Written for Haywire Magazine.
Rogue Legacy follows a lineage of dashing warriors and their individual attempts to clear a castle of monsters, loot its treasure, and avenge the royal line of their ancestral king. One after another, these brave sons and daughters will meet their maker, and by the time you overcome the four hidden bosses and control one lucky hero to the gilded throne room, you’re certain to have gone through quite the family tree of various Sirs and Madams.
Characters are randomly generated, just as the castle layout rearranges upon re-entry. A 2D platformer with a floaty jump button, navigating the shuffled nature of the halls ahead is at first harrowing, each room with unknown and often immediate dangers to greet you. Spike traps, fireballs and bone juggling skeletons will eat chunks of health at a time, and you’ll likely meet abrupt ends as you familiarize yourself with the movements of enemies and the nature of the castle’s chambers.
When failure is frequent and much of the castle remains unexplored, Rogue Legacy is rather lovable. Each of your prospective heirs has a written bio you can look at before selecting them, revealing a myriad of personality, physical, and psychological traits that can either act in favor or in detriment to your chances of survival. Sir Gregory IV might be a level 6 Knave, meaning he can dish critical hits left and right, but that he’s also a bit lean on hit points himself. He’s also colorblind, dyslexic and happens to fancy men. How far will he get?
It’s a hilarious experience, but it suffers when the castle becomes more and more familiar. Even if random, the challenges are much the same, just reorganized, and repeated character bios do lose novelty. Collecting gold becomes an addictive force, as what you manage to pocket before death can be used to expand the family manor, offering interesting technology and class upgrades. Past a certain point, many of these are shameful time sinks, offering diminishing returns for large amounts of plundering. Besides, the primary bossfights of Rogue Legacy all come down to dodging copious amounts of screen clutter, so the existence of such a massive tech tree is little more than distractionary padding. You can’t buy reflexes, and that’s all you really need to emerge triumphant.
Rogue Legacy is simply a fun matter of focus. Choose the finest champions offered to you and use their oddball makeups to your advantage. A hero with dwarfism may find it easier to slip between projectiles, but if he has poor vision and thus presents you with a blurred scree, you’ll just have to make do. But regardless of how much the family genes favor or curse them, the cartoon caricatures all move with the same bravado. Chest puffed out, sword pointing up and onward, strolling powerfully past the castle gate as the entrance seals behind them. What confidence!