One Big Grumpy Family: Rogue Legacy

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So, Rogue Legacy then. Sod this game. Really. And not in a bad way.

You see, it’s hard to be a grumpy bastard when it comes to games that hook me like this one does. That’s not to say it’s perfect, and that it is the Messiah of the Gaming Grail or something, it’s just that I thrive on humour involving shit games (Heh, Colonial marines… HEHEHEHE). But having spent the past few days trying to finish the damn thing, failing miserably and yet still, STILL, returning for more punishment… It’s hard to come up with a logical reason to hate it. Apart from the loss of productivity I suppose.

If the name didn’t give it away, Rogue Legacy (if I abbreviate to RL, most will confuse it with Real Life… Fuck, I hope not.) is a roguelike (or “Roguelite” as Cellar Door Games like to call it) game, in which you have one life to attempt to finish a bastard hard RPG game, usually in a procedurally generated setting (Randomly generated. I have to state this as my mum is now watching this blog, shaking her head in disappointment, whilst understanding pretty much only 10% of what I’m saying. Hi Mum!) and crying into your keyboard when you fail. But Rogue Legacy takes it a step further with an element of persistence, in that every time you die, your money is passed to the “Children” of your family (Though quite where our intrepid idiots/heroes get the time to have families is beyond me. Still more plausible than most games I suppose.) who act as your next character. This money is then spent on upgrading your family Manor, which in turn benefits your future characters and so on and so forth. A surprisingly intriguing system when compared to the tried and true (and fucking boring) EXP system of most games. Each choice of upgrade requires careful consideration, Do I upgrade my health so I can survive further into the Castle and maybe make it as far as the forest? Or do I upgrade my weapon damage so I can turn the lesser monsters into gold pinata’s in one hit? Or maybe I want to upgrade all future generations of Barbarians (Cue Basil Poledouris soundtrack) into Kings and Queens of Barbarism, making them face smashing walls of pure awesome? (Guess which is my favourite class.) Each bares a bit of thought, especially early on.

The game itself is split into areas. At the start, you will stick more to castle setting, before moving to the more advanced areas, and absolutely bricking it when accidentally stumbling on an area too far above your current status. To help with this process, the game scatters journal entries from a previous explorer that provide a humorous, and ominous, hint to the challenges that lay ahead. After quite a few hours in (The screenshot above was taken on my last playthrough), I’ve only beaten 2 of the areas. Hence my scorn at this bloody game for absorbing my life. The replay value coming from the fact that each area is randomly generated every time you enter the main doors at the start of a new generation, with the obligatory payment to that scrounging bastard Charon, who will claim all of your gold (Less with upgrades thankfully) every time you enter. The game also gives you the option to replay the previous dungeon layout, with use of the Architect once you’ve unlocked him. But this comes at a hefty price.

During gameplay, it’s controlled in the fashion of a (admittedly good) modern 2D platforming game (I’ve heard comparisons to the better Castlevania games being thrown around, I’m not a platform fan so screw comparing it to anything I know. A surpising comment seeing as an earlier article featured similar gun-based gameplay….) with the obligatory “Oh fucking come on!” sections of mild frustration. But after a few upgrades where you’re blazing through earlier sections, laughing maniacally and swearing death upon the families of innocent NPC’s who get a quick hit on your nigh-invincible arse because they pushed you onto a set of spikes) it quickly becomes a thrill, and you find yourself eagerly seeking out gold in every nook and cranny (and chandelier, which the game ALSO makes fun of for utilizing the old “eating fresh-food-in-the-trash” mechanic).

The main appeal of this “roguelite” though, is the family system. Which, is admittedly interesting, yet is a bit bare. After each death you get a choice of 3 randomly generated children of varying classes (Or not if you get stuck with 3 fucking miners…) which also feature random traits. Each child will be assigned between zero and three (Apparently, I’ve never encountered more than two) traits, which can be beneficial to gameplay (OCD wins! Regenerate mana for every item you break) or detrimental (Seriously, fuck vertigo. I lost perfectly good whisky trying that out) to your game. Is it a very rough generalization of serious ailments people in real life suffer? Absolutely. Is it an interesting mechanic that could have been expanded upon? Certainly. Some offer extra challenge, whilst others offer extra benefit and access to areas that you would of otherwise been forced to miss, but it all adds to your decision for “who will be my heir?” (My personal opinion would of been to have the “Gay” trait restrict your heir choices to one or maybe two possible heirs. As it stands, it seems to serve no purpose game play wise).

So, is this worth playing, or even forking over £10/$15 for? Depends on your point of view, as with all things. Myself, I’m not THAT invested in Roguelike games (Except maybe FTL and a few others), nor am I that involved in the platform scene. Yet the replay value and pure “Just…one…more…generation…” appeal has hooked me, hours to price wise, more than games that cost twice as much. It’s a lovingly crafted game, with a few minor flaws, yet does it’s job and is a very worthy game in its own right. As I said, it’s hard to be grumpy about this game. Bastards…

Rogue Legacy is out now. You can try the demo and buy it from Here or Steam

(Buying from the developers is cheaper and also grants you a Steam key)

Edit: I’d also like to “thank” Adam Smith of Rock, Paper, Shotgun for mentioning this game at Rezzed in an off the cuff manner, a few days before posting his review, as well as causing me to look at this game and lose hours of my life to it.

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