Rogue Legacy – Carrying the Family Torch


Released on: June 27, 2013 (First released on Windows)

Available Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Linux, OS X, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS

Price: $16.99 CDN ($14.99 US)

Developed by: Cellar Door Games Published by: Cellar Door Games

I tend to talk a lot about roguelikes here on 20XX, Hades, and even Rogue are some of the games that come to mind. It made me realize that I tend to gravitate towards roguelikes. I started asking myself: why? Is it because there are so many roguelikes in the indie game scene? Or is it because I crave a game that isn’t afraid to challenge the player? I like the idea of a roguelike, as in, having only one try to beat the game but having the player be more powerful with each subsequent attempt.

The game that introduced me to this kind of mechanic is Rogue Legacy, a game that wears its roguelike genre like a badge of honor. Heck, it’s even in the title of the game. I first played the game in 2013. It was the first time I had heard about having only one life to beat the game in its entirety, so I was excited to give it a try. I quickly found out how difficult of a task that was. Nevertheless, I revisited the game recently. I figured, since I have more experience with roguelikes as a whole, I would fare much better. Does Rogue Legacy have what it takes to form a legacy of its own?

Rogue Legacy Title screen

On a stormy, sepia-tone night, a knight (controlled by the player) walks
into a formidable-looking castle. While following button prompts, they make their way to the throne room by jumping and slashing. There, they see the king. The player walks up to the king, where the game prompts them to press the attack button. The player presses the button and… title screen.

Rogue Legacy player about to attack the king.
I’m sorry… your majesty.

When the player does press start to begin the game, the game asks the player to select a descendant of the knight from the beginning. The player’s task, at this point, is to investigate the castle, now with a randomly generated layout and monsters running around everywhere. Does our brave hero have what it takes to tackle the chaos of the mysterious castle?

I found the inclusion of the tutorial into the story’s prologue to be quite clever. It does a great job introducing the player to the mechanics while also giving us a little bit of lore. Speaking of lore, throughout the game, there are journals that document the journey of
the player’s predecessor. It makes me feel sorry for whoever explores
the castle, more on that later.

The sound design of Rogue Legacy is delightful. I like the punchy sound enemies make every time the player’s sword makes contact with them. It sounds less like a slash and more like a stern slap, which is funny when writing this out of context. There’s an enemy eyeball that readies its attack by making a festering sound while wiggling, which is distinct to that enemy, making it easy to find out where the attack comes from.

Rogue Legacy’s character designs are charming. I find a lot of the enemies delightfully simple in their design. Once the player discovers that enemy, they become hard to forget. Even the townsfolk all have a unique charm to them that, in all honesty, I find adorable. Even the player character has hats unique to the character’s class. If the player equips special armor, it will show on the character, which adds to
the appeal.

As mentioned before, the first thing the player does when beginning the game, is they chose a character. This character is a descendant of the knight from the beginning of the game. The characters each have unique classes, but they also have traits. Some examples are: monochromatic (only see in black and white), some are hypochondriatic
(will grossly exaggerate the amount of damage the player receives when hit), and others might be stereo blind (things that change direction will look like a flat 2D image). There are many other traits, and the player unlocks more classes as they progress through the game.

The traits here, for example, make it so that the character casts spells backwards, and they knock enemies back further too.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a roguelike if I didn’t mention the most significant obstacle the player must overcome. When the player dies, they return to the title screen. There, they will select a new descendant. Any gold that the previous descendant acquired will carry over to the new character. With gold, the player can unlock new classes, create
new equipment and upgrade their character. The player should make a point to use all of the gold inherited from the previous life, as, without upgrading Chiron, they lose all of it upon starting their new playthrough.

I find dying in Rogue Legacy to be fascinating. On the one hand, it is frustrating to lose a good character on a favorable-looking playthrough. Especially if the player unexpectedly finds themselves in an area with strong monsters. On the other hand, dying is what gives the player a chance to spend that hard-earned gold. Upgrading characters and equipment is the key to getting through Rogue Legacy’s castle. I also like exploring the different character traits. Some of them I found amusing, like Coprolalia, which causes the character to “swear” (“!@#$%^) when taking damage or dying. Another one I found humorous was I.B.S., where the hero will occasionally fart while moving or jumping.

It is worth noting that, while I find some of these traits either funny or useful in the game, some of these traits are physical or mental illnesses that one shouldn’t overlook.

If the player expects to turn Rogue Legacy on and finish the game in one sitting, they will be in for a rude awakening. Even for experienced platform game players, Rogue Legacy is no joke. Starting from the second section and beyond, enemies fire projectiles in a bullet-hell-like fashion. There will be times when the screen is covered in projectiles.
The player must navigate between the onslaught of shots to avoid getting overwhelmed.

Rogue Legacy death screen
A screen I have seen far too often…

As much as I love some of the traits, the characters have in Rogue Legacy, some of them are debilitating. Near-sightedness, for example, causes everything far away from the player to be blurry. If projectiles were challenging to dodge before, they are even more so now that the player can’t see as well. Vertigo makes the game next to impossible to play, as the whole world is turned upside-down. I recommend experimenting to find out which traits suit the player best, but some characteristics the player should avoid altogether.

Rogue Legacy Glaucoma example
Glaucoma makes things far away dark, thus harder to see coming.

Rogue Legacy could have easily been a traditional, run-of-the-mill platforming game but decides to be so much more. With it being a roguelike and the descendant’s traits, Rogue Legacy is a game with a whole lot of charm and character. Those looking for a challenge or a decent roguelike game to play should check out Rogue Legacy.

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