It’s a tad ironic that Rogue Legacy, a game all about children succeeding their parents, has taken almost seven years to come out with a sequel; but Rogue Legacy 2 is finally here. Can Rouge Legacy 2, which has recently entered its early access period, manage to live up to the legacy of its well-loved predecessor or is this new child nothing but a big disappointment?
If you’re not familiar with the original Rogue Legacy, the basic concept is this. An existential threat is facing the kingdom and it’s up to a brave hero, controlled the player, to venture into a dark castle and save the day. As metroidvania style game, the castle is a randomly generated environment divided into different rooms which can all be freely explored by the player from a side-scrolling perspective. Each room presents a different challenge to overcome, from deadly enemies to vicious traps and even the occasional brutally hard boss-fight.
Rogue Legacy 2 is an unapologetically hard game, and your first foray into the castle is nearly guaranteed to end with death. Luckily, the adventure doesn’t end there as the hero has a seemingly endless line of descendants who are eager to pick up and continue the quest. Upon death you are presented with a choice of three potential heirs, all with randomised traits, different appearances and a unique class. Classes consist of your typical fantasy fare of with knights wielding sharp swords, spell-casting wizards and axe-carrying barbarians, each with their own unique playstyle and aesthetic.
Your character’s traits, on the other hand, are much more on the zaney side. Each heir can potentially have up to two of over thirty available traits. These range from things like colour-blindness which puts a black and white filter over the entire game to IBS which replaces all of your special abilities with farts. When these traits are first encountered on a character, their meaning is not immediately apparent and their explanations are hidden until you have played with them at least once.
I had to learn the hard way that my pacifist archer who suffered from brittle bone disease was unable to attack, on account of the pacifism, and was doomed to die in one hit. Although it would be nice to see a larger selection of traits added, especially considering that this game contains roughly the same number as its predecessor, the potential for over a thousand unique trait combinations nevertheless kept my characters feeling unique.
One new feature is the ‘Universal Healthcare’ upgrade which means that you can now pick up positive cash modifiers depending on the severity of your character’s conditions. This means that players who deliberately pick the most challenge traits are rewarded and stops you from just picking the heir with the fewest conditions every single time. As in real life, collecting money in-game is extremely beneficial as it acts much akin to experience points rather than traditional currency.
Whilst money, which is collected from defeated enemies and a variety of hidden chests, is lost at the start of a new run, players are always first given the option to purchase a number of upgrades for their castle. This is effectively your character upgrade tree, unlocking handy upgrades which are carried forward in each subsequent run. You can pick up health upgrades, armour upgrades and even unlock new classes. Unlocked upgrades are accompanied with an additional building being erected in your in-game castle serving as a nice visual way to track your progress the game.
In addition to constructing your castle, you can also build shops in the game’s hub world. These shops include a blacksmith, selling a variety of armour pieces which improve your hit-points, and a sorceress dealing in mana upgrades. Purchases from shops are only temporary, lasting the duration of the run they were purchased on, but can still provide you with a nice little boost. Before you can buy anything however, you have to track down blueprints which are randomly distributed in the chests scattered throughout the castle.
There are also occasionally rooms with special chests. They have special criteria, like killing enemies without taking any damage, which must be completed before the chest can be unlocked. These chests are more likely to contain higher amounts of cash, rare blueprints or even valuable heirlooms – items which provide permanent buffs and are passed on to descendants.
Visually, Rogue’s Legacy 2 is particularly pleasant. Merging very colourful, smoothly animated character sprites with soft hand-drawn backgrounds is a great aesthetic choice and successfully modernises the original’s pixelated graphics whilst remaining comfortingly familiar to returning players. The game also features two new biomes, distinct from the castle, which appear later in the game. One features a bright and snowy outdoors aesthetic whilst the other is dark, demonic and menacing.
These biomes each have unique architecture and enemies in addition to their new looks and help liven up the experience when they are introduced later in the game. The developer has also promised to release a number of new biomes throughout early access, going so far as to include a countdown to the next biome update on the game’s main menu, and I’m excited to see what new content is in store for the game.
Not much of a legacy
The game’s music could also use some work as whilst some tracks, particularly that of the hub world, are very enjoyable; the majority that play while you explore the castle felt underwhelming. It’s alarmingly easy to forget that there’s any music playing at all and I often found myself muting the in-game music all-together and just jumping on to Spotify instead.
There’s also the matter of the game’s difficulty, which is notably high. Whilst I don’t have an inherent issue with hard games, I died frequently as a result of the game’s bizarre keyboard controls which are particularly fiddly. The game makes use of the left mouse button to attack and the right to use powerups, but there’s no option to face the direction of your cursor. This means you have to stalk walking towards your enemies to actually face them, and lead to many annoying instances where I was either desperately clicking to kill a fast-moving enemy I wasn’t facing or accidentally walking into enemies while trying to face them.
Rogue Legacy 2‘s position as an early access title is definitely reflected in its current state. It has many of the same features which made the original great, accompanied by a fantastically overhauled set of visuals, but lacks a degree of polish. At the moment there are some solid foundations laid which would greatly benefit from some minor fixes and a hearty content addition. Although the high difficulty might prove too challenging for some, if you were the type of person who got hooked on the original Rogue Legacy, I don’t see why you wouldn’t be equally enthralled by its successor.
Just so you’re aware! In order to facilitate a review this product was given to our organisation free of charge.