Friday, 15 August 2014

Review - Rogue Legacy (Vita, PS3, PS4)


Back in October 2013 I reviewed Rogue Legacy on PC. Now, 10 months later, this roguelike platformer has found its way to Sony's fantastic and painfully underrated Vita console. And do you know what? I had a far more enjoyable time with it this time around. For those of you unfamiliar with the game, Rogue Legacy is a 2d platformer in which you explore a Castlevania-esque castle, defeating baddies with your sword and spells, collecting as much loot as you can. Upon your death you choose a new character, spend the loot you gathered before dying on stats and equipment upgrades, and enter a completely new, randomly generated castle to do it all over again. The aim being to level yourself up enough to face off against one of the four bosses located in the four different areas that make up the game world. 

Comparisons to Spelunky are obvious, but it really is a very different beast to Dereck Yu's masterpiece. Yes, the levels are randomly generated each time you play, and yes it's a 2D platformer. But that's where the similarities end. Whereas Spelunky starts you off with the same amount of lives and equipment each time, Rogue Legacy is all about levelling up your character enough to get a little further each time. Each of the four areas - the castle itself, the forest, the tower, and the dungeons - are always in the same direction, but the layout is different every time. The monsters positions too are random, so you never know what might face you in the next room. Each enemy vanquished drops coins or sacks of gold, as does many of the breakable furniture items dotted around. The real spoils come from the many chests dotted around the game world and larger mini-bosses you may encounter on your travels.

Once you die.. and here is the main gimmick of Rogue Legacy.. you choose from one of three of your previous character's descendants. They can be male or female, giant or tiny, a mighty warrior or a weak spellcaster. They often acquire genetic afflictions such as colour blindness, flatulence, dyslexia and gigantism. These are amusing but also affect the game, with your character not being able to see very far, text from journals being displayed as gibberish, or even having to play with everything upside down. Once you have selected one of these trio you the get the opportunity to spend your money on a large skill tree. Here you can upgrade your total health, mana (magic power used for spells such as axes, daggers, teleportation and flaming balls that rotate around you), armour, carry weight and many more. Most important is upgrading your character classes, so next time around one of your descendants may be a mighty barbarian king, a spelunker capable of finding far more gold, or a powerful spell casting arch mage. 

Once this is done, you enter the grounds of the castle where a blacksmith will sell you new weapons, a sorceress will sell you runes that grant you abilities such as double jumping, flight, dashing, and the ability to gain life from defeated foes, and a mad scientist will lock the castle to the same layout as your previous playthrough (for a hefty price, of course). The catch here is that you can only purchase and equip runes, weapons or armour you have found on a previous run through. Once you are ready to hit the castle again, you must handover all your leftover cash to the grim reaper who guards the entrance, so be sure to spend as much of your gold as you can.

All this lends the game a great deal of depth, and keeps you coming back for more every time you die. Unfortunately it also has the negative impact of turning the game into one giant grind-fest. You simply stand no chance of defeating each boss until you are substantially levelled up and this is an incredibly slow process. Each game usually lasts a short amount of time as the monsters are powerful, numerous, and fire a bewildering amount of projectiles your way. Then you spend your meagre earnings on one, maybe two upgrades before repeating the process again and again and again. It soon becomes extremely irritating, a fact that isn't helped by the incredibly bland stage layouts. They may be randomly generated, but certain room layouts are repeated often, and they aren't that interesting to explore, often feeling like a bunch of uninteresting screens chucked together to form a game world. The occasional run in with the mini-bosses, or trial rooms which task you with destroying every enemy, or taking no damage spice things up a bit though, as does running into special characters that allow you the chance to play mini-games in exchange for cash prizes.

Despite this, it is an extremely addictive experience. As you get more powerful and purchase essential upgrades that enable you to find more gold, it becomes easier to run through the easier areas of the castle, hoovering up large quantities of gold - though the price of upgrades also rise accordingly. One good run and a near-miss battle against one of the bastard-hard bosses is enough to keep you coming back with new determination. Rogue Legacy is a tough title to review as, on the one hand it's enjoyable, challenging and addictive, yet on the other it feels seriously lacking in some aspects  and feels as though it was designed to deliberately waste as much of your time as possible. 

This new Vita iteration is a far more attractive proposition than the original PC version I reviewed as it's perfectly suited to the handheld format. It looks gorgeous on the OLED screen, has tight, well thought-out controls and is perfect for quick gaming sessions. It's also another cross-buy / cross-save title, meaning you can experience it on the big screen via your PS3 or PS4, making it incredibly good value for money if you are lucky enough to make use of this. It may be irritating, but it's an essential purchase for those who enjoy 2D platformers, especially those featuring randomly generated levels. Just be aware that you will need to do a lot of grinding to get anywhere in this game, so it is not for those who lack patience or dislike repeating the same thing over and over again.

Title : Rogue Legacy
Developer : Cellar Door Games
Year : 2014
System Reviewed : Vita
Also on : PC, Mac, PS3, PS4
Price : £9.99
Cross-Buy : Yes
Genre : Platformer, Roguelike