Recently I had the pleasure of sitting down with the demo for the new indie title: Rogue Legacy. Currently being completed by new indie company, Cellar Door Games; Rogue Legacy is currently slated to launch tomorrow on the 27th. I have to say, the demo left me with a good enough impression that immediately afterwards I actually put a pre-order in for the game. So, with that little bit basically spoiling what my overall opinion of the game was, let’s talk Rogue Legacy!
As always, first a basic plot synopsis. In Rogue Legacy you play as an entire family lineage in their quest to overthrow the evil lord of a castle. That’s really about it. Not the most complex of narratives, but it definitely has that old school charm of being straight forward. As you can also probably tell, the story itself gives you a nice idea of how the gameplay will pan out.
With a title like Rogue Legacy, it should come to little surprise that this game is a Rogue-like. For those that aren’t familiar with the term, it generally means a game that contains a heavy amount of randomly generated content and is intended for multiple playthroughs on account of how easy it is to die. While there is certainly some wiggle room in that definition, that’s the basic gist of it. For a more thorough understanding, check out the 1980 game Rogue of which the genre gets its name.
What this all means for the game is that you should expect to die and the main focus on the game is about replayability. Thankfully, the game is given ample context for each playthrough and ways to make them different. Everytime you die in the game, you then start up the next game session as one of the three descendants of that previous character. Each character leaves behind three descendants that have all sorts of varying genetic traits to them. Some are giant, some are dwarves, some have explosive bowel movements, and others are simply color blind. You can really tell that designers had a lot of fun designing the various possible traits in this game. Choose whichever sounds the best and continue on the quest to conquer the evil castle! Just remember that years have passed by since your ancestor’s attempt at storming the place and the evil overlord has done some redecorating. What this means is that the castle itself will be different in each playthrough. However, if you really want to, it is possible to pay a fee and incur a small penalty to keep the castle layout the same between family members.
Mechanically, the game actually differs from most Rogue-likes in that it is actually a 2D platforming game mainly. Jump around, swing your sword, cast magic abilities; overall it should really feel familiar to anyone who has ever played a Castlevania game. The gameplay feels quite responsive and thankfully the different traits open up various avenues of gameplay. For example, many rooms have special short cuts that only family members with the dwarf trait can access. Furthermore, you have the ability to come across special chests either cleverly hidden or accessible by completing a challenge that grants you the ability to purchase certain runes. Each rune unlocks different abilities such as an air dash or vampire drain, further allowing players more manual customization of their character. Runes persist from generation to generation, so as a player, you are always making forward progress in the game even if your characters are dying off quickly.
Runes aren’t the only way to make permanent progress in the game either. Between sessions, all the gold you earned with a previous family member can be used to upgrade the player family’s house, which in and of itself unlocks more benefits like increased health or additional abilities to certain genetic traits. You can also use the gold to forge certain armors and weapons whose schematics you run across inside the castle itself. Just be warned though; any unspent gold is automatically consumed each time a family member starts another venture into the castle. So it is always in your benefit to spend as much as possible between family members since it is impossible to horde gold infinitely.
In the end, I had a great time with Rogue Legacy. I love the 2D art style and sound design, all the controls feel very responsive and never frustrating, and the game itself feels like it successfully blends many of the elements of a Metroid-vania style exploration game with that of a Rogue-like. Just the stuff in the demo showed a great amount of promise and it seems that it only showed off about a ¼ of the game. I highly look forward to its release tomorrow and would recommend most folks to pick it up. Platforming games tend to be quite universal in their appeal, so I don’t feel the gameplay alienates too many players. Additionally, the presentation that each “life” is a different family member helps players both feel attached to their characters while never feeling too bad when they die, one of the weaknesses present in various Rogue-like games.