Not Such a Bad Legacy After All
Everyone’s been talking about Rogue Legacy, the new side-scrolling roguelike from Cellar Door Games, and there isn’t much for me to add except that, just like everyone else, I really, really like it too.
So that’s it. We’re done here. Unless you haven’t heard anything about Rogue Legacy, then feel free to read on and find out exactly what I’m also liking it about it.
Basically every review I’ve read has drawn the comparison between Rogue Legacy and Derek Yu’s Spelunky, and it’s easy to see why. They’re both side-scrolling platformers set in randomly-generated roguelike dungeons (or caves, underground jungles, and abandoned temples in the case of the latter), they’re both rather difficult and deadly, both feature pint-sized protagonists out of their depth, and both are goblets overflowing with nectar of “just one more try.”
The comparisons don’t really carry us much farther than that. Spelunky, to me, was more about navigating a world complete with its own ecosystem, including enemies that preyed upon one another, terrain that could be broken down with bombs or rolling boulders, shops to patronize or burgle, and ultimate secrets — the elusive golden city — to uncover. Rogue Legacy doesn’t have any of that. The walls are unyielding. Without bombs or ropes, every trap is hand-crafted and can be escaped. And other the occasional enemy falling into spikes, you’ll never see the dangers of the dungeon working against each other.
Let’s get one thing clear though: this is a good thing. Rogue Legacy isn’t Spelunky: Medieval Edition. It’s doing its own thing. Standing tall. And it begins with the “legacy” part of its title.
Whenever you die — and die you will, especially early on when you can hardly survive a level-2 zombie before a wimpy floating eyeball shoots a demon-bolt through a wall and kills you on the spot — your character is permanently killed. Her class, specific stats, everything she was, is lost.
However, she leaves a legacy. All her gold, items, any artifacts or stat upgrades she may have picked up in the castle, are all passed on to her family. And you take that money and upgrade the family manor for better stats or to train your progeny into different classes, buy a better sword and maybe a helmet that actually protects the head it’s on, and affix runes to your armor so you can double jump and suck mana out of your enemies when they die. Or so you can run faster and deal retaliation damage when wounded. Or to make enemies drop more gold and have lower levels. Or to grant you the ability of flight for a couple seconds at a time.
This sense of persistency, that your actions have a lasting effect even in death, is one of the best things about Rogue Legacy. In Spelunky, a failed run was only as useful as how much you came to recognize the patterns behind the level construction and the behavior of the enemies in them; here though, you’re still figuring that stuff out, but also growing stronger and more able to delve deeper into the mysteries of the castle. Getting to the point where your paladin’s attack can chop through anything in the initial rooms with a single swipe is satisfying because it’s the fruit of the last dozen attempts finally paying off.
The traits system, which gives your heirs a variety of peccadilloes ranging from hypochondria (which gives you exaggerated damage values) to peripheral arterial disease (no pulse in your feet so you don’t set off spike traps), is pointless more often than I would have liked, though once you begin to recognize all the perks or disadvantages of each trait you can start to use them to your advantage. Like learning that O.C.D. rewards you with bonus mana for tidying up the castle or that muscle weakness won’t push back enemies and make them harder to hit with a follow-up swing.
My personal favorite is dwarfism. The downside is your smaller size means your sword is similarly tiny and can’t hit enemies from quite the same distance you’re accustomed to, but many of the rooms are filled with wee hidden passages that only dwarves can squeeze into. Give me a Barbarian class with dwarfism, and I’ll show you a run that brings home over twenty thousand gold for upgrades.
Beyond that, there’s just enough to discover in Rogue Legacy that it kept me coming back again and again for more without ever feeling burnt out on the content or that there was too much to get a handle on. As soon as I’d figure out how the castle layouts were handled and learn how to avoid any damage from its inhabitants, I’d be ready for the forest, and so on through the game’s four environments and many challenges. The only downside was that I had so much trouble with the first boss, dying a dozen times or so, that I spent way too much time preparing for the later ones, beating two of them on my first try and two others in two tries — and not because I was that good, but rather because my character had been developed into a ultra-efficient threshing machine of boss-slaying.
Oh well. At least the New Game Plus option is still a challenge.
Anyway. Rogue Legacy. It’s great. Not only is it definitely not a rehash of the same territory that Spelunky once trod, it’s even an improvement in some ways. I vote you check it out.