Rogue Legacy is pure, satisfying, and ridiculously fun, combining tight gameplay with smart hooks to make it nearly impossible to put down.
What Is It?
As its name suggests, Rogue Legacy is a side-scrolling rogue-like… sort of. It takes the core mechanics of the rogue-like genre — permanent death and a randomly generated map — and adds layer upon layer of depth to the formula. The moment-to-moment action resembles a faster-paced 16-bit Castlevania game with an emphasis on melee combat and platforming. The action is complemented by a robust, persistent upgrade system that cleverly breaks the rules of the genre. This combination of user skill progression and in-game character progression will leave you saying “just one more run” every time you die.
The premise of Rogue Legacy is that a king has been cursed and the only way to break the curse is to make it to the final room of his castle. Death comes quickly and easily to those who enter, though, so the loot (gold, equipment, and skill runes) they’ve collected is bequeathed to their descendants in hopes of increasing their chances of success as time goes on. To unlock the final room, the king’s descendants must find and kill four bosses in the four different areas of the castle. Once a boss is dead, it remains dead. Even though the map is randomly generated for each run, the general location of each area remains the same (the Forest is always on the right side of the map, for example), so you can always find the area you’re looking for once you learn where it is.
Why Should I Care?
The defining aspect of Rogue Legacy is its descendant mechanic. Every time your character dies, you’re given a choice of three randomly generated heirs to continue the quest. Each one has a class, a spell, and a trait that are all generated individually. The classes are fairly standard — warriors, mages, tanks, ninjas, etc. — and give you attack, speed, defense, or critical hit boosts, depending on the class. The spells supplement the standard sword (which every class wields) and usually work as ranged weapons. The classes primarily provide variety to the different runs. Since not every class is offered for each run (all three available heirs might be the same class), you’re occasionally forced to use a class you’re unfamiliar with. They all have pros and cons, though, and learning how to use each one is part of the joy of the game.
The traits add variety in a different way. They range from Dwarfism, which gives you a shorter, faster character, to IBS, which causes your character to randomly fart while jumping. There are about three dozen traits. Some of them are useful, such as Eidetic Memory, which shows enemies and chests on your mini-map. Some of them are harmful, such as Vertigo, which forces you to play the game upside-down; and some of them are whacky, such as Baldness, which makes your character bald and changes the word “Building” as the map is generating to “Balding.” The traits are varied enough to make every run slightly different, either visually or mechanically, and they add an incredible amount of character to the game.
Once your descendant is chosen, you take him to the manor, which is basically an unlockable upgrade tree, to spend the gold from your previous run. The upgrades are permanently unlocked once you buy them, so they serve to make things slightly easier as you progress. You can unlock new classes, improve base stats, and unlock other useful advantages that kick in for every run. Outside the manor, a blacksmith and enchantress are available to customize your equipment before entering the castle to make additional tweaks to your stats. You can add mid-air jumps, increase or decrease the enemy difficulty, force more gold to drop, and more. Finally, you must give up any remaining gold to a guard that waits outside the castle, though this can be upgraded as well so that you get to keep a percentage of your gold going in.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Rogue Legacy is all about little accomplishments. Every once in awhile, you’ll get through a difficult area or kill a boss, but those moments are rare (there are only four areas and four main bosses, after all). The majority of the game is spent fighting enemies, collecting gold, and upgrading your character. Some runs may only last a few seconds, depending on the difficulty of the castle and the strength of your character. Others may last as long as a half hour if you’re careful. Regardless, seeing the gold counter tick up to the amount you know you need for that next upgrade is exciting every time, and the few runs where you rack up a huge amount of gold make you feel like a master.
Every run offers new challenges. The map is randomly generated, so you never know what is going to be in the next room. It could be an optional mini-boss, it could be a challenge room that asks you to get to the end without taking damage or without jumping or without facing forward, it could just be a regular room with regular enemies, or it could be completely empty. Many rooms have chests full of gold that usually require some risk-taking to acquire. The four areas of the game have vastly different enemies of increasing difficulty, so progressing among them in a single run offers a ton of variety. All of this, in addition to the character traits that wildly alter the gameplay, makes every new run a curiosity that is just begging to be discovered.