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Review: Rogue Legacy (Windows)

Saturday, August 17th, 2013 by

rogue legacy
Rogue Legacy is a brilliant twist on the classic roguelike formula: keep the random levels and permanent death, but make a platformer instead of a traditional RPG. This reimagining definitely causes Rogue Legacy to stand out from the pack of infuriating titles in the genre, but is it worthwhile?

Rogue Legacy does two important things: First, it freshens up the overly familiar roguelike formula by being a platformer. Applying randomized levels to run-and-slash play mechanics is a much-needed change to the standard dungeon-crawling experience of most roguelikes.

Second, it has pervasive rewards for every playthrough. Well, mostly — unless you pathetically die within the first thirty seconds, you’ll earn enough gold for your kid to buy a few upgrades before they continue your legacy.

And that’s where the game gets its name: When you die, you get to choose between three children to carry on your bloodline and delve further into the quest. Continuing the roguelike tradition of randomness, these kids will have arbitrary classes and traits.

rogue legacy gameplay

The larger the enemy, the more drastic its ability to bring the pain.

The classes in the game are a mixed bag. None are terrible, but you’ll definitely find some more useful than others. You’ll start with basics like the Knight (good all around), Barbarian (extra HP), and Mage, but eventually upgrade them to Paladin (block all damage or turn into statue), Barbarian King (shout to knock back enemies), and Archmage (killing enemies restores MP). You’ll also unlock new classes, such as the Dragon, which is a half-human who always flies and shoots fireballs instead of swinging a sword.

My favorite is by far the Barbarian King, as the extra HP is invaluable. Sure, you could pick a Spelunker as your heir to get 30% extra gold, but with those horrible stats, you won’t live for long. You’d actually have a high probability of getting more money with a Barbarian King because your longevity would be so much higher. In pretty much every situation in the game, I found the Barb King’s meaty tankness to be the key to victory. When none of my kids were BKs (Burger Kings? … [shudder]), I’d go for a Dragon or Hokage (fast with massive damage), but on the average, I was able to get the most done with a Barbarian King. I used them to beat most of the bosses, including the final one.

rogue legacy map

Gameplay would involve a ton of backtracking without the excellent map.

The traits I mentioned comprise another mechanic that is original and also highly creative. Each child will have zero to two traits, random of course, and they can be helpful, harmful, or innocuous. There are several dozen, and some highlights are:

  • ADHD: Move faster
  • Alzheimers: No access to the main map, only the minimap
  • Colour Blind: The game renders in grayscale colors
  • Dementia: Some enemies aren’t really there
  • Dyslexia: Written text is partially garbled
  • Eidetic Memory: Room details show up on the minimap, including enemies and chests
  • Endomorph: Increased weight prevents enemies from knocking you back
  • Far-Sighted: Anything close up is blurry
  • Gay: You like the same sex; no real effect, but castle statues switch gender
  • I.B.S.: Irritable Bowel Syndrome; your character randomly farts, to no effect
  • Near-Sighted: Anything far away is blurry
  • P.A.D.: Peripheral Arterial Disease; no foot pulse, making you immune to spike traps
  • Vertigo: The screen is rotated 180 degrees, as are the directional controls

Some traits, such as Alzheimers and Vertigo, are complete deal-breakers when picking a kid. Others, such as ADHD and P.A.D., are major bonuses. Still, class is the primary consideration.

rogue legacy choose heir

One does not simply choose an heir without careful consideration.

All that phat loot you earn can’t be used once you give up the ghost, but your chosen child sure will benefit from it. After deciding on an heir, you can purchase upgrades to HP/MP, defense, attack/magic damage, critical hit chance/damage, improved healing from meat/potions, gold pickup bonuses, increased invulnerability time after being hit, new classes, and even a small percentage chance to cheat death, among others. You can also buy equipment in five categories to buff stats, increase that gold pickup bonus, or even restore health when defeating enemies. Plus, you can purchase runes retrieved from Fairy Chests, which are obtained in rooms with special conditions, such as reaching the chest without taking damage, or in five seconds, or without jumping. These runes attach to your equipment, so you can have a max of five active at once, and they allow you to do such things as jump once more in the air, fly for 0.6 seconds, dash left or right, regain HP/MP when enemies are slain, increase gold pickup, etc. They even stack, so if you were to, say, purchase the jump rune for all five slots, you could then jump a total of six times without touching the ground.

With all these choices for spending gold, there are many options for how to build your family lineage, and everything purchased benefits all future descendants.

rogue legacy upgrades

Most things you buy will unlock something else, so purchase at least one of everything.

The game has four main areas: castle, forest, tower, and dungeon. As you would expect, every playthrough has a random configuration of rooms, but the high-level layout is always the castle, the forest to the right, the tower above, and the dungeon below. Each area has a really tough boss, and all four must be defeated before the large golden doors at the start of the castle will open and admit you to the final battle.

rogue legacy boss

Bosses often have minions, which can severely restrict your ability to avoid damage.

Rogue Legacy can take quite a while to complete. When I finished it, it told me that I had spent 27 hours playing, and had gone through 71 children, which is ~23 minutes per kid. At times it bordered on grindy, but with the random layout and enemies every time, I never felt as though I was in danger of burning out. I actually wanted more after finishing it, but wasn’t interested in the option that lets you play through it again with all your purchased goodies intact. I really hope the developer creates a sequel.

Rogue Legacy is a solid title that any fan of platformers and RPGs should check out. It’s currently only available for Windows — I played it via Steam — but this seems like a logical choice for showing up on PSN and XBLA some day. If you’ve got Windows and a controller, fire up Steam and check it out. It’s definitely worth the current price of $15.

5 star

Here’s the trailer:

About the Author

Markham Asylum is a founding member of Delta Attack. His tier-1 favorite genres are role-playing, puzzle, and strategy. His tier-2 are adventure, shooter, and platformer. He strives to provide spoiler-free postings whenever possible.

Markham Asylum has written 423 posts on Delta Attack
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  • http://ikecube.com/?utm_source=Disqus%2BProfile&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=WebLinks IkeCube

    I had no idea that this game existed and I am definitely on board with getting this. Thanks for the review!

    • http://www.deltaattack.com/ Markham Asylum

      Enjoy, Brohemian. It’s a blast.