It’s a dark and stormy night. Your unnamed hero approaches a castle gate and enters. With nothing in the way of direction, you swing your sword and cast your spells, defeating enemies in your path until, eventually, you succumb to the unrelenting wave of evil. Now that you’ve died, the real fun of Rogue Legacy begins.
- TL;DR: Randomly generated characters and maps with brutally difficult gameplay
- Platform: PC
- Score: 8.3
- Hours Played: 5
- What I Played: Single player (there is nothing else)
- Recommended: If you’re not scared of a challenge, yes
Rogue Legacy is a 2D rogue-like (Castlevania, Metroid) that recently released for PC. As I mentioned before, you’ll be using melee attacks and spells to defeat enemies and get gold. That’s your main focus in Rogue Legacy — gold. It drives everything from upgrading equipment and special abilities (double jump, air dash) to your passive skill tree. Each death is an opportunity to activate some of these upgrades.
I mentioned that dying is when the fun begins. When your character dies, he is permenantly dead (think hardcore mode in Diablo). But, you respawn as your character’s heir, carrying on the family legacy. Your characters don’t gain levels in the traditional sense — your “level” is actually your death/spawn count, a constant reminder to how many times you’ve had to restart. After choosing your new heir and updating your skills/equipment, it’s time to get back into the castle. But first, you have to give up all your unused gold. The spirit of death takes your remaining gold as a tax to re-enter the castle, so try to buy whatever skills you can afford each time back.
Let’s back up to choosing your heir. After each death, you are presented with three randomly generated characters, each with a class, spell, and list of traits. These classes run through some of your standard fare — the paladin is heavily armored, the mage is strong with magic, etc. The spells include throwing daggers, boomerang-style chakrams, defensive walls, and more. The real treat, though, comes with traits. Each heir is assigned a few, all of which can be positive or negative. Have you ever played a character with Alzheimer’s (can’t use the minimap)? How about near- or far-sightedness (screen is blurry everywhere but or only on your hero)? Dyslexia? Dwarfism? Each trait has some kind of game-altering ability that you must take into account before choosing your heir.
Not only are your heirs randomly generated, but so is the castle. This isn’t always good, however. Some rooms will spawn with near impossible combinations of walls, floors, and enemies that force you to run for your life. Most of the time, though, room generation is very fair. You’ll find some chests and even fewer fairy chests that will only open up if you complete an objective (reach it in time, kill all enemies in the room, etc.) There are even some special, hard-to-find rooms, like a carnival or a nod to the developers’ previous games. If you like a particular castle layout, you can pay the architect, one of the few NPCs in the game, to lock down the map at the price of only gaining a percentage of the gold you normally would have. This can be useful when you find an area’s boss and want to learn it’s attack patterns.
While the castle is randomly generated for each heir, there are a few guarantees. You’ll always enter in the first area, the Castle. The second area (Forest) will be to the right, the third area will be to upwards (Tower), and the fourth oh-my-God-I-didn’t-mean-to-come-here-yet-get-me-the-hell-outta-here area is underneath (Darkness). Each area has a waypoint in front of it, so when you accidentally wander to the fourth area before the second, you can warp away instead of having to trudge back.
Graphically, Rogue Legacy is reminiscent of Super Nintendo. The sound is also very chiptune-esque. I’ve been playing with an Xbox controller instead of mouse and keyboard and the controls are tight and responsive.
Rogue Legacy is brutally difficult. Each character that dies is permanently dead, but also a chance to go at the game a completely different way the next time with a new combination of class and traits. If you’re looking for a completely unique experience that will test your skill as well as your willingness to try new playstyles, Rogue Legacy is for you.