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GAME REVIEW: Rogue Legacy

roguelegacyRogue Legacy is a roguelike sidescroller game with a generational twist released by Cellar Door Games in 2013.  In most quest games you have a single protagonist who has some major goal they are pursuing–failure is handled by a hero who can respawn, or multiple lives, save points, etc…  In Rogue Legacy, when a character dies, he or she is dead forever.  But this isn’t just one person’s quest, it’s a family quest done over the very long haul.  After a character dies you get to choose one of the next generation of warriors with different attributes to take up the next iteration of the quest.

One attribute of the characters is the character class, a familiar concept for gamers.  Barbarians have much higher hit points so they make good tanks.  Mages are better spellcasters.  Miners suck at everything, but they reap higher monetary rewards.  And other classes.

2014-12-24_00001Where the attributes get more interesting is that each of the characters you choose have genetic conditions.  These traits can be negative, , like nearsightedness that makes distant things blurry, or dementia which causes harmless hallucinatory creatures to appear that can distract you from real threats.  Other traits are positive like Peripheral Arterial Disease which means you don’t have a pulse in your feet–you’d think this would be bad, but spike traps in the game are triggered by foot pulse (so that the undead minions of the fortress won’t trigger them) so these traps will not trigger and damage you.

When each new generation is sent in, the quester has to give all the family money to Charon the gatekeeper.  But before re-entering you can use the money collected by the last excursion to unlock new character classes, stat upgrades, new equipment, or equipment enchantments.  All these improvements carry over from generation to generation so even though each character dies each successive generation will be the stronger from strategically chosen upgrades.  The castle you’re raiding is enchanted so that the castle rearranges itself with new treasures and new arrangements of rooms and enemies with each iteration.

2015-02-20_00001There are more details, but I’ve gone on too long already.  It’s not hard to pick up–it took me a few deaths to figure out the mechanics, but there’s nothing wrong with that and it was fun to explore the mechanics as well. This game is very challenging and very, very fun.  If you really like to push the challenge, once you beat the game you get the option for New Game+ at which point you can play through again with the difficulty cranked up.  If you beat it again on that level, you can New Game+ again and it will be even harder.

I found this game very hard to put down–I’d steal a few minutes to play through a few rooms, save and quit, then steal a few minutes again at my next opportunity.  The penalty for dying was perfectly chosen to make dying an obstacle but not so much of one to slow the game down, making the player too risk averse.

Visuals
Fun cartoony look, perfect for this kind of game.  I especially love the way the hero charges into battle with sword raised overhead as though it’s a flag.

Audio
I found the music pretty annoying, but I usually play games without sound anyway, so no big deal to me.

Challenge
Quite challenging, and if you’re good enough to beat the game, you can play through again with all the difficulty ramped up–not just enemies with more hitpoints but the kinds of enemies bump up to higher levels with different attack patterns that are more difficult to avoid.

Story
Light on story–there are some journal entries scattered randomly that were left by a previous quester, but it’s not a game for story.

Session Time
Beautifully short.  You can stop and save at pretty much any time.  Next time you’ll start back at the entrance with the same health and magic, with all the treasure collected, and all the same enemies defeated.  There are some teleporters scattered throughout to make the travel around the castle faster.  So, you can play for five or ten minutes or whatever, save, and not lose anything.

Playability
Easy controls, easy to learn how to play, but more challenging to figure out all the best play strategies for the different player classes.

Replayability
Lots of replayability, especially with the shuffling character traits, rearranging castle, and the New Game+ option to ramp up the difficulty each time.

Originality
An old kind of game but the generational twist makes it into something that feels very new.

Playtime
Pretty much as much or as little as you want.  I think it took me about 20 hours of gameplay to beat the game the first time, but it could be much higher or lower depending on how consistent you can be.  I beat it the second time at about 24 hours, and played through one more time before I moved onto other games (the enemies were getting difficult enough at that point that I was dying almost constantly).

Overall
Original twist. Great game.  Fun look.  Lots of variety and replayability.  Very hard.  I highly recommend it for anyone who wants a challenging roguelike game.  The game is available on Steam for $15.

About David Steffen (64 Articles)
David Steffen is a writer and editor and software engineer and a voracious consumer of podcast fiction. The first piece of fiction he's edited is now available, "Taste the Whip" by Andy Dudak on Diabolical Plots(http://www.diabolicalplots.com/dp-fiction-1-taste-the-whip-by-andy-dudak/). David is also the co-founder and administrator of the The Submission Grinder(http://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com/), a tool for writers.
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