Wednesday, 16 October 2013

REVIEW - Rogue Legacy (PC)

When I first heard about Rogue Legacy my heart skipped a beat, after all, here was another 2D non-linear platformer, with RPG elements and, best of all, randomly generated levels - or roguelike as it is generally known - A winning combination. So when it finally arrived I was super excited to unsheathe my sword and head into the castle to do battle with a collection of hideous evil minions.

Rogue Legacy clearly takes much of its inspiration from both the Castlevania series and also brutally hard death-feat Dark Souls. Permadeath is always mere seconds away, leaving you feeling constantly vulnerable to the threats around you. You begin your journey outside a large castle and, after a quick natter with the shopkeeper and grim reaper-esque figure outside the castle door, you enter and begin your search for the huge boss monsters that inhabit each of the four sections of the castle - or at least that's the plan. You will  be dead within the minute, so you ready yourself to try again, but not before being introduced to the game's quirky gimmick. Instead of simply pressing start and trying again, you now pick one of three options available to you - your former protagonists descendants, and that, kids, is why the game is called Rogue Legacy! Your children can be of either gender, be short or tall, fat or thin. They may be tank characters - i.e. powerhouses - or puny runts with higher magic abilities or chances of finding more loot. They may also come with random afflictions - some good, some bad - that not only might affect gameplay, but can also be quite amusing. Colour blindness means playing the game in black and white, while Dyslexia results in garbled text, and Gigantism offers a character whose head is so large it's a shock they don't simply fall over. These traits and afflictions, as well as some of the amusing descriptions and journal entries found over the course of your adventure offer the game a lighthearted air and will raise a smile.

With this being a roguelike - or at least a game with roguelike elements - the castle is different on every attempt, and death results in your character being gone for good. Thankfully all the gold you collected, as well as XP gained from killing foes, is passed onto your descendant. This gold can then be spent either on skill trees that allow more powerful characters to be selected and whatnot, as well as with the villagers in the courtyard who will sell you new abilities, weapons and armour. All gold must be handed over to the reaper before entry to the castle, so you are wise to get the most for your money before venturing in again. There is also a wizard who will keep the castle from randomising, at a cost of 40% of all loot you find, meaning you can familiarise yourself with the layout of the castle and, hopefully, improve your chances of survival. With the brutal difficulty level on display here, you will need all the help you can get. Death comes often in Rogue Legacy, far too often. I am a reasonably seasoned platform game player, yet I found myself dying every couple of minutes, especially at the start. Once your character has been levelled up a bit and you have superior gear it... well, it doesn't really get much easier, and the game soon begins to grate on your nerves.

I can tolerate multiple deaths and restarts - after all, Spelunky is one of my favourite games of all time and that is extremely punishing - but Rogue Legacy doesn't have the tight controls, wonderful level design or charming characters that Spelunky offers, meaning you are less likely to persevere. The randomly generated castle layouts feel very much so, often feeling poorly designed and devoid of any human input, and the enemies are teeth grindingly annoying, often consisting of flying irritants that spam you with projectiles - often from off-screen, and the bosses are horrendously tough. Even the elation of discovering a new area, with a new visual style and new foes to battle is almost instantly dashed by your immediate death and realisation that you have to start again. 

A game set in a castle should be about exploring at your own pace, finding the nooks and crannies and feeling satisfied and rewarded when you discover new areas - one only need look to the post-Symphony of the Night Castlevania games for examples of this in action. Rogue Legacy simply drains your enthusiasm and tests your patience. I wanted to love this game, I really did but at the end of the day, Rogue Legacy simply failed to grip me in any meaningful way, feeling more like work than an enjoyable videogame that I could immerse myself in. What seemed like my ideal game on paper has, unfortunately, turned out to be an extremely bland and uninspiring game that, no matter how many hours I pump into it and chances I give it to finally grip me, simply isn't offering me any fun. I will stick to Spelunky and the non-linear 2D Castlevanias for my fix of roguelike dungeon exploration.

The Good

  • Randomly generated dungeons add longevity
  • Decent visuals and music
  • Great sense of humour - especially the character traits

The Bad

  • Jumping is lightweight and floaty
  • Dungeon design is dull and repetitive
  • Far too difficult
  • Not that much fun to play

Title : Rogue Legacy
Developer : Cellar Door Games
Year : 2013
System : PC

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