jakob187's Review of Rogue Legacy
If you are an indie game in this digital download era that we live in, you will typically find yourself shuffled into one of two categories: the "slightly pretentious games are art" category and the "we like old games and want to make something like that with our own small twist" category. Given the kinds of budgets these games are made on, you cannot fault a developer when they try their hardest. However, there are those moments when a true gem gets released that swallows up all of your time when you least want it to.
Rogue Legacy is that game, and it has a lot going for it while also pushing things forward for a genre that rarely sees any true staggering innovations. Between its rock hard difficulty (which can be increased or decreased based on runes you equip to your gear, funny enough), its intuitive and well-considered gameplay design, its tendency to make you giggle here and there, and a lot of general zaniness, it is a game that keeps you saying "just one more round" far more often than you wish to admit to.
In Rogue Legacy, you play as a character. The character has a randomized name. You will die soon. Very soon. After you have died, Rogue Legacy shows you its trump card: you start the game over as a new character, an heir to your previous character. You get to choose between three characters at any given point, and all of them will have different classes, traits, and spells you will need to use in order to masterfully succeed in jumping and slashing through a wicked evil castle. These "traits" can be sometimes helpful (being able to knock enemies back further, giving you lots of health, allowing you to move faster), but many of them are light-hearted and goofy things to just keep things a little more interesting. Your character could be colorblind, causing the game to take on a black-and-white tone. You could be cursed with irritable bowel syndrome, leading to your character farting every once in a while. Maybe you are near-sighted and things beyond a certain distance are blurry. There are all kinds of traits like this (the most challenging and fun being Vertigo, which forces the game to flip completely upside down), and they do help to offer a little bit of fun along with the hard-nosed grind you will have to face.
The castle you'll explore is filled with an array of enemies, all of which have specific tells they will offer that lead to their specific forms of attack. Learning and mastering these tells, much like a player would do for something like Dark Souls, will lead to quicker and greater success. However, the other interesting part of the castle is that it is randomly generated every time you start a new character (unless you have unlocked the architect, who can "lock down" the castle so it will not be randomly generated). To add onto that premise, you will also have to forfeit all of your gold at the beginning of the castle to Charon in order to gain passage past the castle gates. This level of detail can lead to players forming some pretty hardcore strategies on how best to attack this massive obstacle in front of you. Beyond that, the castle is very much like something from a Castlevania/Ghosts 'n' Goblins type of affair.
The thing that impresses me the most about Rogue Legacy is that it does a lot to take the standard RPG elements of leveling up, exploring, and other cliches to new heights. In RPGs, we want to see systems at play, and there's plenty of them here. Rather than gaining experience as you level up, Rogue Legacy takes an almost Dark Souls-esque approach to how you gain more power on any given character. Much like how Dark Souls uses "souls" that you'll use to level up, buy items, and generally do everything in the game, Rogue Legacy is all about gold. That precious metal will lead you to greatness, as it allows you to upgrade your castle before each trek into the depths of its punishing castle. Purchasing better gear at the blacksmith, buying and equipping runes to that gear, and building up the "castle" in order to increase the stats and capabilities of your character require a lot of the fine yellow coin, so get to collecting!
As if that wasn't already enough, there's a level of depth to Rogue Legacy's gameplay that is something to be seen. It's highly recommended that you use a controller for the game, as precise and pinpoint analog joystick control will help ensure you a few extra chances at survival. The default keyboard controls feel clunky, and even re-binding all of your keys to what you would like still leaves much to be desired. However, when using a controller, Rogue Legacy's tightness is something akin to Super Meat Boy. It's impressive as hell, and much like Super Meat Boy or Dark Souls, the only reason you'll be dying is because you made a mistake. From there, it's an endless amount of torture you put upon yourself...and maybe some rage to go along with it.
That's not to say the game is easy. If anything, it's tough as hell. Once you have enough power through stats and gear on your character, specific zones will become easy. You can essentially one shot most of the enemies in the first area without issue as a Shinobi class character around level 25. However, jumping into the next zone (the game is divided into four zones, the second being the Forest), you'll find yourself in a very sobering experience. This isn't a game where you'll be running through it in the first playthrough, and if so, congratulations to you. Later enemies turn into downright "bullet hell" monstrosities that leave you wishing you could legitimately pull your hair out without going through more pain because of it. There's an elegance to the mayhem, though; a ballet that just seems to have that right...something...that keeps you coming back for more and more punishment. Nearly seventy heirs into the game, there's still this insatiable desire to continue jumping back into another game.
The only few downsides to the game are quite minuscule. After a while, you'll find that some of the dungeon rooms are repeated over and over, meaning that you can memorize the rooms themselves and the typical patterns of enemies they may hold. However, those enemies still require finesse to take down. You'll also find that despite this insane traits-through-generational means mechanic, there aren't very many that you'll want to deal with after a while. They begin repeating themselves rather quickly, and you eventually find yourself wishing that about twenty more were available just to help freshen things up a bit.
When all is said and done, Rogue Legacy is that game where you get the shit kicked out of you, just to pick yourself back up and wipe the dirt from your shoulder in order to run right back in and teach the castle a lesson. It's a brutal form of sweet torture that never seems to give you the leeway you wish you had in order to lick your wounds before the next round. Luckily, those wounds and that torture are worth every second of playtime from start to finish.