Saturday, May 3, 2014

Game Review: Rogue Legacy

About a month ago Heidi bought me a copy of Rogue Legacy on Steam. I've been playing it regularly ever since, and finally beat it just a few minutes ago.

Unlike movies, which I often feel I should ponder for a while upon completion before reviewing it, I think I should write up video game reviews right away unless the ending really leaves me with a lot to think about. In most cases, the core of a game is the journey, not the destination, and in most cases I've had plenty of time along the journey to develop a clear opinion of the game.

So, short review: Rogue Legacy is a very fun platformer/action/RPG with plenty of variation to keep you from getting bored. Just make sure you have a controller you can plug into your PC, because the game is incredibly rough without one.


A family of warriors has made it their mission to conquer a deadly castle/dungeon from which nobody has returned alive. One by one the warriors give their lives to the castle, each one somehow passing on its knowledge and wealth to the next generation. Each time a warrior enters the caste, the immortal keeper of the gate, Charon, exacts a steep toll to enter the castle: the entirety of that warrior's wealth.

And so, generation after generation the warriors charge forward to their deaths in the hope that some day one of them will uncover the castle's greatest treasure...

I thoroughly enjoyed this game. It was a fun mix of silliness, horror, action, and feeling at times like a badass, and at other times like a frantic coward.

Here's the progression of the game:

First, you enter the dungeon. The castle is split into four distinct areas: the castle proper, the garden/forest, the towers, and the basement. Each one is more difficult than the last, and each has a boss creature hidden somewhere within. The dungeon is randomized every time you enter, but you always know that the forest is tot he right, the towers are up, and the basement is down.

You fight your way through the dungeon, destroying furniture, killing enemies, and searching for treasure chests to increase your levels and wealth, as well as to find schematics and runes that your children will be able to use.

The enemies are quite varied, but after a while you'll become familiar with the types of enemies you'll find in each section of the castle. They vary from stationary traps, lumbering knights, ghosts that charge you, monsters disguised as background objects, and more. As you progress through the castle and into the other sections you'll find both more powerful versions of familiar monsters as well as completely new dangers, like slimes, wargs, and ninjas.

When you find an area's boss, there's always a couple of recovery items around that you can use before facing it. The bosses are always super-powered versions of an enemy you've faced before. Upon defeat, a mark on the locked doorway near the entrance lights up. When you defeat all four bosses, the doorway opens the way toward the final challenge.

When your character inevitably dies, they give some parting words, and then you are given the chance to select an heir. You have three characters to chose from, each with a randomly assigned class and traits.

The classes mostly share a common control scheme: they all use swords for physical attacks, they jump and run about the same, and they have access to a single randomly-assigned magic spell. The differences in classes start off fairly minimal, but as you become more familiar with them you'll get used to their different play styles--Knights are physically strong, Barbarians are tough, Mages use magic more effectively, etc. Each class affects the character's look subtly, with mages having beards and barbarians have Skyrim-esque horned helmets.

The traits keep the classes from feeling stale, since two Knights might play totally different depending on the traits they're born with.

Many traits have little effect at all on the actual game, such as being Bald, Gay, or suffering from IBS; such traits have a subtle (or not so subtle) effect on the details, but don't make things any easier or harder.

Some traits make the game harder to one degree or another, and no doubt along the way you'll find some negative traits you'll avoid at all costs, such as Vertigo, which flips the screen upside-down. Other negative traits include near- and far-sightedness (making far away or close things blurry), Congenital Insensitivity to Pain (which hides your HP bar), and Muscle Weakness (can't knock back enemies), among many others.

And then there are helpful traits, which make the game a little easier. Examples include ADHD (which makes your character move faster), OCD (which grants MP for every object destroyed), and Peripheral Arterial Disease (which prevents the character from setting off certain spike traps).

After choosing your heir, you gain access to your manor where you can spend money buying all sorts of upgrades, from improving your stats, improving and buying new classes, and myriad other bonuses. As you purchase upgrades, the manor expands to show new upgrade options. To buy every upgrade will take many generations.

After leaving the manor, you get to the castle's approach where you can find a few other characters:

The Blacksmith can use any schematics you find to create new equipment, including swords, various pieces of armor, and a cape, all of which increase your stats in one way or another.

The Enchantress takes any Runes you find and allows you to apply rune effects to your equipment, such as allowing your character to jump multiple times in the air, drain enemy health, or even fly for short periods.

And finally, the Engineer will make it so that the dungeon will not randomize next time you enter, though the cost is, I think, 40% of whatever you earn in the dungeon. He's mostly useful only if there are special treasure chests you weren't able to get the previous time you went in, that you want a second chance at--I almost never used the guy's services.

Then, finally, you talk to Charon, who takes any money you have left over, laughs, then allows you to enter, locking the door behind you. With new traits, maybe a new class, and maybe even a few improvements, you face the dungeon again, trying to get a little further each time.

I managed to beat the game on my 154th try.

My favorite classes were the Dragon, of course, the Hokage, the Assassin, and, sometimes, the Spellsword.

I could definitely feel myself getting better at the game over time, and the difficulty curve felt very good to me: by the time I mastered one area through a combination of familiarity and steadily improving stats and classes, I felt pretty confident in testing out the next area. The transition from the castle tot he forest was rough, but by the time I reached the towers and the basement I felt like I was flying through the game. It probably took me three weeks to master the castle and forest, while I mastered the rest of the game in less than a week.

Then again, I don't know if that's because I was getting better at the game personally, or because of what I was investing in at the manor. I pretty much invested in everything but stats at the manor first, unlocking the classes, improved money and potions, and everything else first. By the time I beat the game, the only things I had left to buy at the manor were upgrades to HP, MP, Armor, Strength, and Magic.

It's tempting to continue playing the game now that I've beaten it (you basically get to New Game+, with the whole castle becoming harder), but I'm satisfied with my victory.

I recommend picking the game up if you can, especially if you enjoy 2D Platformer/Action/RPGs.

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