2013’s Rogue Legacy quickly became quite the indie classic. The 2D action platformer controlled really well and brought about fresh ideas for the Roguelike genre. Yes, you died frequently and had to start again. Except a passive skill tree, runes, and equipment meant that unlike many other Roguelike games, there was still a feeling of constant overall progression. Mix in a set of funky character traits that changed with each run and we were left with a game that made a pretty sizable impact.
7 years later and development studio Cellar Door Games have just released Rogue Legacy 2 into Early Access for PC. And by all accounts, it seems like a very faithful sequel is well under development.
Rogue Legacy 2 sees you battling foes, avoiding traps, and amassing gold as you move through a set of rooms within the walls of a castle. Different classes allow you to play in different ways with Barbarians and Knights getting in close to deal lethal damage whilst the squishier Mages and Rangers shoot from afar. The rooms are randomly generated so you’ll be constantly on your toes and unsure of what challenge is about to arise next. Treasure will be scattered around the castle and you’ll occasionally stumble across different challenges that if successfully completed will grant you rewards.
Somewhere within the castle walls lays your first boss, known as the Estuary Lemech, who puts up a serious fight for any player ready to take on his challenge.
Rogue Legacy 2 certainly plays really well with both the platforming and combat reminding me fondly of the original. There’s nothing revolutionary happening here, but I always feel in control when leaping, dashing and killing my way through the castle walls.
What sets this game apart from other Roguelike titles however is the whole ‘legacy’ system that sees you play as a hero’s descendant each time you are bested in battle or get skewered by a spike trap. Each new run starts with you picking your next hero from a pool of 3 descendants, each being their own unique fighter. The 3 characters are randomly generated with different classes, spells, and traits. I personally find the mage class to be the least useful, although I’m sure with more practice I could learn to master their magical ways.
Spells allow you to cast special abilities that provide a lot of utility or damage within battle at a cost of mana. Although I will admit to using these spells not quite as frequently as I would like. Due to the random element to character generation, spells tend to be different each run, and so I never fell into a rhythm where I was using spells optimally or as though they were second nature.
It’s the traits found within the random character generation that is most exciting though. This isn’t new for the Rogue Legacy franchise, although the trait system feels even better in the sequel. Different heros will have different traits that often have hilarious impacts on the visuals or gameplay. The ‘Diva’ trait puts a spotlight on you and your foes with everything else blacked out, it also plays a special sound with bouquets of roses tossed towards you when you clear out a room. The ‘Hollow Bones’ trait makes you fall more slowly and the ‘Synesthesia’ trait leaves a trail a colour behind any moving object or character within the game. The list of traits goes on and on and they’re all usually quite fun and quirky.
Some traits will be straight up disadvantageous with ‘Vertigo’, certainly one of the worst of the traits, forcing you to play the entire game upside down. Having 3 characters to choose from allows you to pick around the traits you hate the most, once you have seen them in action for the first time that is. Although having a negative trait also has its benefits because Rogue Legacy 2 introduces a new element to traits with the opportunity to earn extra gold for playing with unhelpful traits. Gold is an important resource too, because it’s used to purchase passive upgrades that permeate throughout every run, creating a real incentive to learn to play with disadvantages.
Rogue Legacy 2 feels really good for an Early Access product. Just by happenstance I’ve been dipping my toes into a few Early Access games recently. And unfortunately, despite some really promising elements, many of these games including Ooblets and Grounded have felt quite underdeveloped. They feel like they’re very early in the Early Access process, allowing gamers to play a concept that’s not yet fully realised. But Rogue Legacy 2 doesn’t have this issue.
It’s clear a lot of thought has already been put into Rogue Legacy 2 and what the developers want out of a final product. Systems have been well implemented with advancements already obvious over the original game. The trait system from the original has been overhauled and advanced, the new art style is clear and easily readable, and the gameplay is completely solid with nary a glitch in sight. Even the game over screen has had a lot of thought put into it, with the game showing you your movement, monster kills, and treasure all in a fun animation at the end. I feel respected as a player jumping into this Early Access product.
“…you really don’t see the Early Access part of Rogue Legacy 2 until you’ve completely finished the first zone of the game.”
Aside from a small handful of placeholder sounds and visuals and some frame drops, you really don’t see the Early Access part of Rogue Legacy 2 until you’ve completely finished the first zone of the game. This took me around 10 hours, with that first boss really proving to be a challenge. It’s only once you’ve reached this point do you realise where the content is lacking. In fact the developers have been incredibly candid about what is missing from the Early Access release of Rogue Legacy 2. You can stumble across notes within the game that outline the devs intentions with zone 2 currently not playable, allowing players to skip straight over it to zone 3. It’s clear that the passive skill tree is not fully available yet and with more zones and classes coming I can see the bright future ahead for this game.
I’m very eager to continue following the development of Rogue Legacy 2. It’s a challenging game that already provides a good amount of hours worth of gameplay for players to experience. The future of this game seems really bright and I appreciate how much respect this studio has for their players, refusing to release a glitchy and underdeveloped product into Early Access. Will the game maintain the legacy of the original? My guess is it will.