Rogue Legacy – What We Think
Rogue Legacy from Toronto indie developer Cellar Door Games is a ‘Metroidvania’ side-scrolling action platformer that also bills itself as a ‘Rogue Lite’. Note: that’s “Lite”, not “Like”. Still, a Rogue-Like is clearly the intended pun there, as when you die, your present character is permanently dead, only to be replaced by the offspring of your now-deceased hero, hence the game’s title is based around the idea that each new character is continuing the legacy of the previous one. Rogue Lite, Rogue Legacy, get it?
All In The Family
Unlike your standard roguelikes, you will eventually need to get yourself killed to advance in the game. When you die, starting over with a new progeny is not the only thing that happens: All of the loot you collected in that run may then be spent on permanent stat upgrades or on equipment that give big boosts to attack power, defenses, and special traits. While at first glance, this is a great way to slowly advance your power, a good player will sometimes be forced to kill himself just so they can advance further with a more powerful character.
Thankfully, every run though the castle is mostly unique, as the layouts of the rooms are randomized every time. Treasure, traps, and monster placements will always be new and fresh, though sometimes you’ll come across treasure rooms where you have no hope of claiming their spoils if you do not have a very specific character class with special abilities. There is a way past this though: if you so choose, you can lock the layout of the castle into a repeat of your most recent run. You can then plan abilities to equip and character classes to pick if there was a treasure room you wanted to get that you were unable to claim earlier.
If This Is Rogue-Lite…
As for the difficulty level, let’s be clear: This game is tough. At many points throughout the game, it will defy your attempts at categorization. The gameplay can range from that of an action RPG platformer to that of an all-out Bullet Hell shmup; enemies can quickly fill the screen with projectiles or even with themselves and their buddies. when they hit, they hit hard.
Health is recovered slowly and only reliably if you ‘itemize’ around it, but while challenging, it’s survivable; monsters will always have tells betraying their incoming attacks.
Just about everything is avoidable if you play your cards right… That is if you are not afflicted with Endomorphism.
Why Does Flatulence Never Skip A Generation?
The last little distinguishing quirk comprises the abilities or drawbacks bestowed upon your character’s heir. Every new character has one or two traits, be they flaws or assets, or just quirky oddities. You could play as a knight with near-sightedness, tunnel-vision, baldness, Tourettes, colorblindness, vertigo. You can even be homosexual; while most things effect gameplay slightly in some way, others are just for fun.
A few examples: Vertigo flips the world upside-down, forcing the player to compensate. Color-blindness makes everything grayscale. Balding characters cause the Loading screen to display ‘Balding’ instead. My personal favorite was being flatulent – it’s juvenile, for certain, but the occasional fart sound while jumping just gave me the giggles.
Scatological amusements aside – assets-wise (oh geez, no pun intended), I felt Rogue Legacy could do with a little more variety in the music department, but what is there, is still solid and entertaining.
The art design – on the other hand – is superb; every sprite is beautifully and effectively animated, which helps to identify imminent threats in attack sequences, particularly when things get hectic. Nothing appears to be out of place, and every aspect seems to gel within its own environment. The altered visual effects used to display the shortcomings of impaired characters is well-implemented and adds a bit of flavor and risk to a character choice. Just as you encounter a class you like, you may find it comes laden with not-so-great character traits.
A Grand Legacy
Getting though the game, even with its high difficulty, will not be the ultimate end. There is ye olde New Game Plus to await you in further adventures. Then after that, New Game Plus Plus, etc. So even with only 4 areas and 5 bosses – much of which you will have to traverse many, many times before completing even a single full game – the amount of potential challenge is quite satisfactory.
Rogue Legacy takes some interesting chances and pays off with an intriguing new spin on a mashup of genres and play-styles.