you some insight on why this place is so wacky.
The beauty of Rogue Legacy’s gameplay comes in its very simple reward loop. What makes Rogue Legacy different from other rogue-likes is that death is only way to improve your development and yes, you will die a lot. Every run, which could last 30 seconds or 15 minutes, involves you hoarding as much gold and other goodies before biting it. Making sure you’ve enough gold for upgrades and gear is key to making any sort of progression. No need being frugal with your money since anything left over is taken away from you before your next attempt to brave the castle. Upgrades could be things like a double-jump or unlocking a shout ability for the barbarian class. Effectively playing this game will require a bit of grinding if you want some of the higher tier goodies like increasing the percentage gold drops or a chance of being revived when you croak.
Speaking of dying, you’ll do that a lot. Death is the only way to properly learn the rules of the wicked ever-changing castle. Rogue Legacy teaches you how to play through death. Every screw up and careless action prepares you for something even worse down the road. Figuring out that Doomtraits fly in circular paths or that a Planky fireball can go through a wall are concepts that are only learned by being frustratingly killed by them.
The look and feel of Rogue Legacy is a love letter to 2D platformers of another era. The bright and adorably animated 16-bit sprites brought a constant smile to face. Its soundtrack managed to provided a great backdrop when grinding though the castle for the 100th or so time. I mentioned earlier that the rooms were random. Well, that was half-true. Rogue Legacy seems to pick from a pool of preset rooms then screws around with the order and placement. You may start The Tower area with a fairy chest challenge room then see that same room a dozen runs later closer to the boss room.
As interesting as it to play with Lady Chun-Li IV, the barbarian with vertigo and dementia, there is no real attachment to any of your progeny. Yes, some of your kids are better than others. Dwarves can access small passages and easily walk under most attacks, while someone suffering dementia may see enemies that aren’t there which really screws with you. If you’re working with a bad set of kids with crappy traits, you can just off yourself and re-roll. The disposable nature of the characters gives you some wiggle room for experimentation of skills and gear. The fact that castle changes on every death keeps the gameplay fresh and you on your toes. I really enjoyed the option of locking down the castle. For a percentage of a current run’s gold you keep the castle’s current layout in case you wanted to re-try a section or a boss fight.
The major issue I had during my time with Rogue Legacy came in runs where the minimum amount of gold I needed to upgrade was fairly high. I ran into many instances of being just a few golds short of an upgrade or some awesome rune I want to unlock only to lose it all before going into castle. This is a wall most people are going to hit unless you adjust your play style to overly cautious instead of joyfully reckless. The grinding, which is not a deal breaker, will turn some people off to even bother completing the quest.
Enemy designs are pretty uninspired with little in terms of variety with the exception of the bosses. One boss fight involves a huge slime monster that splits into smaller slime monsters in a room full of spikes. Theses are tense challenges of dexterity that really play tribute to side-scrolling platformers of old.
Rogue Legacy is a charming game that never requires much of a commitment on your end to fully enjoy it. Rogue Legacy’s clever and bitesized gameplay is a fun challenge, despite falling into some tropes of a standard platformers. (Spike traps are lame.) Rogue Legacy is definitely worth checking out and a perfect solution to fighting off the summer drought of good games.