I first played Rogue Legacy at a friend’s place, trading off the controller at each death. It wasn’t much, but it got me instantly hooked on how fun it was. So hooked, that I downloaded Steam, bought the game for the full $15, and bought a $30 wired Xbox 360 controller… and I don’t even have any Xboxes. All this for this one game… and it was worth it.
Rogue Legacy plays like Castlevania and Super Ghouls N Ghosts. You move, jump, attack, and use a secondary weapon. The uniqueness comes into play when you die, which you will… a lot. Once you die, you will be brought to a selection of three heirs to play as next. Each one has a random character class, secondary weapon, and set of traits. Classes determine certain stats and abilities. Secondary weapons, or spells as they are called, use up MP. That’s all pretty basic stuff. But the traits are very interesting. Some traits are helpful, like a speed increase. Others are harmful, like giving your attacks no enemy knockback. And some are just… well… neutral things… like making everything black and white. Your heirs have a chance of having two, one, or none of the traits at random. With all the random factors, you have to really get lucky… or pick the lesser of three evils. Is getting your preferred class worth the traits? Are the spells to your liking? It also makes you think about the next area… skills.
After selecting your heir, you are then brought to a skill tree. You inherit the gold of your dead relatives I guess, and you can spend it on upgrading all kinds of things, from stats, to passives, to new character classes. Do you want to build up a magic or melee character? Maybe focus on a specific class? Or do you want to play it safe and try to build up well-rounded skills to work with the random factors? It’s a lot to consider when purchasing points in the skill tree. And be careful. Every time you buy an upgrade in the skill tree, all of the others become more expensive. So plan accordingly. And try not to spend it all in one place because…
… there’s another screen. Yes, another screen where you can do even more character customization. IF you buy them in the skill tree, you can open up three different shops outside the castle: The blacksmith, the enchantress, and the architect. The blacksmith sells you armor and swords with different stats and perks, but you’ll need to find the blueprints first so he knows how to make them… Some blacksmith, eh? The enchantress does roughly the same thing. She sells you enchantment of your armor and sword after you’ve found the appropriate runes. The big difference is that the blacksmith’s wares have weight, meaning you can only carry certain pieces until your carrying capacity improves, while the runes are weightless. It give you lots of customization options between the two and the skill tree. The architect has only one purpose. He locks down the castle. The levels are randomly generated every time you enter, but if you agree to give the architect a percentage of your gold on the current life, he will lock down the previous map so that you are not lost in a random new place. This can be helpful for retrying bosses, but be warned. Enemies will be back, chests cannot be reopened, and as mentioned your gold gain is reduced for this entire life. So consider it for saving time and getting around.
Lastly, at the gates of the castle, you are faced with Charon, the gatekeeper. He will allow you to enter at the cost of all of your gold. This is where a lot of the motivation is built for the game. You’ll want to spend as much gold as possible between the skill tree and the shops since you’ll be losing it all anyway. You can’t simply keep amassing gold over a number of lives. If you want a nice, expensive upgrade, you’d better not die and keep getting that gold. It’s a nice way to give death some gravity, as getting upgrades and new characters already seems like REWARDING you for dying, and that needed to be checked and balanced somehow.
The basic goal is to become strong enough to survive the four areas, beat their bosses, and then defeat the final boss. There are lots of cool extra things to find along the way, like super bosses, passive items, challenge rooms, and even some cool secrets here and there. The game CAN become grindy, and if you don’t enjoy grinding, then you might get a little upset at the difficulty. However, you always have the option to not buy anything and just try to beat the challenges old school style. Nothing bars you from doing so. So it’s a nice duality. The game also goes from being a platformer in the earlier stages to being more akin to a bullet hell in the later ones. Master your movements, improve your aim, and pick your battles.
No game is perfect, so I had a few complaints. My main gripe with the game, though it’s not a HUGE one, is that it doesn’t really give you much incentive to stay alive. There’s the thrill of getting more gold to get more upgrades, but eventually you’ll want to keep dying so you can actually purchase and USE the upgrades. The only reason you’ll want to NOT die, aside from adding to your gold count, is to beat a boss or, in the case of the final boss, beat the game. There are a good number of different room layouts and enemy combinations within, plus the challenge rooms that pop up now and then. However, after playing for so many hours, especially if you’re like me and get really grindy with it, you’ll start to recognize all the room types repeating. Even though the four areas are supposed to be different, they are all pretty similar. They have the same room types with different skins, more or less. And the enemies aren’t really all that different between areas. They’re mostly just more powerful versions of previous enemies in the harder areas, with maybe one or two new ones added. More variety would’ve helped, but there’s already a lot of different things to deal with that it may be too complex to have more of everything, so I understand. Also, there weren’t a lot of instances of this, but a handful of times I found weird floor glitches where gold fell through and I couldn’t get it. That, and every once in a while my character would fall through and start randomly appearing in all the adjacent rooms for a few seconds. Nothing game-breaking nor frequent, but a little spooky when they happened. Also… the music will wear away your sanity, but then again, so will anything when you play the game as much as I have.
There are lots of customization options, lots of random elements, lots of strategy involved, lots of skill required… and lots of hours of playtime and replayability in this game. I got 96 hours in my first playthrough. I love Rogue Legacy. The gameplay, the music, the sound, the graphics… everything comes together to make a game that feels like it was made for ME. It’s the first time since Banjo-Kazooie that a game has felt like it was made just for me. It’s an amazing feeling, and I can’t recommend this game enough. Easily my favorite game on Steam and has instantly worked its way into being one of my favorite games of all time. I’d really say to just buy it now. Sure, you can wait for a sale if you’re skeptical… or cheap. But it’s definitely worth the $15 price tag. I mean, I ended up essentially putting down $45 to play this game, and it was well worth it.