During the Steam summer sales, five eons ago at this point, I decided to pick up the oft masturbated towards Rogue Legacy and Risk of Rain. Two games of the roguelike genre, which I believed were games without purpose or any real progression, and instead prioritized repetition to obtaining a reward 90% of players can never hope to obtain, as the game is absurdly difficult. That was wrong after playing the the title mentioned in this post’s title, and I actually enjoyed it. Not that I can easily walk away without describing why I felt that feeling, so here’s my book report on a piece of entertainment software.
Rogue Legacy Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), Mac, Linux, PS3, PS4, PS Vita
Developer/Publisher: Cellar Door Games
The overlying storyline of Rogue Legacy is one I can both dub as very ignorable while being the sort that I very much am not fond of. You see, while it is well known what the overarching plot of, say, Braid is, actually getting that from the game requires the player to take a break in the action, read something, and then go on with the gameplay until the next time the very easily skippable text appears. Rogue Legacy does that same thing, but worse in certain ways. Now the story is more sporadically inserted and is in a game that is all about adaptability and quick movements, meaning stopping to read some plot is far from ideal, especially when little is needed aside from: You are a family whose goal is to send one of three children into a castle and have them try to conquer it until they die, thirty years pass, and a new descendant is sent in to wreck the castle’s newly reformed buttocks.
The general idea of the game is to try and get as far in the castle as you can, finding as much treasure as possible while defeating four bosses and then a final boss, as there is always one of those. Said treasure can be in the form of runes, equipment, and gold that one can spend on upgrades, all of which are permanent and carry over with each new generation, where the randomly generated player character is sent into the procedurally generated castle even if he or she has IBS, no foot pulse, or a phobia of chickens. It makes each run through the castle have a different feel, heightened by an increasingly familiar set of environments which rarely feature the exact same room, enemies, and hazard combinations, but similar enough for the player to feel as if they can track their increasing level of skill. This also does help lessen the sting of death, as failing to do something designed by a formula stings infinitely less than failing a carefully constructed challenge that will need to be repeated upon one hero’s demise.
Although, this would be fluff if the game was not solid at its core, and I have to say that is absolutely the case, as Rogue Legacy may require a bit more force than I’d prefer in order to have the character turn rather than move backwards, but is quite simply fun to play. Everything from the swinging of a sword, the always lovely sensation of a good multi-jump, or just moving throughout the dungeon. You are fully in control of your character, and whenever you inevitably die, it is very much your fault for not following the gradually learned patterns and being able to predict how the pieces of each room will assemble.
Well, that is assuming you have a character who you enjoy using, as I personally found half of the classes to be notably less fun than the other half. Perhaps it is some form of skill barrier I did not break after beating my first New Game+, but the Spelunker, Hokage, and Archmage never felt that good to me in comparison to a Paladin, Barbarian, or Spellsword. Although, my preference towards more basic character molds in most games can likely be the reason for that. Although, I was also incredibly bitter towards the use of most magic only to then discover how incredibly useful it can be when you understand the pros and cons of the game, so perhaps another New Game+ is in order.
Actually, the concept is certainly tempting to me, as the game does have a very loose definition of a conclusion, and could last one dozens upon dozens of hours until they feel as if they found and mastered everything, while its randomized nature prevents my usual criticism reserved for games that opt to have many collectibles, but not design the game around collecting them. With Rogue Legacy, however, every bit of tangible progress only served as inspiration for me to explore even further, while not feeling any sort of obligation to obtain everything.
Yet the one thing that would irk me about returning to the four regions with the same enemy sprites is, above all else, the fact there are only about twenty or so enemy models stretched into many recolors, with four basic regions to explore, with half of them being castles of a different shade of grey. I would hardly deny the craftsmanship in the sprites, as it is clear this is not one of the last games to jump on the nostalgia bandwagon, and instead manages to create easily recognizable and visually appealing characters with the right amount of animation to be clearly readable.
I’ll just jump straight to the point as I am truncating my review quite a bit if my observations of others is any indication, and like the majority of reviews of the game, I thought Rogue Legacy was a blast. It is simply a well balanced title that always grants the player the sensation of progress and, while brutal at times, is never even close to looking impossible… unless your gene pool is consistently unlucky, in which case there is no major punishment for death, which I always believe is the best way to handle a challenge along with a series of mechanics the player gradually learns greatly, and can apply in a large variety of situations, which is exactly what Rogue Legacy does. So go pick it up now, and don’t be a genre racist like stupid past me.
Problems very much exist, it’s just that there are too many good things that lie in between them and the far, far larger creamy center for them to be anything but an occasional distraction.