I have an extremely long family line. Going way back, my ancestors are all weird and quirky, with a variety of odd traits. Some of these things may have helped them, and some may have been an obstacle, but they are all gone now, each one felled by the depths of the mysterious shifting castle. They have left everything they have to me, and it is my turn to enter the castle. The only problem is… I’m a colorblind dwarf.
Rogue Legacy is a side-scrolling indie platformer that released in 2013 for the PC. A year later, we are finally getting a release for PlayStation platforms, and the console market feels like the true home for Cellar Door Games’ rogue-like title that was inspired by the death and progression system of the Souls series of titles. In Rogue Legacy, death is permanent. Death means that you will be starting back at the beginning again, but unlike many other trying and brutal perma-death games, Rogue Legacy allows you to get stronger with each visit to the castle, which is completely randomly generated upon every new run.
As you collect gold from each run, you use it to buy upgrades that permanently stay with you you before re-entering the castle. The catch? you have to pay all of your gold to enter the castle, which means no hoarding gold. You must buy upgrades in between runs or lose out on what you have collected. As upgrades get more and more expensive, you’ll have to push yourself further into the castle to earn enough gold. As someone who is not a huge fan of making progress only to die with nothing to show for it, as in games like Spelunky, this method of progression really drew me in to this style of game. It allowed me to push myself to get just a little bit further without feeling like an entire run was for nothing when I made a stupid mistakes, and trust me, you’ll make stupid mistakes.
Each new attempt at getting through the castle is a new generation of your hero’s family line. You are asked to select from three different randomly generated heroes that could be different classes, but will also have unique genetic traits that alter the gameplay. Colorblind? The world is washed out in black and white. Hypochondriac? Your damage counter shows a lot more damage than actually received. One of my favorites was actually vertigo, which turned the world upside down. In addition to getting a bonus for gold earned, it allowed me to do some different critical thinking while playing and I found myself getting further and not making quite as many mistakes as I would on other playthroughs.
There’s a certain magic about the simplicity of it all, and time after time I found myself making excuses to make just one more run. Soon enough, it’s two in the morning and I have to force myself to go to bed, where I would pull out my Vita and keep playing. Fortunately the cross-save for this game is fairly seamless. Instead of having to upload the save to the cloud yourself, the save file gets sent to the cloud regularly so you are ready to pick up where you left off while you’re on the go, or just in a room without a console.
Make no mistake, just because Rogue Legacy gives you progression and upgrades that carry over doesn’t mean the game is easy. You’ll find yourself dying time and time again, often times without earning enough gold to show for the effort. This is where skill comes into play. Rogue Legacy is easy to learn but hard to master. I was constantly enthralled with learning how to make the best of traits that were given to me and how to make split second decisions that could be the difference between continuing and ending your run. As I mentioned earlier, vertigo is one of my favorite traits because it offers that different level of thinking while providing a gold bonus.
There are minor gripes with Rogue Legacy that can be largely overlooked. Sometimes the controls don’t feel quite as responsive as they could which led to the end of a couple of good runs. Additional play time to get used to the specific play style resulted in less and less of these control issues however. On some of the runs the rooms feel a little bit boring and redundant, but overall the enemy variety kept gameplay interesting throughout. I felt like the game could have done with a larger variety of magic attacks for your character to use, but that’s such a minute complaint, it barely even counts as a negative point.
Rogue Legacy is a gem among indies. As a wash of indie titles comes to the console market, many with nothing inherently fresh or new to offer, Rogue Legacy breaks through and offers a breath of fresh air with a strong variation on familiarity. I couldn’t ever put it down, and when I did, I was only thinking about the next time I would get to attempt to make my way through the mysterious castle. Though Rogue Legacy has been in the hands of PC owners for a year now, it is a welcome addition to the console market. Each unique element of the game blends together perfectly to create a game that every owner of a PlayStation system ought to own.
Review copy provided by developer. Cross-buy title for PS3, PS4 and Vita. Reviewed on PS4 and Vita. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.