Rogue Legacy review

The title very succinctly sums this game up: it’s a Roguelike with a legacy mechanic, and as such it’s an immensely challenging, nostalgic, and compelling action platformer, one that can grip you for hours and yet have you make little or no actual progress.

In Rogue Legacy you venture through a procedurally generated castle and its grounds, with each environment filled with their own monsters, bosses, secret areas and loot. When you die – and you’ll die frequently – control is transferred to your heir, with any gold you acquired being inherited by them. Your heir can then upgrade their manor, which acts as a skill tree unlocking abilities, enhancing traits and revealing new character classes, before tackling the forever changing castle once again. Rinse and repeat.

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It’s spectacularly compelling. After each character dies you’ve given a choice of multiple heirs, each with their own class, abilities and traits, some of which grant significant advantages or disadvantages. Colour blindness, for example paints the world in mono tone, meanwhile, dwarfism makes your hero small but able to explore otherwise blocked paths in the castle. And the wealth of character traits is terrifically balanced alongside a limited number of available heirs, meaning you often have to sacrifice playing as your preferred class so not to suffer the more debilitating genetic issues. However, traits are mostly cosmetic or hilarious, such as the irritable bowel syndrome trait that has you character comically fart their way through the castle each time you jump.

The procedurally generated castle and its grounds are truly deadly, filled to the brim with traps and foes that can very quickly reduce your health to nothing. Fortunately, upgrading your manor increases your odds each time you go on an adventure, boosting things like your health and armour, or purchasing new classes that may appear as heirs in the future, or even hiring a blacksmith, enchantress and architect to bestow you with additional armour, abilities, or temporarily freezing the layout of the castle.

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Indeed Rogue Legacy is a game rife with choices; from what heir to enter the castle next, what upgrades to your own castle to make, which equipment and enchantments if any to purchase, even how you approach the castle and its dangers. Each class has its strengths and weaknesses and as such play very differently from each other. The Barbarian for example can take a great deal more punishment than the Shinobi, but the Shinobi’s speed and attack power is greater, meanwhile, the mage has a large mana pool for casting spells from a safer distance, and so on. Furthermore, collecting enough gold in a run to do anything is a challenge, and once you enter the castle a new, your left over riches are stripped away. It’s impressively complex.

It’s also very difficult, especially with your first dozen or so generations. Enemies are numerous and fast paced, and the bosses are initially insurmountable. But as you make upgrades, learn new abilities, and become accustomed to the pace and attack patterns of your foes, you’ll make more and more progress before you die, perhaps earning just enough gold to increase your stats for an even better run with your offspring next time.

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Rogue Legacy is a fantastic roguelike with a compelling legacy mechanic and skill tree system that makes the inevitable short lifespans of your characters meaningful, enjoyable, different each time, and amusing. For some the frustration of achieving little on a run is going to drive them away but largely the irresistible charm of Rogue Legacy is going to consume you entirely.

Thanks to Xbox for supporting TiX

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