Rogue Legacy is the new title from Cellar Door Games, it is a straight up “Rogue-lite” that will see you (and your entire family line) searching through a castle and the surrounding area in order to avenge the assassination attempt of one of your ancestors. It’s not an overly unique concept for a Rouge-lite, usually these games focus around a medieval quest of one sort or another, but Cellar Door Games haven’t simply followed the script for a standard, mass produced game. Rogue Legacy is a true achievement of what can be done when a dedicated, enthusiastic team come together. And that’s a magnificent thing.
Contrary to popular belief, reviewing games isn’t a walk in the park, we don’t sit around all day playing games and then knock out a review, for every hour of a game we play, there is probably 4 hours of research, editing and consulting. Aside from the stress of meeting deadlines, the technical knowledge of what goes into making a game, aspects like cell shading and dynamic lighting, writing reviews also demands a certain level of creativity and open-mindedness, it goes with the job that sometimes you will have to step out of your comfort zone and play games that you otherwise might not. Or in cases like Rogue Legacy, a game may be so ball-crushingly difficult that it seems to be a step or two above your skill set.
The fundamentals of Rogue Legacy are simple enough, you have to choose your character (you will be given a selection of three every generation) and proceed to fight your way through a haunted and monster infected castle. Rogue Legacy stays true to the “Rogue” name by using procedurally generated levels every time you play. To begin with I found this to be a huge hindrance as the lack of direction in the overall goal of the game is keenly felt. I spent a couple of hours running through randomly generated, and entirely new areas of a castle trying to find a Boss Battle room that I stumbled across on my first playthrough. I will admit to feeling completely frustrated and turned off by the apparent meaningless of it all, but it turns out that I just hadn’t unlocked the right upgrade.
You choose your character from a selection of three different heirs. It’s a great system that builds on your previous attempts at the game before passing the torch to your surviving children. There are a handful of different classes that will pop up from time to time, including mages, barbarians and knights. Along with a trendy “Sir Dude” style name, each character has their own characteristics, special abilities like blocking using a shield or a Skyrim style shout attack, it all adds to a great level of depth that the rather low res graphics would suggest couldn’t exist. The abilities aren’t the only differences that will define the choice you make as a player, some characters are half sized with the tagline “you never get to ride the rollercoaster” or double sized ”you were born to be a basketball player”. These little differences do effect how you navigate through the areas of the game, be it the spikey interior of the castle, the monster riddled hell pits or the skeleton crazy woods. A large character has a mighty swing that can hit multiple enemies but it makes navigating the tighter, more platform based areas difficult while the smaller characters have more space to manoeuvre but have a very small attack range. Rogue Legacy doesn’t stop there, it throws in “Traits” and this is where the real choice and replayability comes into it. Traits range from being lightweight (being thrown back every time you are hit) to things like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, some of the traits are just for fun and won’t make any real difference to the gameplay but some have a more drastic effect. I have played with characters that are short sighted (everything that isn’t right next to you is blurred on screen) as well as having muscle spasms, colour blindness and “nostalgic” characters that see the world through an old-timey Instagram filter, and in one level everything was upside down which made the entire outing a bit of a joke.
There is an impressive level of thought that has gone into these traits and Cellar Door Games have done a fantastic job in making Rogue Legacy, a game that could all too easily have become bland and repetitive, a truly engaging and fresh experience. Even after I had massacred my way through twenty generations, I was still finding new combinations that worked well to keep everything new and engaging.
Outside of the combat you have the exploration, an unending task in a randomly generated world. Each area will have secrets like a journal that you can find to inform you of previous occupants of the castle, a jukebox to change the music and more treasure than you can shake your sword at. By picking up gold you can upgrade your lineage’s stats and unlock new ways to tackle the game. By upgrading your Manor, you can increase your health, manna, carry weight and strength, along with these standard upgrades you can also unlock the enchantress and architect. As standard you will already have access to the blacksmith, a lovely chap who will supply you with armour and equipment, but that isn’t enough on its own. The enchantress will allow you to buy Runes that will buff certain pieces of armour and it is essential that you make sure your equipment is up to the task for the rather unforgiving and brutally punishing gameplay that ensues. The Architect will allow you to lock down the previous build of the castle for the cost of 40% of whatever gold you pick up, it is a high price but one that I paid willingly. Once the castle has been locked down (only for your current life) you can re-enter the castle that you were last in, this makes a huge difference as knowing what is through each room means that you can explore more fully and find the bosses that you need to beat in order to get through a mysterious golden door.
Rogue Legacy is a game that I thought I wouldn’t like after the first hour of play but once I looked into the upgrading system and started to play with an overall goal in mind rather than the cavalier way that I started, I found Rogue Legacy to have an entire world of depth that was open to me. It is a hard game, there’s no question but aside from the lack of explanation at the start of the game it is a fantastic outing for any platforming or Rogue-like fans.
Rogue Legacy is a great Rogue-Lite, it is inventive, funny and addictive with enough replayability to see you through the long medieval winter. Cellar Door Games haven’t just followed a blueprint for a typical Rouge-like, they have made their own monster. Character abilities and traits work wonders at keeping Rogue Legacy fresh and engaging and with a huge variety of monsters and enemies, there is plenty to keep you occupied. The lack of explanation or direction at the start of the game is annoying and confusing, but if you can preserver, the sky is the limit.
- Graphics – 78/100
- Audio— 85/100
- Gameplay— 86/100
- Story— 51/100
- Value For Money—94/100
Overall – 82