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Rogue Legacy (PC) artwork

Rogue Legacy (PC) review

"The limited appeal of traits obscures a reasonably compelling story oriented platformer."

You charge through the castle halls, defeat a minion, mount some retracting platforms and then slay a king! Your quest to save the assassin will be the pursuit of every progenitor from that point on. Such is your introduction to Rogue Legacy, a game in which you are going to die. A lot.

In fact, the premise of this rogue-lite is that you’re going to choose the successor of the deceased, each time. You choose from four, each with distinctive traits ranging from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Exaggeration, Near-Sightedness and even ADHD, which substantially enhances your movement speed. Each trait has its drawbacks and bonuses, adding to the mechanical variety RL presents.

Some traits are amusing, like Nostalgia which casts the graphics in a sepia hue, or Dyslexia which partially scrambles text. Others have practical applications, like PAD, which can prevent floor spikes from triggering. As you acquire gold, it is passed on to the next generation. It is then you can purchase armor upgrades, ability imbuing runes, or sections of castle that give permanent stat upgrades, buffs and new classes.

This is, at its core, a platformer which consists of randomly arranged preset rooms with variable contents. The castle changes each time you move on to a new character, unless you pay a percentage cost of your future haul to have the configuration locked down. The gatekeeper will also demand of you any gold unspent, so getting the best out of your on-hand treasure becomes an important skill.

RL is punishing at first, with scant options, just a couple of runes to start, and a little bit of magic. Every generation has at their disposal at least one spell, which can be thrown daggers, a giant hovering blade, axes that arc when thrown, and more. Magic classes can provide enhancements and variation to this formula as well, but magic mechanics are not explored with much depth.

At first I was terrible at RL, then my routine of practice afforded knowledge of enemy “tells”, effective dodging patterns, and reflexive combat techniques. Given enough time and purchased bonuses, I suspect anyone could reasonably spend a lot of time exploring the four sections of the castle.

About the time you begin to get any good at it, the story peters out, and you’re left with surmounting the castle’s four bosses. Traversing the castle to get to them isn’t bothersome, especially with the available options to lock down their locations, if known. The developers, Cellar Door, seem aware of the sparse content, and give you a few distractions:

Three, count ‘em, three mini-games will task your aim and chest choosing skills. You’ll encounter developer diaries, too, which talk about previous titles and the lessons learned from them. Faerie chests give you an objective, like “Reach me in time”, or “Take no damage”. And finally, mini-bosses reward you with permanent stat bonuses. Mildly ironic when there are so many upgrades and character options on tap.

RL has a distinctive pixel art style that aids in pattern recognition, and there are moments when you’ll be in a flow of dodge-and-strike combat that might be described as effortless. It behooves you to pause long enough to decide on your approach for each enemy and enemy group. With practice this will take just a split second, and you’ll be clearing rooms and amassing small fortunes.

Rogue’s music is not inconsequential, having a personality that suits the game’s almost clunky art style. Each of the four areas has a vaguely haunting theme that will keep you on your toes and aware of being at the edge of a knife. You can, and will, die when you least expect it.

Controls are at times clumsy, and rarely does the character I choose move with the precision I expect. Sprites are large, though you can choose smaller, and larger, on occasion. Dwarvish characters grant access to treasure that is otherwise inaccessible. Even with the most nimble, the Ninja, I found airborne attacks sluggish and inconsistent.

Rogue has its own ... feel, as most platformers do ... and it doesn’t seem wrong to expect that a knight is going to be at least somewhat clumsy in full plate armor. However, class changes restrict you always to sword, magic and sometimes a shield. Even Mages and Ninjas use the sword. I would like to have seen some variety here; perhaps other types of swords.

Are there more? Probably, but even beating half the bosses unlocked for me less than half of the available sets of armor and even less of the swords. Bonuses like augmented critical rate and gold drops can change how you play significantly, but it all comes down to how much you enjoy permadeath and circumnavigating the same rooms over, and over again.

I’d like to note that Rogue Legacy is really light on hardware, and will run on modest setups with the exception of some possibly demanding shader effects. For the price, you’re getting a lot of potential fun, and it is easy to play for brief, or extended sessions at your leisure.

Rogue Legacy tickles the progression fancy of any upgrade focused player, features rock solid performance and excellent, thought and reflex testing platforming. Grab a keyboard or your Xbox 360 controller for effortless play. Your character controls like a heavily armored knight!

The paper thin story dries up long before you reach mid-game, and it is interesting enough to see to conclusion, it may not be interesting enough to see through to completion. Music can become repetitive and achievements don’t always work correctly. Your character controls like a heavily armored knight.

This is worth the full price of admission for anyone interested in platformers and rogue-lites. You’re getting quite a bit of bang for your buck here. If you are interested and spot it on sale, don’t hesitate!

hastypixels's avatar
Community review by hastypixels (October 09, 2016)

At some point you stop justifying what you play and begin to realize what you're learning by playing.

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