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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Review: Rogue Legacy

Developer: Cellar Door Games

Roguelike games (games with randomized dungeon layouts and high penalties for death) are experiencing a renaissance. Shiren the Wanderer, Dungeons of Dredmor, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, FTL and others are bringing the genre to the fore in a way that hasn't happened for a long, long time.

Because roguelikes are increasingly popular, we're starting to see the first wave of roguelike "remixes." These are games that take the basic principles of roguelikes and change them or combine them with other genres. One of the first is Rogue Legacy.
Rogue Legacy combines a roguelike with platforming and RPG elements. It's a platform game where you explore a randomized castle, kill enemies, find treasure, and destroy bosses. When your character dies, he or she is dead for good, but their heir takes over in their place. Then, your heir explores a new randomized castle. If you like a certain castle, you can lock it down to explore it again with your new heir.

Your goal is to gather gold in the castle and spend it on your citadel in hopes that you'll improve the fortunes of your descendants. You can also find plans and runes in the castle, which can unlock weapons and armor, as well as new powers that can help you in your quest.

The basic skeleton of a roguelike is there, in the sense that sometimes you'll die in a "gotcha" moment or will come across an enemy you've never seen and suddenly be mauled to death in horrible fashion. Sometimes, you'll have incredible luck and make it farther than you ever have before.

That's what's appealing about these kinds of games. Roguelikes can be compared to poker: It's not so much the hand you're dealt so much as what you do with it. In poker, you can be dealt a horrible hand but bluff your way through to come out ahead, or you can be dealt an amazing hand and misplay it. Roguelikes are similar, and Rogue Legacy captures that to a 'T'.

However, where Rogue Legacy missteps a bit is with the "traits" that it assigns your descendants. For example, one trait is "IBS," where your character sometimes farts when he jumps. One of the traits is "coprolalia," where you character swears when they get hit. It's a little juvenile, but some of the traits actually have some good social commentary. For example, the "gay" trait changes... nothing at all. Your hero (or heroine) is just as strong with the same powers as anyone else. Insert your interpretation here.

If you play Rogue Legacy, some tips: The game will tell you to spend your money on weapons and runes instead of your citadel, and that's definitely true. The more money you spend on your citadel, the more expensive everything else becomes, and the amount of money you would have to spend on the citadel to equal the abilities of some of the weapons and armor is prohibitive.

Also, don't be afraid to restart your game if you don't like the way it's heading. I restarted twice, and on my third time got out to an early advantage against my opponents that I was able to parlay into an almost-completed citadel and several powerful runes. Restarting the game also helps you to gain familiarity with the various enemies so there are fewer "gotcha" moments. Choose to do whatever you like, though.

Rogue Legacy is a lot of fun, fairly deep and all-around entertaining. It's definitely worth a look if you like platformers, and definitely worth it if you like roguelikes.

Final Grade: A-