Indie Review: Rogue Legacy
Rogue Legacy is rogue-"LITE" game where death is an undeniable truth, but in your steed your descendants can pick up your sword and continue your quest. They may be slightly genetically deficient, but they can still take on the awaiting horrors in the castle.
- Worth The Time?Yes, Rogue Legacy has that enigmatic quality of being highly addictive and destructive to your health because of its insane difficulty spikes.
- Things LovedThe bright and colourful cartoon-inspired art style reinforces the retro feel of the game, the soundtrack is full of nostalgic goodness, the controls work masterfully well and the challenge whilst brutal is enjoyable.
- Things HatedThe challenge can be overwhelming to newcomers of roguelike games, but if you stick with it you'll be richly rewarded.
- RecommendationAny fan of roguelike games will be right at home.
- Name: Rogue Legacy
- Genre: Roguelike, RPG, Platformer
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: None
- Platforms: PC
- Developer: Cellar Door Games
- Publisher: Cellar Door Games
- Price: R146 ($15)
- Reviewed On: PC
Rogue Legacy is a game which developers Cellar Door Games label as rogue-“LITE” where the normal parameters and rules that govern the roguelike genre are adjusted differently. Mainly, Rogue Legacy has a few hallmarks of the roguelike genre such as randomly generated levels, but adjusts others. Like perma-death which now incorporates a system whereby descendants assume the mantle of the fallen hero, following the death of a character. Additionally the game is not turn-based in the traditional way, as found in other roguelikes. Rather the game is a hybrid RPG platformer where your skill is tested to the point where one mistake could cost the life of the character you’re playing as. The game does this all in humour and blends everything together with compelling mechanics.
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The story of Rogue Legacy is basic. There is a dark and mysterious castle, that contains monsters, traps and other horrors that you the hero must quest through in pursuit of defeating the ultimate evil, found behind a golden door. That’s it really, no further elaboration is needed. Where Rogue Legacy focuses on is genealogical character development where a line of descendants forms the basis of character levelling. The basic gist of the game is that you enter the castle, make your way through as many monsters and obstacles as humanly possible, and then you die. After dying you are given a choice of descendant, each with a different class. There are eight classes in total which includes a ninja, mage, barbarian and paladin to name a few. There are variants of these classes, and far more choices.
In the “Manor” screen in the game, you can unlock a variety of classes, skill benefits and base stat improvements that will affect your different characters and class choices in a number of ways. Add to this, that each of the descendants you choose will have a genetic defect, such as gigantism, irritable-bowl syndrome, vertigo, dwarfism or even colour-blindness, and your choices within the complicated skill tree can have varied effects on your gameplay experience. Some descendants may have added benefits such as a lack of sensation in the feet, or have their mana and HP gauges flipped, so that you have to adapt your gameplay style every time. On top of which you are only given a few select descendants every time you die, and as a result you can’t be overly picky. After you finish the selection process at the beginning of every turn, you move on to the town area where you can buy weapons from the blacksmith, purchase runes to enable passive abilities from the sorceress and pay an architect 40% of your gold to keep the dungeon layout as it was in the previous turn. Adding more stores to your town requires unlocks from within the skill tree, thus collecting gold and loot from within the various levels of the castle is a major imperative.
Why it is such an important factor is because every time you enter the castle you have to pay a fine which consists of all your leftover gold. This forces you to use what gold you have to purchase upgrades and unlocks in your skill tree, which is nearly endless, and also buy equipment and weapon upgrades. As you can see, there is already a lot to do, but as soon as you enter the castle and face the enemies of all the different levels the game becomes a whole different beast. Every time you die within the castle your descendant will level up, and in no time will you be reaching level 30. Monsters’ difficulty will correspond to the level you are currently at, and depending on which part of the castle you are exploring enemies will be more difficult in one area and less of a hassle in another.
There is generally a dungeon in the castle, a forest, a tower and in the middle area it is a typical castle interior. In these different areas of the castle you face automated turrets, spikes, possessed chests, flying iron balls and insane challenges. There are secrets around every corner, and if you choose to randomise the castle upon every entry then you find that you’re never bored. Basic gameplay works around precise platforming to overcome obstacles and kill enemies by exploiting weaknesses in their movement patterns. Plus, the genetic deficiencies of each descendant you play as may be beneficial in combat, or prove to be somewhat troublesome. So getting to grips with your surroundings and enemies is vital. Each class can use select spells and have a specific class ability, such as barbarian kings have the ability to shout enemies away in all directions, certain mages can slow down time, and ninjas are fast and agile. These all have their advantages and disadvantages, which means gameplay never becomes stale.
However getting to gold and collecting loot, which is where the dungeon crawler influence comes in, is of the greatest importance as it is necessary for you to improve your base stats through armour, weapons and runes. Gold can be won through a variety of mini-games like hitting targets in a circus fair, which oddly is in one of the secret rooms of the castle, and picking the right pot from a selection of pots can bare rewards, or failure. There are also fairy chests which yield a high quantity of runes, armour and weapon unlocks. Yet in exchange you need to fulfil the requirements of the fairy chest challenge, such as not dying, killing all the enemies in that area, and not touching spikes whilst trying to reach the enchanted chest. If you succeed you can obtain many bonuses. But it needs to be stressed that some of these challenges are quite difficult to surpass.
You have to come to terms with the controls and the preciseness required of you in conquering the castle. If you make one wrong move with your character you can easily find yourself dead in a matter of seconds. Although at the base level your character does handle pretty well being able to jump quite high and move at a decent enough speed, certain areas of the castle require specialised abilities to overcome an obstacle. That’s where runes, spells, weapon and armour come into play. A good set of armour can reduce enemy damage and upgrading your weapon to newer and better variants can positively affect the damage output of your character.
Runes are great as well, and give your character abilities such as temporary flight, the ability to sprint and health regeneration all of which are limited by your mana bar. The same can be applied to spells which help in defeating enemies whilst not losing health in the process, but come at the cost of having to use large amounts of mana. Rogue Legacy is a game of weighing up the options before you try to “rambo” your way through hordes of enemies. If you choose not to be tactical and flexible with your builds, you will fail dismally. This in itself is part of the charm and easily makes the game an addictive experience.
The art style in Rogue Legacy is top notch work and fits with the humour that Cellar Door Games conveys in the game. The choice in art reiterates the whole retro feel from start to finish and with an on-point soundtrack everything fits together gloriously. It really is a good looking game and the music brings back many nostalgic memories. Especially if you enjoyed old school Castlevania games growing up, then the visual aesthetic and musical choices will fit in right with your tastes. With superb character animations and a large number of well designed monsters, and boss fights, there is nothing one call fault Rogue Legacy about.
The point of the game is reaping rewards through overcoming difficulty and challenges. The game is by no means unfair in its challenge. For example, boss fights in Rogue Legacy may be difficult and can be won through selecting the appropriate character class and exploiting the weakness, or gap in the defence of the boss you’re fighting. Remember that every time you die your descendant takes your place and you effectively level up. There is always a second chance to take on a boss, and that is the beauty of the game.