Rogue Legacy (PC)

By Walter Hare

Published on Saturday, July 27, 2013

As might be implied by this most naked of names, Rogue Legacy is a roguelike, or a “rogue-lite” according to developers Cellar Door Games. It’s a welcome addition to the recent stable of games in the genre, with a nice blend of Binding of Isaac and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. But while Rogue Legacy is a very good game, it narrowly evades what I might call something excellent, and its proximity to that higher echelon almost hurts.

  Rogue Legacy 3

Rogue Legacy is a 2D action title at heart in which you explore a randomly generated castle looking for gold and monsters. You jump from room to room, killing everything in sight and avoiding traps and collecting gold, which functions basically as your experience points. You can use gold to buy equipment, enhance said equipment with a number of specialized runes, or upgrade your ‘manor,’ which is simply the visualization of your character sheet. The upgrades available at your manor range from unlocking new classes to straight up stat boosts.

Everything costs gold, but gold acts like experience points in other games, as everything is purchased with it. Basic stat upgrades all go up to level 75, which alongside all the other miscellaneous upgrades equates to many hundreds of purchasing options. With all your equipment and magic rune options (which aren’t laid out in a linear fashion, many serve to accentuate specific playstyles) there’s a lot of room to play with your character sheet.

Rogue Legacy 2

Mechanically speaking Rogue Legacy is incredibly functional and I have very few complaints with it. Jumping and fighting are perfectly responsive, offscreen projectiles are shown to you via icons on the border of the screen so you never get cheap shotted, and enemy attacks are sufficiently telegraphed. When you die, it’s your fault and no one else’s. There is an issue dodging larger projectiles, especially circular ones, as the hitbox on your character seems to be a slightly too large rectangle around the model, but this is a minor problem overall that will only be an issue during a couple of boss battles.

The heart of the game, and what differentiates it from other modern roguelikes, is the character selection process. Each time you die, you are forced to choose one of three randomly generated characters. Each one has a random name, class, spell, and a number of special traits. These traits range from being homosexual, to seeing only in black and white, to having the screen be flipped upside down. Some have gameplay impacts and some do not, which adds an interesting element to the randomness. Also annoying at times, but not cripplingly so.

Rogue Legacy 4

And herein lies the true narrative of Rogue Legacy; how many generations of your family will you piss away in this terrible dungeon to achieve your goal? How many of your myriad, gay, colorblind children did you let down? Each one is recorded, a glittering ode to your absolute failure. It creates a personal investment in your play, wherein each run becomes precious, regardless of how many hundreds you’ve expended.

So clearly, the heart of Rogue Legacy is strong, but it has a few weaknesses that prevent me from falling into a love coma with it. First of all, and perhaps a minor complaint in the grand scheme of things, the boss battles are pretty damn easy, as all they do is follow simple, easily dealt with patterns. Worse, they are all very solvable. Certain class and spell combinations will usually kill any given boss in seconds. And even if you don’t take advantage of their inherent weaknesses, it’s a fairly simple matter to just beat them up. My strategy for the final boss involved standing completely still, which should never be an ideal strategy.

Rogue Legacy 1

My main problem lies with the RPG elements. Because of the random element behind class selection, you’re never able to reliably follow a single upgrade path. If you force your way down a certain upgrade route to the exclusion of others, a certain percentage of your runs are going to feel like whiffs from the beginning. It ruins the sense of a pure run, like in Binding of Isaac, where the length of your run is dependent more on your skill than on randomized factors. I would have preferred that the rune and equipment systems be expanded upon, since they could add utility and gameplay options to your character rather than being limited to straight stat upgrades.

That may well be more of a reflection of my personal preferences in this genre, however, than an objective criticism. Rogue Legacy is a lot of fun, and has enough strengths to be well worth your while regardless of how you feel about the character sheet. It will simply determine whether you spend fifteen hours with the game, or a hundred.

Rogue Legacy is available direct on the developer’s website and all major digital distributors.

Minimum Specs:

Operating System*: Windows XP/VIsta/7
CPU:
1.6 Ghz
RAM:
1 GB
Video Card:
ATI 1950 Pro / Nvidia 7900 GT
Hard Drive Space:
400 MB

Recommended Specs:

Operating System*: Windows XP/VIsta/7
CPU:
2.0 Ghz
RAM:
2 GB
Video Card:
AMD HD 4770 / Nvidia 8800 GTS
Hard Drive Space:
400 MB

*Support for Windows 8, Mac OSX, and Linux coming later.

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