Tuesday, November 6

Review: Rogue Legacy [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Playing games that serve as inspirations of sorts for more contemporary titles is always an interesting experience. On the one hand it’s fascinating to see where many core concepts may have evolved from a number of years ago, but at the same time the reflection can be a bit harsh as more modern titles have surpassed the originals, and sometimes to a significant degree. Rogue Legacy is a title I will always hold high as one of the original games that introduced me to, and helped me love, the roguelike style of gameplay. Challenging, quirky, always throwing something a bit different at you, and full of hard-earned progression that you continue to carry forward into later runs it is a title that no doubt helped to inspire many current roguelikes like the spectacular Dead Cells.

While the gameplay is obviously not nearly as elaborate or refined as the likes of Dead Cells if you have some patience the gameplay foundation is still very much present in Rogue Legacy. While graphically much more simplistic, and far more willing to crank up the challenges far more quickly the emphasis here isn’t so much on sustained runs early on as it is simply about holding on long enough to accrue some gold so you can upgrade your castle, which will unlock new characters types and attribute bonuses, as well as tweak your gear and added enhancements and skills. Very early on quick runs can generally earn you enough gold to grab some upgrades here and there but the further in you get the more demanding the game generally becomes.

What makes the hook pretty unique is that each time you play you represent yet another generation in the lineage of your once proud family. Unfortunately, over time too much inbreeding has resulted in some pretty unpredictable genetic results. While you’ll have 3 choices to work from any number of maladies from pretty severe to possibly somewhat helpful making your decision can be tough and it isn’t unusual for there to be a balancing act involved. Someone with dwarfism may not be able to take as much punishment but they’re also able to get into otherwise inaccessible areas that can contain special loot or bonuses. Sillier effects like flatulence or nostalgia that give the screen a sepia-filtered tone are abundant as well. Though perhaps the novelty of these wear off over time it’s a fun and creative spin on changing things up and makes for some memorable runs at times.

Returning to this game after a number of years I’m actually shocked to find myself saying it may be a little more lenient than I remembered, but that’s hardly to say anything about it is easy.You absolutely will need to grind to make progress in this title, the simple math of the added difficulty of enemies in new areas demand that you put in an investment to be able to deal with these greater threats. As a general rule the pendulum tends to swing pretty widely from run to run in terms of your luck and success, so be ready for highs and lows along the way. As a warning there’s absolutely a mid-game hump that people tend to hit where progress seems like it slows down a bit. Stick it out and once you get past that point the good news is that as you approach the end of the game things tend to come together more quickly on average.

While it hasn’t aged particularly well, especially trying to follow such a strong title as Dead Cells which really took everything this game does and amped it up significantly, I very much appreciate Rogue Legacy’s vision and approach. While it may not have been the first roguelike by any means it’s the first title I personally remember showing me the potential for the genre and turning me into a fan. If you don’t have nostalgia for the title directly, or aren’t very curious about earlier roguelikes, you can pass this one up. However, if you’re a true roguelike fan you owe it to yourself to see an early pioneering title that should help you to understand how far the genre had come.

Score: 7.5

  • Even after a number of years its gameplay is frustrating but still compelling
  • The system that assigns various ailments each of your descendents keeps things fresh and often a bit silly
  • It helped provide a vision for what roguelikes could be like, with an emphasis on loot and a slow and deliberate path to upgrading yourself along the way

  • Especially if you’ve sampled some current roguelike platformers the signs of age in Rogue Legacy are hard to miss
  • The level of challenge tends to swing a bit wildly from run to run
  • Around the mid-game there tends to be a stretch where the cost and challenge of continuing to upgrade feels a bit higher than usual