Rogue Legacy! A self-described rogue-‘lite’ where you take control of the ancestral line of a recently wounded king as they enter a cursed castle attempting to retrieve an item which is rumored to be able to cure any ailment. But needless to say, it’s not that easy.
Ladies & gents, welcome to Castle Hamson. Floating eyeballs shoot blood missiles, miniature flying mages attack you with elemental powers, and corrupted knights, guards, and just straight-up skeletons swarm you on the ground. There is no shortage of traps, treasures, and strangely placed carnival games. You, the daughter or son of whoever died there last, are plonked down in the middle of it, and free to explore until you meet inevitable demise — and believe me, in the first few runs, that demise will come quickly.
But what is this game really known for?
The traits! Each heir has a number of quirks, which could be anything from dwarfism to nostalgia, and can prove to be to your advantage or to your disadvantage depending on the situation — for example, gigantism increases your reach, allowing you to clear out entire rooms just by storming through and swinging your sword, but you’ll also have a harder time dodging projectiles when fighting ranged enemies.
In addition to traits, there are also classes — tanky barbarians, mana-heavy mages, vampiric liches, and a bunch more. Once upgraded, they all gain class-specific abilities in addition to their already massive differences in health, mana, and attack power. Spells, which each heir has at least one of, are independent of class-specific abilities, but can help you survive a lot more than you may otherwise if used correctly.
Traits, classes, and spells are generated randomly for each heir. While you can select between 3 heirs on each run, you cannot control them. What you can you can control, however, are you upgrades, armor, and runes, all of which constitute what I’ll call the “build.”
Every time you die, you have the opportunity to apply sticky upgrades and purchase runes and armor that you’ve found blueprints for around the castle, but you can only carry 5 pieces of armor and 1 rune for each piece, so decisions need to be made. I love this part of the game. I feel like, to everything you might encounter in the castle, there is a “solution” build. Can’t stop something from damaging you? Put on a bunch of relation stuff and return the damage. Finding that you run out of health or mana quickly? Vampirism or siphon runes will take care of that. Need a double jump?
The point is, you can customize a lot. As for the in-run gameplay, it’s pretty simple. The castle is procedurally generated, so it’s completely different every time. You run and hit stuff, and try not get hit by stuff. There’s treasure all over the place, often in the form of coins, runes, or blueprints and guarded by traps and obstacles. There are rooms with jukeboxes where you can change the game music. That are shrines that you can pray to, which may endow you with a blessing or a curse. There are “fairy chests” which don’t open unless you complete a specific objective. Enemies don’t respawn, so you can theoretically clear out the map entirely, but you’ll find that some areas as incredible treacherous, making that a loftier goal than it may sound.
And besides, there are bosses. That’s right peeps, there is a method to the madness: every area on the map contains a boss which, upon being defeated, drops massive amounts of gold and brings you a step closer to your objective. But beware: the bosses don’t screw around. There’s no turning back after you enter a boss room. You win or you die.
The combat is everything you would expect of a 2D metroidvania, and while you have access to a variety of spells that allow for ranged attack, there are no weapons except swords. The enemies change in difficulty throughout different parts of the map — the part that you start in, the core of the castle, will seem unreasonably hard on your first run but you’ll soon find that it’s actually the easiest. Cruel, right? But hey, that’s what upgrades and armor are for.
The Good and the Bad
- Procedural Generation - This is really the core of the game’s fun, and I have to say its done very well. Honestly, kudos to the programmer for that.
- Variety - A room may be huge, or it may be tiny. It may contain an eyeball, or 15 flying skulls, or 2 huge skeletons. It may contain a carnival game. You never really know what to expect, which creates a feeling of exploration and discovery.
- Character Customization - I’m obsessed with the runes & equipment. Initially it was a clear choice, but now I change it up depending on what type of character I want to play.
- Art - The sprites and backgrounds look fantastic, and despite the enemies being largely what you’d expect in a fantasy game (slimes, skeletons, etc), the way they’re drawn makes it a fresh take on the genre.
- Clipping Issues - If a wall is thin enough, and an enemy is right up against it (which is often the case when they’re trying to get to you), they’ll be able to shoot through it. This isn’t game breaking, and some enemies actually can shoot through walls by design, but it seems a bit unfairly unpredictable.
- Impossible Fairy Chests - Sometimes you find fairy chests that, if I’m not mistaken, are literally impossible for you to do given your set of abilities. Maybe I’m just dumb though.
- Unclear Special Items - When you pray to a shrine and get an item, there’s no way of really knowing what it does. I found myself going to the wiki to figure that out. I think maybe this was meant to be a “you’re supposed to discover it yourself” type of thing, but for a few of them it’s hard to decipher.
The weakness are minor compared strengths. It is overall a very cool game. You can get it on Steam, from the official website, or if you own a Playstation console, you can now pre-order the game on PSN. It’s cross-buy (when you buy it, you get it on both the home console and on Vita) and cross-save (save on one console and it’s available on another), but I don’t have consoles so I don’t know much about that stuff. :] It only uses like 3 buttons though, so I feel like it’d be cool on a handheld.
Anyway, final rating.
4.5 out of 5 clown portraits - It melts my cynical heart.