Rogue Legacy Review

Rogue Legacy is an immensely rewarding action game that strikes a terrific balance between permadeath and progress.

We pass on a lot of traits to our children. Smart parents might bear a smart daughter. Athletic parents may birth a future sports star. An archmage with a lot of points in magic damage may raise the most magically adept assassin the world has yet seen. So it is with Rogue Legacy, a game where your hero's permanent death doesn't mean a permanent loss of progress. Which is good, because making that progress is a blast.

Environments and enemies may look uninspired at first glance, but the gameplay isn't.

In this 2D action game, you jump, slash and magically blast your way through dozens of randomized rooms, fighting the likes of skeletons, mages, armored ace-wielders and even animated portraits. Were it not for Rogue Legacy's light-hearted tone, you could easily trick somebody into thinking it's the next Castlevania title headed to the Nintendo DS. This is a compliment, not a complaint, as those games have much that is worth emulating.

Your main desire in Rogue Legacy is gold, and lots of it. As you run through the map, enemies, chests and destructible objects drop money that you can use to upgrade your character. You also find blueprints for new equipment, runes that give you new abilities, and bosses you must defeat in order to see the game's ending. There is a catch, though. As soon as you enter the castle, you won't be able to make any changes or upgrades to your character. You fight until you die, at which point one of your children takes your place.

Still, you want to do as well as you can during each run through the castle, as the first thing you do when starting a new game (after choosing your class from a randomized selection of three heroes) is spend your hard-earned money on new upgrades. You invest in everything from health and damage upgrades to new classes and equipment. The downside? In order to enter the castle again you must give up all (or, later, only most) of your unspent gold. Want a great new piece of armor but you didn't earn enough money during your last game? Too bad. You can't save up for it. This is the primary hook that adds weight to each individual life you live; grinding your way to a more powerful you isn't always easy.

Hey Dracula, how come your castle doesn't have a jukebox that plays 8-bit-style music?

The upgrades that you are able to afford, though? You want to take them for a test drive as soon as you get them. After all, you were just barely too weak to beat that boss last time, so now that you're just a little more powerful, you're sure to reach much greater heights. So you give up your gold, enter the castle, and do it all over again, hoping to earn enough gold to make yourself even more powerful for next time. It's a cycle that keeps you coming back for more. While death is the end for that character and his or her personal progress through the castle, all of the upgrades, armor, and runes you have purchased remain constant through every play through.

One thing this permanence offers is accessibility. Most games with an emphasis on permanent death draw their enjoyment from the satisfaction of performing difficult tasks. This is fine, but dying and having nothing to show for it can lead to frustration after a while. Rogue Legacy is more approachable than that, allowing you to feel like you're making progress even in failure. Yet it still manages to provide enough emphasis on doing well with only one life to make it appeal to those who yearn for a good challenge.

Much of Rogue Legacy's brilliance lies in that balance. The controls are tight and responsive, allowing you to feel like you are fully responsible for your own actions. When you slice your way through a large room unscathed, or finally vanquish a boss with only a sliver of health left, it's a joyous moment that might cause you to put your fist into the air, victorious, and shout (if silently), "Yes! I did that." But even when things don't go so well, you will probably gain enough gold in death to encourage you to go back for more, unwilling to take defeat lying down.

Rogue Legacy is not afraid of lifting elements from other games, either for gameplay or humor.

The randomized traits applied to each of the three heroes you can choose from for each life make for a unique and entertaining hook. While the game's classes are rather typical (one has tons of health, one does massive damage but cannot get critical hits, etc.), traits often mess with you in fun and interesting ways. Your hero may be born with the O.C.D. trait, which gives you MP for breaking in-game objects in order to "clean house." One trait allows you to ignore spike traps. Another makes you fast. Some traits may be more burden than boon, however, like the vertigo trait that forces you to play the game entirely upside down. Still other traits have no gameplay effect at all, such as I.B.S., which merely causes you to fart constantly with no good or bad effect associated with it.

It's from these little touches that Rogue Legacy gets much of its personality. Seeing new traits for the first time can be joyous, even when they ultimately affect you in a negative way. You may die quickly when afflicted with near-sightedness, but at least you spend your myopic adventure laughing as you squint through the blurry visage. At the same time, the way traits mix with classes can force you to play in very different ways than you might normally. Since your selection of classes and traits is randomized each game, you might end up with a hero class you like with a trait you hate (for example, a Barbarian class with high health, except the health and magic pools are swapped). Most of these goofy traits are dumb in the best way possible, and there is a lot of joy to be had from experimenting with them for the first time.

Is it hot in here or is it just me?

Rarely, rooms don't connect as smoothly as they should. For example, this is the case in rooms which require you to create a platform before going up in the map. When you create the platform, you bounce. Under the right conditions, you will find yourself bouncing just high enough to move to the upper room's screen before falling back down as you can't properly jump into it.

Still, Rogue Legacy's few blemishes are easy to overlook when the game is so good at rewarding persistence. Rogue Legacy is simple yet deep, easy to pick up yet hard to master. Even when its bosses lay defeated, the game continues to heap tons of gameplay onto your PC with a more difficult New Game Plus mode and more secrets to find. It's no wonder why so many generations of heroes spent years exploring this castle, because it's easily worth you spending many hours with it.

The Good
Accessible yet challenging
Compelling sense of progression
Good balance of nostalgia and modern design
Classes allow for different play styles
Randomized character traits add diversity and a silly appeal
The Bad
No real variety in melee weaponry
8.5
Great
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Discussion

88 comments
ArcherRO
ArcherRO

2D Dark Souls.:) A really great game.

komuchen
komuchen

The controls are actually one of the shittiest. Unresposnive at best and not working at worst. And that's just great when you need to do downthrust and the game decides you want to swing sword in the air or you want to turn and attack and instead character is walking backwards.

Also diversity in what? Characters are the same blob of pixels (girl with a beard, get it? hurrhurr). If they would let you to actually name your guy, that've would been better, but you are stuck with sir lee or dude or whatever. Is it really that hard to add this as a option instead of screwing around with txt?

Overall programming in this game blows. Tab to go to the menu? Why not simple window as in all games? Can't quit when choosing your heir? Really? Tutorial after every erase of data?

It's not a bad game, but not that great either. It has potential to be better though. For now, Spelunky and Isaac are far better.

Nosnitsttam
Nosnitsttam

Absolutely a delight to play. I sank 35 hours into the first playthrough and i'm sure i'll play it some more over the next few weeks, since it's so easy to just play a couple runs through the castle and then go do something else. I agree i would have liked more variety in the enemies and weapons, but the gameplay more than makes up for it. 

hochstreck
hochstreck

For my part this game is more in a 7.5 range. As much as I like the movement, the combat, the endless game+ concept and idea of a randomized castle, there should have been more variety to rooms and enemies. All the different areas found in game are merely graphical swaps, while the enemies and structures of the rooms stay mostly the same. There should have been more surprises in general.

The Xbox-Spelunky is more elaborate, thought-out, varied and polished in every aspect except for loot-hunting and customization. It should be mentioned that Spelunky and Rogue Legacy have a different focus on what exactly they want to be, though. The former is more about survival and improvisation, while the latter is more about action and loot to improve and customize your hero.

SkylabOne
SkylabOne

It's a pity that many people make the mistake by calling games like this old fashioned and nostalgic; this game is new and more fun than most games for which you require the newest graphic cards. If you only base you opinion on how a game looks, than obviously you haven't played this game.

juliano001
juliano001

No thanks.  If i want nostalgia i will play sega games. 

chechak7
chechak7

why old fashion game take 8.0 or 8.5 rating ?

answer :nostalgia ,bored or new epic graphic,make me child again ,reviewer had play games like it 



stricot
stricot

Still convinced one should not rate those small abandonware style games the same way you rate proper elaborate games. I liked FTL for instance but in no way it should be rated better than an average fully fledged game. This one same rating as Borderlands 2 ? Seriously...

treepop99
treepop99

absolutely loved this game. Played 60 hours in one week. Got to ~ level 260!

SKaREO
SKaREO

What a shit game.

hippiesanta
hippiesanta

Tom Mcshea

or 

carolyn petit 

should review this

Jahames1
Jahames1

Did the reviewer even thoroughly play the game to at least beat it once? If so - it's obvious this game becomes a grind at some point, and there's little variety in enemies once you've seen it all.

AtheistPreacher
AtheistPreacher

Bought this game two days ago and I'm hooked.  I can't put it down.

Feels a lot like Spelunky, except that gold can actually be used for stuff, which is a big draw for me.

bigmikeOK
bigmikeOK

Is it sad that based off of the cartoonish look for kids of the character on the main Gamespot page that I immediately thought this was a Wii U title.

DMND
DMND

Got late at the office meeting because of this... felt guilty because everybody was saying "Man you're really working too much, you need to take a break" and I was like "I'm just doing my job". Oh the shame!...

picho86
picho86

It is really awesome. It totally has that "just one more run" feel.

SipahSalar
SipahSalar

This game's a piece of exploitative crap in the name of nostalgia and india gaming. Theres no point in playing this game. Heres how the monsters change as you level up from level 1 to level 70= DIFFERENT COLORS. I love hard games but this games the cheating kind of hard.

buckwild73
buckwild73

Highly addictive game, just not one for the short tempered & easily frustrated.

dzimm
dzimm

@komuchen Controls seem tight and responsive to me, at least when using a game pad.  I'm not sure what you mean by Tab for menu.  ESC seems to work fine, or you can press Start on the game pad.  That's also how you quit the game (last option on the menu).  The tutorial can also be disabled in the options menu, though that may be a new feature since you posted your comments in July.

cinerius
cinerius

@komuchen 

This game is clearly designed with a controller in mind. Try to plug in a controller, I feel most of your problems with the game will be solved.

Then, for the down thrust check the "easy/quick down thrust" option, it's much smoother. As for the character walking backwards, that's intentional as it has a precise timing and the "Flexible" trait plays with that concept, letting you turn while attacking.

I hope you'll have a better time with the game now!

KeviNOlighT
KeviNOlighT

@juliano001 Nostalgia, lol, I started gaming pretty late. This is just a great game, that's it. Nostalgia would be a bonus.

hochstreck
hochstreck

@juliano001

If you really think indie games in general or games with pixilated graphics are always about nostalgia, then my friend, you have been either living under a rock for the last years regarding video games or some truly crude preconceptions. :P 

As much as indie-games lack a super-duper expensive state-of-the-art presentation, as much do they find interesting ways around that and offer elegant, perfected, fresh and bold ideas regarding their gameplay. More and more they even tend to have less boring and stale music as your AAA-game's uber-epic-blockbuster-classic-scores.

alioli
alioli

@chechak7 well, the game is good. I never really got into these kind of games as a kid, and I mostly started gaming when Zelda OoT was on. 


Graphics are solid- easy to read

gameplay is simple, yet effective, and requires a great deal of skill to master, yet is easy to pick up

there's a great sense of progression, and the goal is clear

and there's a lot of content.

Grumphus
Grumphus

@stricot Then cover up the ratings and go straight to the meaning of the rating. Borderlanes 2 is a "great" $60 game while Rogue Legacy is a "great" $15 game. If I see a so-called abandonware style game get an 8.5, I am at least going to watch a video to find out what makes this game nice and most probably give it a spin myself.

minneyar
minneyar

@Jahames1 I'm on my NG+3 now, and I can say that my first time through the game, there were a couple of enemies I never saw at all, and a handful that I only saw once or twice.  There were a number of enemies who didn't start appearing frequently until NG+2.

The game is only as grindy as you want it to be, really.  I've seen somebody beat it at level 8, and I've heard of other people doing it lower.  

lingo56
lingo56

@SDSkarface k then don't buy it. It's not like the AAA devs are making it, so you're still going to get your card raping games at the end of the year.

Bgrngod
Bgrngod

@SDSkarface Would you feel better if it looked the same but went ahead and burned a hole in your graphics cards anyways?

DMND
DMND

@SDSkarface Haha cry me a river! These 10k dollars budget games are selling millions and laughing at AAA games.

DMND
DMND

@SipahSalar You're pissed cause you're getting your ass kicked aren't you? I know you are.

HiroArka
HiroArka

@SipahSalar Are you some person with tiny fingers that have poor reaction times? 

picho86
picho86

@SipahSalar Why cheating? You scale up, and in time you match in strength and even surpass the enemies of each area until you finish the game.

It has a variety of monsters. Sure they repeat in the different areas, but they change enough in power and effect, that each area feels fresh and challenging. 

Sure, this game is not for everyone, but the fact that it isn't for you doesn't make it terrible.

stricot
stricot

@Grumphus @stricot Exactly my point. Nowhere on Gamespot it is said it's a cheap game that should consider as such; click on "Top Games" and it is right there above Tomb Raider and so on. And btw you  can get Borderlands 2 for EUR 25 and it doesn't look like a 20 year old game.

uxtull
uxtull

@minneyar @Jahames1 So it's not a roguelike or even rguelike-like as the makers of Rogue Legacy would like people to believe it is.

lingo56
lingo56

@DMND @SipahSalar Well that is why I put the game down. Unless there's a real reason for me to feel commited and carry on in a hard game then I'll stop playing :p That's why I stopped playing Dark Souls.

uxtull
uxtull

@minneyar @uxtull @Jahames1 Yeah I know, all it is, is a platformer with randomized levels and progression system taken from browser based games where you start off heavily underpowered (and repeatedly die) but as the game goes on you're able to buy enhancements for currency you get during play that push you through campaign.

Maybe it's not exactly like in browser games because at least from what I've heard the later 'skills' an equipment are more expensive so you're forced to go deeper in the dungeon than before to get enough funds if you want to improve your next character. Still that doesn't change the fact that when you start the game new it's a lot harder then after 30 generation. There's very little depth to this game in general, there's not much you can do here other than swinging your sword or use some throwing knifes, enemies obey different rule-set than the player so they can walk on spike traps without activating them.

All in all it plays more or less like every other game, as opposite to titles like Spelunky or Binding of Isaac where the difficulty is split between action part and player not knowing enough how the elements of the game world interact with each other, but objectively the game is hard just the same every time you play (like in actual roguelikes). Besides, in case of Spelunky even stripped of its roguelike elements still feels like all around competent and very varied platformer, Rogue Legacy on the other hand feels really plain to me.

I was thinking about getting Rogue Legacy after seeing few LPs but I lost all interest after trying the demo.

minneyar
minneyar

@uxtull @minneyar @Jahames1 They call it "rogue-LITE", not "rogue-like."  The environments are randomly generated and death is permanent, but you do not completely lose all progress between deaths.

Rogue Legacy More Info

  • First Released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • + 4 more
    • PlayStation 3
    • PlayStation 4
    • PlayStation Vita
    • Unix/Linux
    Adventure through a dangerous, ever-changing castle with generation after generation of brave, strong, and flawed heroes.
    8.1
    Average User RatingOut of 193 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Rogue Legacy
    Developed by:
    Cellar Door Games
    Published by:
    Cellar Door Games
    Genres:
    Roguelike, Platformer, Action, 2D
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    All Platforms
    Crude Humor, Fantasy Violence