Game Review: Rogue Legacy

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Rogue Legacy is one of the most addictive games ever made. How addictive is it? Well, if it wasn’t for the fact that I was at my father’s house right now, sitting in front of a laptop that is not capable of gaming of any sort, I’d probably be playing it right now.

Similar to the equally addictive/brilliant Spelunky, Rogue Legacy is a 2D platformer/RPG with rogue-like elements where you are tasked with clearing out an evil castle of its demonic tenants, with the end goal of defeating a mysterious final boss that betrayed your family generations earlier.

It may sound generic and routine, but Rogue Legacy mixes things up in a few key ways. Firstly, the castle is 100% randomly-generated. So each time you die (and my god, you will die a lot) the castle resets itself in an entirely new configuration, effectively deleting any exploratory progress you made in your journey.

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You’ll be swarmed constantly in Rogue Legacy.

Secondly, when you die, you’re not just given a new life. Instead, you choose from one of three heirs from your previous character. These heirs can vary in class (Barbarian, Mage, Assassin are just three of the many options), but many also come with their own “traits.” Sometimes these are purely positive, such as “ADHD,” which increases your movement and attack speed, while some are only negative, like “tunnel vision,” which limits your view of incoming projectiles. Others come with a mix of positive and negative attributes, like “dwarfism” which makes it harder for you to both hit enemies and be hit by enemies, while some are just silly (“irritable bowel syndrome”) and have no real effect on gameplay.

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Merchants outside the castle can make your quest (a little) easier.

Regardless of what bizarre traits your heir has, they inherit all the gold and weapons that their forerunner found in the castle before their demise, and this is where the RPG-like progression aspects of Rogue Legacy come into play. Using your deceased father/mother’s cash, you can train your new warrior to improve their stats; unlock new abilities; or even uncover new character classes. So as long as you earned enough cash to upgrade something after you died, your next run is probably going to be slightly easier than the one before. It’s a great twist on the rogue-like genre (which typically allows for no progression after character death) while also being the key to the game’s brutal addictive nature.

Have a bad go at it for a run in the castle? Well, just play one more time and you’ll hopefully earn enough gold to upgrade that one stat that was holding you back before. Get bested by a tricky enemy? Just play one more time and hopefully that particular beast won’t spawn again. Find a treasure you couldn’t reach? Just play one more time and maybe your next heir will have the skills necessary to reach it (assuming the treasure spawns back again as well).

The game is constantly dangling carrots in front of your face, tempting you to give it another go in such a devious way that short gameplay sessions soon turn into multi-hour marathons. In just three days I plugged 12 hours into this beast of a game, and then once I finally beat it, I dove right back in to the New Game+ mode to see if I could do it again with harder, more diabolical enemies. No mater how good you get at the game, your typical run will only last about 15 minutes tops, giving the game a bite-size nature that makes diving in again and again (and again) all the easier.

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Find runes early and often to make progression a bit less of a chore.

Of course, none of this would matter if the game wasn’t fun to play, but Rogue Legacy nails that as well. Controls are responsive, intuitive and easy-to-learn, an absolute must considering its brutal difficulty. And the game is also a pleasure to the eyes and ears, with a charming retro-aesthetic that comes off like a cutesy Castlevania.

Rogue Legacy isn’t just an addictive game that will steal your nights faster than a bottle full of whiskey and lifetime’s worth of regret, it’s a masterpiece of game design that others will be ripping off for years to come, and easily one of the best games of the year so far. An absolute must buy for fans of 2D platformers, RPGs, and anyone who can just appreciate an all-around great game.

Just remember to turn it off once in a while.

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