I admit, I might have a problem when it comes to roguelikes. The Rogue influence can be seen not only in the genre it created, but in the way it’s been brought into other genres, such as spaceship management, first person survival, dwarf-based strategy or even just a roguelike made more accessible. The characteristics don’t all have to be there for me to make the link, as the trends that were once so specific to the roguelike genre have spread into the wider gaming culture, and I couldn’t be happier.
This week, we have a side-on platformer/dungeon crawler that’s very much rogue-lite. You and your entire lineage will delve into a randomly generated castle to battle through a vast array of enemies and bosses, not to mention the castle’s fiendish traps. When you die (and you will), you have to start again, picking one of three random heroes and any of a selection of random traits and spells.[drop]It differs from the roguelike formula in a few ways in addition to its platformy nature. Permadeath is here, but the money that you make in the castle can be used to permanently upgrade and improve your characters between dying and re-entering the castle with your next character.
The upgrades span from a simple boost to your health or damage to unlocking characters like the enchantress, so you can purchase magical abilities, or the architect, who will (for a price) ensure the castle’s layout will be the same as it was last time when you venture back inside. You can even unlock new classes and upgrade the ones you currently have, or just increase how much gold you find or how much you can keep when you re-renter the castle.
You can also use your hard-earned gold to buy equipment that you have found the schematics for whilst battling through the castle’s many rooms, or runes that will give you magical abilities, provided you’ve unlocked the enchantress already. Everything is useful in some way or other, and it’s down to you to choose what suits your play style best.
Personally, ever since I unlocked the miner (who earns extra gold over the other classes) it’s been my favourite class, so I’ve further increased my money making potential and beefed up my HP a bit so that when I have the opportunity to play as a miner I can make myself very rich. That is until I die and then spend it all again. If you don’t spend your gold, it’ll be taken away by Charon, a rather grim reaper-looking dude with a scythe at the entrance to the castle, so you should buy everything you can and use up your gold.
When you die, you must choose one of three randomly chosen characters. Each character has a random gender, class, spell and up to two traits. There are eight classes but you can only choose from whatever three you happen to be given, which at least makes you try out all the classes. There’s also quite a selection of spells but, again, they’re selected randomly.
The character traits probably deserve more attention, however. These can drastically help or hinder your experience, or they can do nothing of any real importance. Vertigo, for example, will flip the screen vertically, so you are running across the top of the screen instead of the bottom. This sounds terrible, and it is, but some of my best runs were characters with Vertigo, presumably via dumb luck. Alternatively, IBS (yes, irritable bowel syndrome) leaves a nasty looking gas cloud behind you and makes you fart sometimes when you jump.
There are some pretty useful traits though, like those which allow you to access parts of the castle that you wouldn’t be able to without them. Dwarfism is particularly useful, as it makes your character tiny and lets you take advantage of secret passages that are hidden behind slightly differently textured bits of the wall, floor or ceiling to access otherwise inaccessible areas, or just cut out some perilous jumping.[drop2]You’ll also begin to look forward to finding chests even more than in other games, as they contain anything from piles of cash to schematics, both of which are very helpful when buying upgrades. You usually want to find schematics in a chest, but that pile of money is always welcome as well as it makes a change from killing monsters and bits of harmless furniture for the small amounts of gold they drop.
The other type of chest, Fairy chests, contain runes and can only be opened after finishing a specific challenge. These challenges tend to consist of killing all the room’s enemies or avoiding all damage, the latter of which is often accompanied with a lot of spikes and a bit of an ordeal to reach the chest.
Enemies include knights with large swords, floating eyes that shoot fireballs through the scenery, knights with lances that shoot shockwaves horizontally, possessed paintings that hide on the wall wiggling occasionally and hoping you walk into it without realising, machines that shoot what seem to be rockets in your general direction, zombies that appear out of the floor when you’re about to land where they are (in my experience) and many, many others.
These are all just from the one environment, the castle, and there are others that you can stumble upon, containing both more powerful versions of the aforementioned monsters and new, murderous monsters all of their own. As you can imagine, all the enemies in this game are more than willing to beat you into a red mist and you’ll be taxed with jumping, dashing, running and stabbing until you’re free of them.
The most difficult rooms are always the big ones with lots of monsters all trying to kill you at once, which usually results in getting killed by an evil painting I didn’t notice was moving on the wall while avoiding three different types of projectiles and a giant sword. Then there are those rooms with mini-bosses inside, which tend to be much larger and stronger versions of these monsters, just waiting to make you scream “oh god what is that!?” aloud and immediately leave the room to never return.
Rogue Legacy is harsh and unforgiving, but it’s in a “losing is fun” way. You’ll die over and over and the game will keep a backlog of all the characters you’ve lost, just so you can see how many have fallen as you have levelled up, upgraded, improved and finally beaten all the bosses, only to unlock New Game+ immediately afterwards.