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Review: Rogue Legacy

At a Glance

ESRB Rating: NR - Not Rated
My Rating: Ages 10 and up
Genre: Platformer / Roguelike
License: Commercial
Release Year: 2013
Review Published On: August 7th, 2016
Played on: Thaddeus

Available from:

Gamer's Gate, Humble Store, Steam

Save System:

Your current knight and their progress through the castle is saved when you quit the game. If you're just taking a break for a moment, press ESC to pause the game.

Summary of
Major Issues:

The castle is filled with magic and the undead, but combat is depicted without blood or gore.

A bigger problem is that it's possible for your character to be a homosexual. This trait has little effect on the gameplay however, so it can easily be overlooked.


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Wandering in the forest

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Seeing the world through the eyes of a colorblind knight

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The hellish Darkness

Game Overview

The concept of randomly generated levels has hit a surge of popularity recently, partially because it means games are almost always new and fresh, but also because it means less work for the developer. After all, they don't need to spend much time developing levels when the computer does it for them. Or so the theory goes, as there are plenty of cases where procedural generation is an excuse for doing a mediocre job.

Rogue Legacy is all about procedurally generating things, but it's clear that the developer wasn't even remotely taking it easy. The basic premise is that you select a character from one of three knights, and then have them explore a magical castle in hopes of finding lots of treasure and perhaps clearing the family name. This sounds simple enough to be boring, but that's where the random elements come in.

Each knight is created randomly. You can't predict what skills they will have, what magic they know and what traits they have. These traits are also a big part of the game; they are unique qualities that give your characters personality. One knight may be nearsighted, making it difficult to recognize objects at a distance. Another may suffer from dwarfism, which may prove to be a benefit as they can access hidden crawlspaces. Yet another might be colorblind, which will make the game display itself in grayscale.

Death is also permanent; once a knight falls, they will be gone for good. Their money will be passed to the next of kin, who may use it to upgrade the family manor or purchase new equipment and magical runes. Sadly, Charon charges a hefty fee for the privilege of entering his castle -- he'll take all of the money your knight didn't spend on things. But, over time the upgrades and other purchases will add up, and your knights will become strong enough to slay the monstrous bosses and defeat the traitor that started it all.

This is definitely a game worth getting for anybody that loves platformers, hack and slash combat, or retro games in general.

Story Summary

Although there's a lot of things to see and explore in this game, the story is almost paper thin.

Long ago, the king became ill. In an attempt to prove himself worthy of being the heir to the throne, one of the king's sons entered the magical castle to find the cure. Instead, he discovers that the king is not ill at all. Inside the castle is a magical fountain that has made the king ageless. Since he intends to live forever, none of his sons will ever become the next king.

Already angry at being the unfavorite, the son that braved the castle was pushed beyond the breaking point by this last discovery, and he killed his father, the king, becoming a rogue and leaving a bitter legacy behind him.

Points of Interest

No two castles are alike
Since everything is created new for each hero or heroine, you'll need to spend a long time playing the game to see everything. Rooms that you couldn't handle before might not be there on the next attempt, and you never know what sort of treasures are hiding around the corner. Of course, there is a way to prevent the castle from being recreated, but it'll cost you half of the loot you find!
Neither are any two heroes the same
At the start of each run, you have your choice of three knights. Each of them have their own talents and traits, so pick the one you think is more suited to the task at hand. In addition to traits like hit points or mana reserves, this game includes other unique traits like peripheral artery disease, colorblindness and dwarfism.
Permadeath with progression
While you lose the knight when they die, the treasures they find are kept by the family. The next knight in line can use the gold to purchase upgrades to the manor, new equipment from the blacksmith and new magics from the enchantress. These enhancements remain after your character dies, so they add up over time and make your knights more formidable than ever.
The difficulty automatically adjusts itself
Normally, when you get stronger in a game everything else stays about the same. This means that a strong character can quickly become ridiculously powerful, making the game too easy. Rogue Legacy takes a different approach and scales the castle's difficulty to account for the strength of your heroes. This might sound like a problem, but the more dangerous the monsters, the greater your rewards for defeating them!
It's not over when you win
This game has a New Game Plus feature that allows you to start the game over with all of the items and power ups you've acquired. This next attempt will also be much harder, as the enemies scale up quicker and start out stronger.
Hidden boss challenges
After defeating a boss, you might discover a rare coin bearing their likeness. When you give these coins to Charon, he'll allow you to access a special version of the boss fight. In addition to being more challenging, there's an achievement for defeating an alternate boss.
Achievements and trading cards
Speaking of achievements, there are a number of them you can earn as you play this game. Most have to do with certain milestones; ie, beat a boss for the first time and you'll get an achievement for it. Others are awarded for managing to finish collections or doing something extra impressive.

There are also Steam trading cards available, for those of you that enjoy collecting or trading them.
Lots of grinding
There are four areas of the castle, each of which is noticeably harder than the areas before it. Thus, the final area is extremely dangerous. In order to survive there, you'll need to have done enough grinding to acquire a lot of gold, blueprints, and runes. This takes a while, and all of this grinding may ruin the fun for casual players.
Death comes all too easily
It doesn't take much to whittle down your hit points. Traps are everywhere, enemies can move in unexpected ways, and you'll run out of places to find healing items rather quickly. Don't expect to beat more than one boss per run through the castle, and sometimes that seems to be too generous.

Concerns and Issues

Character traits can be problematic
There's a long list of possible traits your characters can have, and quite a few of them could be cause for concern. For example, there are real diseases like peripheral artery disease, Alzheimer's, ADHD, and even irritable bowel syndrome.
One of the possible traits is Coprolalia, which means the person involuntarily swears. The knight will actually use a jumble of punctuation rather than an actual word, but it's clear the character needs some soap in their mouth.
Alternative sexualities
There's a chance that some of your knights will be homosexuals. This doesn't have much of an effect on the gameplay, so it's more of a technicality than anything.

On the other hand, there's a nearly hidden option that you can purchase for the manor that gives you access to powerful half-dragon children. While the concept of human/dragon hybrids is common in fantasy, this game is a bit frank when it comes to explaining how this comes about -- the option is named "beastiality".
Undead and demonic foes
Most of the creatures found inside the castle are some sort of undead like skeletons, zombies, or ghosts, but you can find little devils in some of the harder areas. The final boss is particularly demonic looking, with dark armor, curved horns and glowing red eyes.

The fourth area of the castle, called the Darkness, even appears to have a hellish theme complete with iron maidens, shackles and statues of devils.

As a side note, you can unlock a Lich character class. Now a Lich is a type of undead magic user, though here their skills revolve around growing stronger from defeating enemies rather than necromancy or other dark magics Liches are typically known for.
A mythology reference and prayers
Occasionally you'll find a room with a simple shrine. If you choose to pray here, you'll receive some kind of benefit. There's no real indication as to who you're directing your prayers towards, but one might assume it's Charon, the cloaked figure that you pay to enter the castle. Charon is a character from Greek mythology; while not considered a god, he is a spirit tasked with ferrying the dead to the Underworld proper -- something like the modern day Grim Reaper, if the Grim Reaper steered a boat.
Magic is omnipresent
All of the player characters can use magic, though some are more skilled with it than others. The magical element that's the most concerning is the Enchantress, who you deal with to manage your magical runes. She appears like a traditional gypsy fortune teller, crystal ball included.
Odd things in the background
In certain areas of the castle you can see the starlit sky outside. This gets a little weird when you notice some of the things drifting around out there. You might see a helpless knight "falling" sideways or even Santa Claus flying by on his sleigh.
Questionable reference
Some of the rooms in the castle feature a large picture frame. These pictures display an image from one of the developer's older games, and by pressing UP when you're standing under it, you can read some of the history behind their careers. This is somewhat interesting, but the problem comes from one of their games being the somewhat infamous text based game Don't Sh*t Your Pants, which is a game where you try to get a balding man to the bathroom before nature takes its course.