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Review: Rogue Legacy

Marcus Estrada

Developer: Cellar Door Games

Publisher: Cellar Door Games

Platform: PC (Desura, GamersGate, GOG, Steam, OnLive, Web)

Release Date: June 27, 2013

ESRB: N/A (E10+ suggested)



Roguelikes have seen a serious boom over the past year. Despite Rogue having not been on most players“ minds since the 80s, developers have decided to reign back in on the genre. With that we have seen many excellent games come forth. The latest of this bunch is Rogue Legacy from Cellar Door Games. Is this roguelike another gem or is it one that can easily be avoided? Unfortunately for your wallet, Rogue Legacy is the next must buy.




It starts out with the same blueprints we expect of any roguelike. You“ve got one character and once they die then that“s it for them. From there, you begin anew journeying with your heroic character into a castle. With each life comes a new castle (unless you pay gold to keep the layout from changing). So far, it seems about the standard fare. Where is it that this game diverges from existing entities?


One of the most unique features in Rogue Legacy is the idea of your family tree growing infinitely onward. Although your hero will always die, they are also always going to have multiple children. These children serve as your next hero, and from then, so too do their own children. It continues infinitely as you can play through the game over and over with a new randomized hero. Each character has a great deal of variety between them as well, which leads into the next interesting gameplay element.


Each character has a series of traits. Some of these will make your hero bulky and hard to push back, but also very slow and unwieldy. Others make your hero incredibly small, or fast, or a host of other physical abnormalities. Then there are the traits such as color blindness, tourettes, and more which tweak the gameplay sometimes. For example, dyslexia causes all text on the screen to appear with letters in the wrong place. Some of these traits are beneficial, some are meaningless, and others are a detriment to your play such as ones that blur part of the screen.




Although you have genetic traits for each character, they are not passed down by your parents. In this way players are spared the cruel fate of going down a line which often inherits something unfavorable. On the opposite side though, you can“t use character selection to try and create the ultimate lineage of heroes with the same set of traits honed a million times over. There are still ways to carry strengths over throughout generations.


Every time you adventure into the castle you are collecting money. This gold is inherited by the next hero, where they can choose to spend it on upgrades for their family“s future. Players can buy armor, weapons, and runes which carry over to each following character. Another method of strengthening the future is to spend higher amounts of money to unlock new classes, general increases to stats, and more. In this way, players can still enforce some “natural” selection.


Of course, money“s not all you“re working for in the castle. There“s also the need to see it to completion. It won“t be easy though as rooms are packed with varied enemies as well as puzzles. The very first section of the castle is not tremendously difficult, but does require a lot of careful play. Monsters such as flying eyeballs who shoot fire, bulky knights with equally large swords, and even haunted paintings will try to stop you. At times, there are even boss encounters which are much harder than standard enemies. Beating them is well worth it though as you“ll receive a great deal of monetary compensation.




As far as the player is concerned, they have only a few ways to fight back. There is a main attack, a magic attack or effect, as well as other things which are added on later such as blocking, sprinting, or the much loved double jump. Beyond that, it“s really up to you to quickly maneuver through enemy projectiles, swords, and spikes. Things quickly get tense and you“ll find yourself running through generation after generation.


Despite the difficulty, the relative ease of play compels one to keep playing. Often, you“ll often have the feeling of wanting to play “one more time” just to prove to yourself that your hero can make more money or explore further. Although Rogue Legacy is tough it also manages to be quite humorous. For example, some of the traits are silly like ones that make the world sepia tone because you have some sort of nostalgia trait. Then there are things like a random clown inside the castle who offers you prizes upon completion of his varying minigames.


Much of the humor is conveyed without a single line of speech. The visuals which take on a retro aesthetic are a great carrier of it. You“ll see adorable little heroes, goofy massive heroes, and ones with bows atop their suits of armor. There are women with elegant white beards, and (once equipped) characters with mismatched suits of armor. Even enemies are cute despite their deadliness. Alongside the attractive visuals is a nice soundtrack as well. The two work together to create a nice environment for you, which is important considering players will spend a lot of time dying in it.




There is so much that Rogue Legacy does right it“s hard to say anything negative about it. Where I do wish there could be more done was the family tree. Although it could cause trouble, I really would have loved to see the gene pool being tweaked depending on a parent“s various traits. There would still be room for randomization due to the other parent“s contributions (who you never see) but also a higher frequency of certain traits could be possible too. Who knows if this would work out, but it would be an interesting way to make each choice more important.


Then there is the matter of traits which I personally deliberated with throughout play. No, it isn“t their effects or lack of effects, but their presence in the game. On one hand, it is exciting to see characters with disabilities all presented as possibly heroic. On the other hand, it seems a way to have a laugh at these conditions which are presented in silly ways in game. Of course, there is also the trait of “gay” which has caused a great deal of contention online. I“m personally of two minds on it, where it seems good to show being gay changes nothing about you, but also should not necessarily be compared to some form of genetic disadvantage.


With all that said, there is a great deal more to like about Rogue Legacy than to dislike. It stands as an excellent addition to the roguelike genre and is a lot of fun to play in either short bursts or for hours at a time. As you slowly strengthen your family and characters the rest of the game begins to open up. Further locations to explore as well as new monsters and bosses to beat keep the game fresh even after you“ve played it with 10, 50, or even 100 different heroes. If you choose to pick up Rogue Legacy for $15 it will provide you with far more value in the long run.




+ Weapons, runes, armor, and skills are carried to each new character

+ Mix between easy and difficult enemies to always keep you on your toes

+ Various classes and traits mean you are always experimenting with different play styles




- Genealogical aspect could have been taken further

- Thinking critically about the traits can cause some mental anguish


Overall Score: 9 (out of 10)



Rogue Legacy is both familiar and different enough from existing roguelikes to rope in a host of new fans while also attracting the hardcore audience. Check it out if you“re not afraid of dying continuously!

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