A roguelike is a game featuring procedurally generated levels that change each time you play them. The first few times you attempt the game you expect to die early on. Your early expeditions are to gather experience or resources so you can get further later on. Rogue Legacy, by Cellar Door Games, is built on this concept.
“You’ll get further into the castle each time”
The game features a knight invading a deadly castle to find treasure and kill monsters. He believes that by doing so, he’ll redeem his family and he can take his rightful place on the throne. He tells his story through journals scattered across the game. Like Breath of the Wild, this means you can care about the story as much or as little as you want. After the knight does not return, his children come to look for him.
Each time you die, you take over as a child of your previous character. You have three options, each having randomly chosen classes, spells, and traits. The traits range from useful (being smaller) to humorous (swearing whenever you’re hit) to weird (making the castle look like the Matrix). These knights march to their deaths one after the other, the money they collect getting used to buy weapons and armor or to build onto the skill tree. For the most part, you’ll get further into the castle each time.
The castle has four parts, each with a boss at the end. You start in the castle, with the forest to the right, the tower up top, and the dungeon at the bottom. You can tackle these in any order you want, but there are much stronger enemies in the dungeon than the forest. The difficulty is scaled nicely. By the time you’re strong enough to have a chance in the forest, you’ve already defeated the first boss and can get through the castle pretty easily.
I’d recommend using the steam controller, but the keyboard works fine if necessary. The jumping is a little hard to control, but it could be much worse. Nothing else felt awkward or stiff, which is good because of the type of game it is.
Rogue Legacy is a 2D platformer with bullet hell elements. Many enemies will float around the stage, and most enemies have some kind of ranged attack. Your reflexes will get amazing as you maneuver around enemy attacks to strike them. You’ll also have to use your spells, which include throwing knives, chakrams, or axes. Each hero has a spell selected at random, and you’ll eliminate or pick heroes before each attempt depending on which spell they have.
It’s both fun and helpful to break everything. Chairs, tables, statues, and chandeliers fall to your blade as you run through the castle. Not only do you get money from them, they can also drop food to restore your health and mana to restore your magic. This will keep you alive and kicking until you reach the area boss. You can try the boss at any point, even your first time playing the game.
You’ll also find magic runes throughout the castle. The runes you can use enchant one piece of armor. If you have both the movement rune and the vault rune only on your sword, you have to choose one or the other. If you want both, you’ll have to find a version that can enchant another armor piece. It adds a fun level of strategy to the game, and the runes significantly improve gameplay.
Aside from your spells, the only weapon you have is a sword. That means if you’re out of mana or your spells can’t reach your opponent, you have to get up close and personal. You have to learn their telegraphs and get used to using the movement runes so you can kill them before they kill you. It’s satisfying when you can kill stronger monsters or minibosses without getting hit once.
“it’s fun to listen to even while you’re not playing the game”
The game has pixel graphics and a charming cartoonish look. Each area has it’s own color palette, and the soundtrack complements the mood change for each. Weapons and armor changes appear on your sprite, a little touch that’s always appreciated. Like in older Zelda games, the game uses stronger versions of monsters noted by a palette swap, and they all look good. Each boss is a larger version of a monster you’ll see throughout the region, and they look badass.
Two people composed the soundtrack: Tettix and A Shell in the Pit. Trilobyte, the song that plays in the castle, never fails to pump up the player for the adventure. The chiptune blends well with the pixel graphics. Like any good soundtrack it’s fun to listen to even while you’re not playing the game.
On top of being charming, the game is fun and satisfying. Because of the randomly generated dungeons and characters, you can play it over and over. It’s pretty hard, so you’ll be playing for a while, but it never feels repetitive, only a bit frustrating at times. The developers announced a fighting game that’s coming out later this year, which I’ll be checking out.
Final Score: 8.5/10