Developed originally by Cellar Door Games, Rogue Legacy makes it’s journey to the Vita via Abstraction Games (the ones behind Hotline Miami) as a 2D platformer with rogue-like elements thrown in.
Rogue Legacy’s story is told via diary entries placed randomly throughout the castle, and basically begins like this; someone has slain the king and it is your job to find the cure and save his life – the only catch being that if you die you must choose one of your three children to take your place. Each child has different traits that can be funny, helpful, or bad for your progress and after choosing your child you must then must venture forth into an unknown castle that randomly generates its layout.
In this castle there are creatures, monsters, and traps of all sorts out to kill you – your main goal (at first) being to kill them and collect as much money as possible. Doing so allows you to upgrade your knight permanently, and will help you survive in this hellish environment. What makes this so addictive (and not something that would frustrate you too much) is the fact that upgrades carry over from each character, with the only thing that doesn’t carry over being the unique traits of each child. This makes every run important, because before you can enter the castle you must pay the toll.
At the beginning the toll is 100% of your current money. If you want to however, you can upgrade a slot to make the toll become 90% (and continue on all the way to 50%), but that quickly becomes quite pricey. Without that toll in place though, Rogue Legacy would be too simple and would lack any real challenge, especially seeing as how every run you rack up a ton of money. It does make it upsetting when you complete a run though, especially when you feel like you’ve gotten a decent amount of money – only to find out you can’t upgrade anything. This is somewhat disheartening, but for the most part it’s your fault for messing up and letting yourself become too greedy, too risky, or just plain stupid. Rogue Legacy challenges you to be better and smarter with each run… but then again, sometimes you just have to ignore a room and move on to the next one. You never know what’s around the next corner.
The controls are actually quite simple and easy to get used to. You have your basic attack mapped to the square button, your magic to the circle button, triangle to bring forth your character’s special move (if you have one), and the L /R triggers are used to dash back and forth (if the required rune is equipped). You can also do a down attack by pressing square and down at the same time, but the only time I found this move effective was to access the closed platforms that require an action to open. Using the left analog stick or d-pad will move your character around obviously, but is also used to read the dairy, go through doors, open chests and fall through certain platforms. One thing the developers added that makes things much easier to activate the platforms instead of doing the down attack is in the settings, as you can switch on “Enable Quick Drop” to down attack and drop through floors by simply hitting down. This makes things much easier, but there seems to be a bug with this feature since every time you come back after fully closing the game, the setting switches back to off. If you forget this it could end up costing you your life, which I encountered at least a couple times.
The skill tree is really what makes this game different from any rogue-like game you’ve played, with the ability to get permanent upgrades turning this into a strategy game of sorts as well. Do you upgrade your health because you die to quickly, or do you upgrade your attack damage so you kill things quicker? Questions like this takes a lot of thought and you can’t just pick blindly as some things are clearly more helpful than others – especially factoring in unique play styles.
In the skill tree you can upgrade a ton of different stats; from critical hit damage, magic damage or mana cost, right up to new character class unlocks (which include the blacksmith who sells weapons and armor, the enchantress who sells runes which grant special abilities to your character, and the architect who locks the castles layout but reduces your gold collection by 40%). Along with upgrading your characters stats, buying new weapons an armor is needed to have any chance against some enemies. To unlock more weapons, armor, and runes you have to find blueprints and rune stones inside the castle, which are often stored inside chests. Some of the better weapons and armor can be obtained by fighting mini bosses inside the castle.
Each character class has their own unique ability and stats; the barbarian has a ton of health (but isn’t really good at magic), The paladin is able to block enemy attacks by hitting triangle (which depletes his mana instead of health) and the miner (which I found myself using a lot) gets more money from chests, enemies, and furniture. Learning each characters abilities will be key to maximizing your chance to collect the most money, and yet again that strategy element makes an appearance.
What keeps the game fresh though, is that there is more than just one location to explore. After entering the castle, if you head in certain directions you will find more locations – such as a forest, the underworld or the maya – with each location having its own unique boss and enemies that scale well in difficulty. By killing each location’s boss, you can open the door at the beginning of the castle and find out what lies beyond; I won’t spoil any of that though so don’t worry ;).
The music in Rogue Legacy is quite wonderful, embodying a retro feel and with each location having its own unique melody. If you happen to stumble upon a juke box you can even change the music that’s playing, which I found quite unique.
Some of the sounds in Rogue Legacy can be quite funny as well. A case in point involves the fact that one of the traits that your children can obtain is Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which in turn causes your character to fart randomly when jumping and attacking. This kind of thing can be quite hilarious, especially when you’re in an epic boss battle and every once in awhile you hear your character rip one.
Rogue Legacy was a blast to review and deserves to be played by everyone with a PlayStation Vita. It may be a difficult game at first, but over time you become an unstoppable force of strategy and reflexes – tearing through the locations like wind. With easy controls to get a hang of and fun RPG elements via that unique upgrade tree, Rogue Legacy has been simply a joy to play from start to finish. The few bugs that are present (the down attack options glitch the most annoying of them) are a slight inconvenience, but nowhere near enough to take a big chip out of my enjoyment.
So what’re you waiting for? Time to adventure over to the PlayStation Store and get to enjoying everything you’ve just read for yourself!