Rogue Legacy is, as the title might hint at, a Rogue-Lite game. What this means is that it is based on the old ‘start over from scratch when you die’ Rogue-like games that have been making such a resurgence lately, but that they don’t quite take it to that extreme. Similar to Guided Fate Paradox, you do make gradual progress over time. It’s my favourite middle ground, honestly… and Rogue Legacy takes that middle ground in a whole new direction. And I am so glad that direction has finally come to my Vita…
Rogue Legacy’s most interesting aspect is that you’re not always playing the same character. Unlike most Roguelikes or Rogue-Lites, you actually play as the next in your original character’s line. The character inherits the entire fortune and estate of the previous one, but has to give up all his monetary belongings before entering the castle. How does this allow for gradual progression? Well, you can spend the money on other belongings and estate upgrades that provide permanent bonuses before you enter the castle.
When you start a new adventure, you select an heir from among 3 randomly generated new characters each with their own distinct class, traits, and spell and the new heir gets all of the weapons, stat bonuses, etc of all those who came before. The classes are fairly straightforward – things like mage, barbarian, etc – but you can unlock additional special classes over time and even upgrade them. Upgraded classes gain access to special abilities that can be pretty significant.
The really cool part comes from the traits. These traits are not your normal RPG traits… they’re a combination of physical and personality defects that provide huge alterations to the way the game is played, sometimes good and sometimes bad… well, and sometimes just plain weird. Things like dwarfism make you smaller which reduces your hitbox, the area of effect of your swings, and allows you access to secret passageways; while things like vertigo simply flip the entire game so you have to play upside down. It’s a hilarious concept and it makes the game consistently interesting as every round plays slightly differently. My personal favourite trait is one whose name I can never remember… but it makes the roast chicken legs that drop out of chairs, statues, and chandeliers turn into actual chickens that run away from you. Pure comedy gold.
Rogue-like games are not notorious for having deep stories, but with the persistent element in Rogue Legacy, they’re able to create a bit of story here. First of all, whenever you select a new character, you’re able to look back at the history of your lineage – seeing all of the characters you’ve gone through is a rather interesting little bit of history. It makes each of your adventures feel connected, if in a small way. But more importantly, you’ll stumble upon journals that tell the story of an adventurer that came through this castle long ago. These, in addition to providing a bit of story and context, also provide some small helpful hints.
Overall, Rogue Legacy is one of those gems you find among indy titles. The game is incredibly fun, it has a great difficulty curve, and it has an amazing sense of humour. I foresee this game being a staple on my Vita for a long time to come.