Publisher: Cellar Door Games Developer: Cellar Door Games
Genre: 2D Action Platformer/ RPG
Death is not something I like in video games. It usually means replaying large chunks of a game over and over and over again and I do not find that fun. In saying that, I have died 130 times in Rogue Legacy and I am hooked. Who would have thought it was so addictive to be replaying the same area of a game over and over and over again? Cellar Door Games must have, and they were dead right.
Rogue Legacy is an action 2D platformer RPG, defined by the developers as a “Rogue-LITE” game. Basically, it means you will die a lot. The aim of Rogue Legacy is quite vague at the beginning of the game. You are thrust into a castle with no instructions, only a locked door with four pictures on it, a map of the castle and its three surrounding areas, and a journal entry await your entry. This was the perfect way to start the game because it created curiosity. I wanted to know what was behind the big golden door, so I ventured into the castle to uncover its secrets. After a while you realise that each picture correlates to the boss in each area, so you make it your task to hunt them down and slay them. While a simple idea and basically just a reason for the gameplay, it is effective.
The only thing stopping you from reaching the bosses are the sprawling, randomly generated rooms filled with enemies and traps which all want to kill you- and succeed in doing so (even the photo frames). Spike traps, floating eyeballs, floating magicians and headless horses are just a few of the monster who you will fall to throughout your adventure. Every enemy in Rogue Legacy follows its own attack pattern. While this levels the playing field, it never gives you an advantage. Carelessness will get you killed, even if you know how an enemy moves. Knowing the enemy patterns gives you just enough hope that you can beat them, and it means you know exactly what you could have done to survive. That’s what spurs you on, that’s what keeps you hunting for the boss, that’s what is so addictive about Rogue Legacy.
While the normal enemies are hard, the bosses are controller throwing difficult. They still follow unique attack patterns, but their attacks usually fill up the whole screen and require a more trial and error strategy to defeat- it takes a while to work out how best to fight each boss. However, just as your hope starts to dwindle and you begin to give up, you make a break through and slay a boss. I cannot remember the last time I yelled with excitement when playing a video game, but I found myself exclaiming “YES!” aloud when I took down my first boss. After hours of trudging around the castle narrowly escaping room after room, I had finally succeeded. It may have only been for a bit, but this rekindling of hope drove me, and just as it was diminishing again, I took my second victim.
Rogue Legacy‘s difficulty scales well for the first half of the game, but once you have to make your way to the third level, some grinding on the lower enemies will be necessary. While you may be stronger than the lower level enemies, it is still possible to be killed by them if you are careless in your movements. I’ve played about 15 hours of Rogue Legacy and I have yet to defeat the third boss.
To make their game stand out, Cellar Door Games has created an interesting way of choosing characters. When a character dies, you become his or her child (think Infinity Blade). You get to pick between one of three siblings that all have randomised classes, traits and spells. The defining factor of Rogue Legacy are the traits. Maybe your character will be near sighted, meaning anything far away will be blurry. Maybe they will have ADHD, giving them the ability to run faster. The game does feature real life medical conditions as traits which some people may be offended by, but it is all in good fun and I did not have a problem with my paladin who had dyslexia and could not read certain things. My favourite trait, though, was also the worst trait you could get- vertigo. Vertigo flips the screen upside down and makes the game basically impossible to play. You will not last long if you have vertigo.
The RPG side of Rogue Legacy does not use experience points, but money. Money is used to upgrade skills, and to buy armour and runes- which are like perks or extra abilities. You get money from everything in Rogue Legacy; chairs, vines, chests, and enemies drop money when killed. The money system provided an extra incentive to keep traversing the areas. Sometimes, instead of hunting for the next boss, I would run around trying to get as much money as I could so when I eventually died, I could upgrade my character’s stats and armour (which carries over from each death). This is where the game gets grindy. As you level up your skills, they begin to cost more money. Depending on how much money you collect on a run, I usually found myself only being able to purchase one or two skill upgrades per run. Nonetheless, this is bearable because of how addictive Rogue Legacy is.
Importantly, once you enter the castle, you lose all of your money from your previous run so you have to make sure you spend it efficiently. I liked this feature because it meant thinking carefully about what purchases would leave me with the least amount of money to lose. Even while writing this review, I’m fighting the urge to stop and continue playing Rogue Legacy.
Although Rogue Legacy is a PC game, the developers recommend using a controller. I would agree. The level of manoeuvrability required works best with a gamepad rather than keyboard controls, but I am sure enough practice with the keyboard will garner the same reaction speeds- it all comes down to personal preference. Regarding the way the game handles, controlling the character is accurate and I always felt in control, even when jumping all over the screen.
Rogue Legacy‘s retro art style fits the game perfectly and you do not need a powerful PC to run it. However, PC enthusiasts who like to play around with graphics settings will be disheartened to find that only the screen resolution can be changed.
Rogue Legacy is challenging, and you will die a lot, but that is what makes it so addictive. You know your death was only because you were not paying enough attention, and you know it will only take one good run to kill a boss, so you just keep going. The trait system is an interesting twist on the character selection process, but being hindered by a bad trait sometimes spoils the adventure- until that character dies and you get a better one. The repetitious nature may bore some gamers, but Rogue Legacy is about overcoming death and the obstacles that attempt to prevent your success, not being constantly presented with something new. The inclusion of subtle pop culture references is enjoyable, too. With New Game Plus and New Game Plus Plus, Rogue Legacy promises to consume your life.
+ Extremely Addictive
+ Challenging, but no unfair
+ Lengthy game; the hours fly by
- Inconsistent difficulty spike half way through
Nathan Manning is an Editor for AnalogAddiction. If you do not see any more articles from him, he has become a hermit to play more Rogue Legacy. You can find him on Twitter and AnalogAddiction there as well.