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Published on July 30th, 2013 | by Chris Scott

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One Hour In: Rogue Legacy

There is a rumor that one time I went to a party dressed as a pirate. It is a pretty silly rumor but it’s out there and I feel I need to address it. You see, I went to this party, but I wasn’t dressed as a pirate, but a knight, and I had a great big sword and a helm. I have to say, I looked pretty spiffy. When I got to the door, which was shaped like a drawbridge into a castle, I was greeted by the doorman who was dressed in a pretty convincing Death costume. He told me that to enter I had to give him all my gold. I did not have any so he let me enter, no problem. And then things went south and a picture frame killed me.

I’m lying, that never happened. I’ve never gone to a party dressed as a knight (or a pirate for that matter). But I have played Rogue Legacy, and I’ve done the above scenario about 80 times now, which has given me some thoughts to share.

Rogue Legacy is a rogue-lite, side-scrolling, platforming action-adventure game. For those unaware, a roguelike game puts players in a situation, generally a dungeon, and gives them one life to complete it; if you die you start over from square one. Rogue Legacy takes a slightly different approach. You still only have one life to navigate the castle in the game, but when you die your gold is passed on to one of your children who will then carry on your failed quest. That inheritance can be used to upgrade stats and equipment, allowing each progenerate to improve upon their heroic parent. The catch, though, is that to enter the castle one needs to forfeit all banked gold, so spending as much of it as possible before taking another run at the castle is a necessity.

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Much like real life, the children are not clones of their parents and as such have different characteristics that make the game easier or harder to play depending upon their profession and traits. Some might be mighty barbarians with a case of color blindness, while others might be assassins with dyslexia and irritable bowel syndrome. These different classes and traits added into the upgrades, make each run through the castle a different experience and make it incredibly easy to get sucked in for just one more run, over and over again.

Also spicing things up is the fact that each run at the castle is different as well. Every time you enter the castle the opening room is the same but the layout of the rest of the game is a randomized product. Unless you agree to terms with the architect in your base camp who can lock the castle in its previous state on a run-to-run basis, for a steep price of course, each run offers a new challenge.

With the different variables in play, I quickly found myself strategizing how I was going to approach each run. Was this going to be a collection run where I attempt to get as much gold and goodies as possible or was I going to make a serious run at a boss? Should I unlock the next class and more potential skill upgrades or give myself more health, armor or attack power? Should I even spend my gold on upgrades or should I buy some new armor from the blacksmith or a rune to allow me to gain more gold from drops from the Enchantress? As I prepared for my next run, the level of strategic thought I had to put in each time shocked me.

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Overall the game plays like the love child of Ghosts ‘n Goblins and Castlevania. It is smooth and crisp, handling perfectly with a gamepad. There are keyboard controls but I’m not sure why one would attempt to play this game that way; the controller just feels so natural. The fluid, responsive controls make the game a joy to play.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on the game’s retro art style. Much like the controls, the game is smooth and crisp-looking, giving a great sense of nostalgia for the days of the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. It is clear that Cellar Door Games has a great love for that era of gaming and has created what can only be described as a wonderful love letter to gaming’s past.

At this point I’ve logged about five hours into the game and I’ve only just recently defeated the “first” boss, so make no mistake: Rogue Legacy is a hard game. But for as difficult as it is, it never feels cheap and that alone keeps me coming back to the game over and over again. For fans of a bygone era of games, Rogue Legacy is not one to be missed.

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