Amidst all the big AAA games and game franchises that came out in 2013, Cellar Door Games released a little indie title by the name of Rogue Legacy. This game hearkens back SNES stylized graphics and a difficulty that is out of this world. While it is not as rage-inducing as Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures, Rogue Legacy is a challenge gamers should be proud to overcome.
So the premise of this retro title is that the hero (you) plunders and explores a castle that is randomly generated. The castle is broken up into four sections: the Castle, the Forest, the Maya, and the Darkness. Each area features their own boss and difficulty of enemies for that area. If the player dies at any point, the game quickly provides stats for everything you discovered (and slain) and provides a list of three heirs to choose from, all three with random classes and traits.
This is where the game has fun with itself. A noble paladin that is a dwarf and Alzheimer’s? Check. A Mage with dementia and vertigo? Check. An assassin with gigantism and colorblindness? Why not. The possibilities are nearly endless. As you progress through the game, you can build up your family castle to include more classes and stat boosts to help you out. All these upgrades are purchased with gold gathered from looting the dungeon you explore.
Rogue Legacy handles the gameplay in the Metroidvania style of things. With a big sprawling map, players are encouraged to explore and discover new items, secrets, and enemies while enjoying classic side-scrolling action. The combat is reminiscent of Castlevania: the player always has the sword as your main weapon, and a spell that relies on a mana bar. Different classes will have distinct play-styles and abilities to take advantage of: Mages have bigger mana bars and deal more magic damage. Knaves have lowered stats but a high critical hit bonus, and Shinobi have boosted damage and speed at the cost of a weaker health bar. Everything has its uses.
As level design goes, this game deserves a heap of praise for making each trip into the dungeon a new experience, but that system also has its own set of issues. Many of the rooms will be reused, sometimes even right next to each other. Teleport chambers used to help move around the castle can be scarce or all crammed into one spot. Some rooms are impossible to pass entirely! While these are small issues,it becomes an annoyance as the game progresses.
Progress through the castle is tracked by a great golden closed door at the entrance to the dungeon with four missing seals; one seal to recover from each of the four bosses hidden throughout the game. While players can and will discover them out-of-order, there is a pretty clear progression path from the Castle, to the Forest, to the Maya, and then finally the Darkness areas. Only after these four are defeated can you fight the final boss. Each of the four bosses are challenging in their own right and can be difficult to defeat without preparation. Think along the lines of Dark Souls or Demon Souls; you don’t want to wander in unprepared(full health,mana, and appropriate class).
After playing well over a dozen hours, I can say that this game is well worth the price of admission. Charming visuals, classic atmosphere, and difficult gameplay make this title a must-own for those seeking a challenging title or a retro game that’ll bring you back to the 16-bit era of gaming goodness. Rogue Legacy is a game that you can be proud for beating and something to keep on your gaming shelf for years to come. Now please excuse me, as I can hear New Game+ calling my name, and I’m up for the challenge.