We’re so often painfully reminded in games with roguelike qualities that death is the end. It’s invariably engrained in our psyche that all of our hard work, all that gold, all that loot and all that progression can be flushed down the toilet on account of an errant controller press. Rogue Legacy though, aims to teach us another lesson, namely that death is not the end and that your quirky descendants can resume where you left off, with traits, qualities and difficulties all of their own.
As much a magnificent take on the Metroidvania genre as it is a wholly refreshing riff on roguelike gameplay elements which can so often alienate folks, Rogue Legacy is simply one of the most polished and effortlessly enjoyable games you can play on a PlayStation platform right now.
A 2D action RPG, Rogue Legacy's setup should be instantly familiar to anyone who has played a Metroid or Castlevania title. Simply, the player guides their swaggering hero through a foreboding looking castle and the areas that surround it and engage in the murder an increasingly challenging variety of monsters and bosses, all the while collecting treasure and leveraging their platforming skills to reach difficult areas and avoid a multitude traps.
From the start it’s clear that developer Cellar Door Games has absolutely nailed all the fundamentals of the Metroidvania genre with supreme confidence. Controlling your hero is nothing less than instantly responsive with pixel-perfect jumps, mid-air adjustments and dodging enemy projectiles while deftly cutting a swath through their monstrous ranks, all proving to be easily achievable for both newcomers and genre veterans alike.
Elsewhere, the game’s slick adherence to such timeless gaming DNA shines through as Rogue Legacy also nails the combat side of the equation with exemplary execution. With a primary melee attack, a secondary spell attack which consumes precious magic points and a variety of enemies and attack patterns to learn, Rogue Legacy feels every bit a worthy heir to the Castlevania's and Metroid's of yesteryear.
If Rogue Legacy were just that; merely a supremely confident Metroidvania title which managed to capture and perfect the basics of the genre, the game would arguably prove to be an easy recommendation. However, developer Cellar Door Games has built upon its strong understanding of these fundamentals with a number of innovative features which allow Rogue Legacy to transcend its classic inspirations.
Unlike other roguelike games, Rogue Legacy allows you to keep all of your gold, stats and equipment each time you die. Crucially, the gold which manages to endure even when your character is separated from their mortal coil can be used to purchase new equipment, enchantments, stat upgrades and even entirely new classes to play as.
It's a notable deviation from the usual punishment that we expect from roguelike games, but it's one that is put to good use as there is a real sense of progression even when your hero kicks the bucket for the umpteenth time. Proving no small feat, the developer achieved the unlikely by making the player feel confident and eager for another try instead of ending up dispirited enough to stop playing.