So anyone who has spoken to me in the last 2 days or so has probably heard me raving about metroidvania style roguelite game ‘Rogue Legacy’ by Canadian indie studio ‘Cellar Door Games’.
The aim of the game is straight out of a 90’s video game design manual, enter a demon castle thing, kill the boss of each wing of the castle to open up the final door. Problems arise however when you realise that everything in the castle is really goddamn strong (and the bosses are on another level completely), thus you send in your hero, and they die… a successor arises however, who keeps the gold their ancestor managed to salvage from the castle, and you can build your own castle or buy equipment for your bloodline.
But there are more twists, the successors you can pick from have different classes, spells and character traits/flaws – For example colour-blindness (views everything in B&W), Alzheimers (can’t remember map) or Dwarfism.
The castle also completely randomizes each time you enter, changing placement of boss rooms, chests, secrets, challenge rooms and so on, and the castle gatekeeper refuses to let you in to the castle without taking all your gold first, so you need to ensure you find enough gold before you die, or it’ll have all been for nothing.
The options for upgrading your hero are extensive, with no real forced upgrade routes meaning you are free to spec to your playstyle (Damage, HP/Armor, Gold hoarder Crit Chance , etc).
You unlock new classes for successors in this style as well, with there being 9 total classes with different playstyles. Oh, and then there’s the equipment and rune system, both of which rely on you unlocking stuff by finding fairy chests in the castle, you can equip 1 equip and 1 rune in each slot (5 slots) and these provide stat bonuses or skills, again in whatever flavour you desire (I quite like speccing my guy into vampirism for regeneration for example). The rune/skill system is made to be stacked, and has few limitations other than only 1 rune per slot, but if you want to have 5 airjump runes, you’re probably free to do that. This complete freedom in how you want to play the game and progress your character is a really nice touch that really shouts ‘do whatever the hell you want’, and it’s great fun.
I mentioned Fairy chests earlier, these contain the skill runes, they usually aren’t too hard to find during your playthroughs, however opening them is the hard part. Upon entering a fairy chest room you are given a condition, this ranges from the easy ‘Defeat all enemies’ to fiendish ‘Avoid taking damage’ to the equipment check style ‘No jumping!’ (usually requiring a specific rune loadout like triple jump/dash). These rooms along with my own deaths were the catalyst for many swear words, there’s nothing worse than getting so close to the chest and then suddenly failing the criteria, and having the chest just stare at you and be unopenable, there is no way to reset the room after failing, so failure really hurts and means you’ll just have to hope you do better on the next playthrough, on the flipside however, managing the reach the chest after a hard challenge feels incredibly rewarding.
At points in the game there are also hidden rooms, inside of which may be a few things, health, minigames, lore, or portraits of the studio’s previous works – I actually really enjoyed reading these short developer commentaries on their own games, and even tried one or two of them (Bullet Audyssey was right up my alley, a bullet hell rhythm game – http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/584352).
The castle itself, while not huge, is big enough as you will die before you ever get to see the end of it, the 4 wings are also very thematically different, which is nice – though the amount of time you’ll spend in the default castle environment listening to that music is somewhat of a downer once you hit 6+ hours. Each of the bosses from what I’ve seen are incredibly challenging and very much skill based rather than a gear or level check which many of these metroidvania’s tend to do (though you definitely will need gear/levels unless you are some sort of Japanese bullet hell top ranker).
Graphically the game is somewhere between ‘adequate’ and ‘good’ with its pixel art style, it’s not going to win any awards for graphical achievement but it is more than enough to clearly convey what is happening, as an added bonus the game scales pretty well with resolution (always sort of a worry for pixel based games). The music in the game is decent, the fact I haven’t muted it yet even after hearing the same damn background music for X hours is probably a good indicator, the music in the 4th zone sounds pretty awesome, but maybe that’s just because I haven’t been exposed to that one for hours yet.
Whilst there aren’t any massive flaws with the game, there are a few minor ones:
– The controls can be slightly fiddly if playing on a keyboard, the game was probably designed with gamepads in mind as the airdash stuff is bound on 2 different keys, which can quickly lead with your hand ending up as a small ball on your keyboard if you have lots of airjump and airdash runes and intend on fighting stuff as well (compared with A,X and triggers on a 360 controller).
– The difficulty level and difficulty curve (or maybe its the level requirement curve) is skewed heavily towards hard at almost all points of the game, I can see why they have done it that way with the generations/upgrade system but this game really is unforgiving, my bloodline nearing its 100th generation is still able to die to the first rooms in the game if i’m not paying attention, and after 10 hours maybe I am still terrified of entering the 4th zone in the castle because everything there murders me and refuses to die. This mean difficulty curve leads to you feeling like you aren’t making much progress at certain points in the game, and can be disheartening.
– Enemy types repeat in each area, with even the mini-bosses being resize/recolours of existing enemies, it would have been nice to see a little more variety.
– Some will not enjoy the grindy nature of this game, many runs are simply dedicated to romping through the castle smacking the crap out of jars and boxes for money, so that you can go back and buy that new skill/armor/upgrade – so that you can do the same thing again, but faster. That which will be addictive and fun for some will definitely turn many others away after a few hours or play.
Rogue Legacy is an incredibly crafted little game from a studio that has clearly thought things through in an effort to make an addictive RPG that constantly captures the feeling of exploration.
The game’s core of grinding and high difficulty will turn some away, but those who get caught will be unable to resist venturing back into the castle again and again.
Approximate Game Length : >10 Hours
Actual Worth / Steam Price: £15/ £12= 1
Should you play it : Yes, come for the gimmicks, stay because you are now addicted.
http://www.roguelegacy.com/ – Comes DRM free and with a Steam Key