Rogue Legacy is the latest game from the development team whose first game was Don’t S*** Your Pants. That review was done as an April Fool’s bit, but you know something? I like that design. It’s very simple and packs a decent amount of humor into it. It’s a great little package. So years later after having played that, one of the big indie hoo-has is now Rogue Legacy, which came out right before this summer’s Steam Sale. Rogue Legacy bills itself as a “rogue-Lite,” which isn’t inaccurate. Rogue-like games can be of a variety of genre’s, but they tend to have the following points:
- The game’s layout and enemy placement is completely random.
- Rewards are completely random.
- Death is permanent.
Rogue Legacy has an answer to all three of these things, taking some of the sting out of the rogue-like design. And, with one major flaw, I liked this game. Your mileage may vary, but I got so mad at this game at times, that I almost uninstalled it, something I don’t think I’ve ever done. Well, there was Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights but that doesn’t count.
Your father died in this dungeon, and his father, and his father, and his father…
The plot of Rogue Legacy is pretty bare-bones, which is actually fine: You’re entering a castle to slay the evil inside. There are a few notebooks lying around which will explain the entire plot if you can find them all, but this is essentially what you are doing. There’s a great evil, and you gon’ slay it.
The graphics remind me of very high quality 16-bit graphics, or maybe even early 32-bit 2D graphics. The music does a very good job of staying in your head. In short, the presentation is just fine for what it is, a throwback, simple romp of hack and slash, with a side of don’t touch the spikes.
The game plays like an action platformer, similar to old Castlevania games. You have to defeat the bosses of four different areas to unlock the door to the final challenge. You can jump, attack, and throw magic weapons. As you keep playing, you’ll unlock more abilities and powers, but also, as you keep playing, you will die. And when a character dies, he or she is dead forever. Thankfully, your hero had a few heirs, and you can choose which will take up the adventuring mantle… until he or she dies, and then their kid goes off and dons a suit of armor. When I said you unlock abilities and powers, I didn’t mean you do it directly. The only thing you pass on to your offspring when you die is the gold you accumulated from your adventure. Gold is used to buy stat upgrades, new character classes for your heirs, weapons and armor, and runes. You unlock new weapons and armor by finding the blueprints inside the castle, and you can find runes by completing certain challenges. You can equip up to 5 runes. Some give you extra gold, some let you do a dash or do an extra jump in midair. The rune system lets you play how you like, and along with the gear and stat upgrades, reduces the severity of the “Death is permanent” and “Random Rewards” rules of the rogue-like genre. You get to choose your rewards, and stat upgrades carry over to the next generations. However, any leftover gold you have has to be paid to the castle’s gatekeeper in order to enter its gates.
Of course, there’s an upgrade for that too, so you don’t have to give him all your gold.
The other major random aspect of the game is your children. Not only can each be a specific character class, they all have… unique… characteristics. One might have dwarfism, and can fit into tight spaces. One might be nearsighted, so that everything far away from the character is blurry. One might be dyslexic, which randomizes the letter order of text in the game. You might get one with I.B.S., which just means you fart all the time. There are so many character traits. Some are simply confounding, like being bald, but they add to the humor of Rogue Legacy.
Oh, I also mentioned point 1 above, “Randomized Dungeons.” For a fee, you can lock the design of a particular dungeon so that the next generation gets the same experience.
I said above that I found one major flaw with this game. Now, this might be completely subjective. You can feel free to disagree with me, but this review is written from my perspective, and my experience with the game. As I said before, you will die, and you will die often in Rogue Legacy. Each time you die, you get the opportunity to upgrade. Early on, though, it seems like no matter how many times you upgrade, or what you upgrade, you get killed in the early parts of the first dungeon. This goes on for way longer than I was comfortable with. I was convinced I was playing the game wrong, and I wanted to reset my save a number of times. I haven’t been frustrated by a game like this in a very long time, and it was an experience that made me more upset than I like to admit. I actually wanted to quit the game and wipe it from my hard drive at a few points. This is something I would like to say I never do, believing myself supremely confident at video games in general.
Once I got over the hump, the means of which I can’t quite explain, I basically bulldozed my way through the second zone. The third zone was tricky for me, but it wasn’t anything I never felt like I couldn’t accomplish. After that, I made it through to the endgame.
If you disagree with this assessment, then you will likely enjoy Rogue Legacy even more than I did.
I’d like to say that the game is short, but it offers a New Game+ option, where the difficulty is naturally progressed, and you keep all the upgrades you had at the end of the first playthrough. It feels different enough that it could be new levels, though they share the same art and music. I haven’t finished the New Game+ playthrough, but I think it offers enough meat that most people would be satisfied. That is, if you can deal with the initial difficulty wall. Reflecting on it now, if I did it again from the beginning, I wouldn’t have hit that kind of wall, since I know how I like to build my character. You, as the player, are going to have to figure out how you want your Rogue Legacy experience to be, and hopefully you can find out without smashing your head in frustration.
Ted played Rogue Legacy to one full completion, using about 30 generations or so. He has started a New Game+ playthrough but has not completed it. He was not given a copy for review purposes.