Overview - Rogue Legacy Review
+ A procedurally generated level layout keeps you on your toes
+ A great pick up and play game for the handheld Vita
- The procedurally generated design is only a gimmick
- The music becomes awful and repetitive after countless deaths
Rogue Legacy INFORMATION
Release Date: July 29th, 2014
Developer/Publisher: Cellar Door Games
Rogue Legacy brings the charm of 8-bit gameplay combined with procedurally generated dungeons to modern consoles. Rogue Legacy is perfectly designed to pick up and go which makes it a good fit for the Vita. Some aspects of the procedurally generated levels can make a relatively simple game become an exercise in fruition for naught which may turn off some gamers used to a certain style of gameplay.
Story - Rogue Legacy Review
The story of Rogue Legacy is difficult to decipher due to the fact that it's told entirely through notes found throughout the game. Essentially, each character you play as is a decedent of the previous "life" and the reason your attempting to overtake the castle is to restore the family's honor. While there are intricacies into the exact reasons why this is happening and the motivation behind your castle siege, it isn't readily available through traditional storytelling. Suffice it to say, storytelling is an afterthought for Rogue Legacy. This isn't to say the story is necessarily poor, it's just not a focus, and takes some work on the player's part to pursue.
In part, this is what makes Rogue Legacy so accessible; the gameplay needs very little context to succeed and so why should it impede the purpose of the game in the first place? Most of the plot elements are simple character traits which effect the gameplay more than it does the story, and because of this, these traits become the only driver of the story that's needed.
Technical - Rogue Legacy Review
Due to its intended style of the side-scrolling heyday of 8 and 16-bit consoles, the actual graphics don't elicit any spectacular response. They're certainly acceptable but the game shines more within its procedurally generated level algorithm than anything else. This is where I feel that Rogue Legacy receives too much credit. It was one of the first games of its kind to have different gameplay experiences for each life, and that's definitely a positive, but technically (and gameplay-wise which will be addressed later) it doesn't really change the design all that much, instead changing the flow.
Now, even with the past generation's influence the models and animation are much higher quality than would've ever been seen on the NES or SNES for that matter. Still though, even in high definition, the artistic level isn't nearly of the same ilk of say, the Rayman series, and not even the most recent releases. To be fair, this isn't what Rogue Legacy set out to do, but it's inevitable to be compared to the benchmarks of the genre.
The designs just don't contribute anything new to the industry, but they work well within the framework of the overall design. This is an important aspect in these relatively simple modern side-scrollers because it's a major differentiator in the now extremely populated "indie" genre. Games like Fez, Hyper Light Drifter, Braid and Super Meat Boy all have a distinct visual style that makes them standout and be immediately recognizable, Rogue Legacy doesn't.
Music - Rogue Legacy Review
Because there are only four different sections to traverse and each section has its own musical theme, the music becomes extremely repetitive. This is especially true for the first part of the castle. You'll spend most of your time travelling through the first section because it's the only way to reach any of the other sections of the game, and therefore you'll hear this song the most. It's awful.
The first theme doesn't start out being horrendous, but you're going to hear it a lot because every gameplay session starts from the same spot, there's no avoiding it. This is a serious oversight by the developers, knowing the amount of deaths the player would face, and having such a limited score in such a repetitive starting point.
Gameplay - Rogue Legacy Review
Rogue Legacy's primary gameplay mechanic is its procedurally generated playthroughs, a different setup each time your character dies and you restart. It's really cool, but it's ultimately a gimmick. There is no memorization as you restart after death, instead, theoretically your character should become more powerful and better suited to make it further the next time. The problem is that powering up takes a long time (lots of deaths). "Powering up" consists of finding coins throughout your playthrough and then, after you die, spending it on improving you attributes. Despite technically playing with another character, power ups transcend death and pass down to the next descendant. It's an interesting idea, but where it falters is that each descendant is different as well. Many times you'll have to go three and four turns to find the character type your most comfortable with or, as you'll find, some characters are more compatible with specific types of the generated levels. What is supposed to add diversity instead can punish you.
It's also just not an easy game. With the variety of the level design, you'd expect enemies to be fairly easy to be defeated, yet there are many quick deaths. The level design is an enemy itself, why make it so hard to defeat enemies, too? It is made even more difficult by the fact that to reach each different boss section you'll have to find your way through the same first section (albeit with a different layout each time, of course) every time. Even reaching these areas is a test of fortitude.
The gimmicky set up does do one thing well in regards to playing it on the Vita; it can be stopped and started with little to no detriment to the player. Stopping one hour and starting the next is basically no different than taking a week or month between playthroughs because any memorization or familiarity with level layouts is worthless. It's a game that I find myself hopping into here and there (yet, far and few between) frequently because of this very mechanic.
Overall gameplay is solid yet basic. There are a couple different type of attacks and character classes that make for a different strategy, whether it's one you prefer or not. Some have stronger attacks, more hit points, etc. all while incorporating the power-ups purchased with in-game currency. A caveat is that each descendant also features a deficiency such as colorblindness, ADHD and even irritable bowel syndrome. While ADHD, for example, provides a quicker character, IBS just provides farts. Some characters are large, some small, it's not incredibly deep but for the style it's emulating, it does well enough.
Rogue Legacy Review Roundup
Rogue Legacy prides itself on its procedurally generated level design but ultimately relies on it too much. The other elements of the game don't do much to overcome this, including the awful, repetitive music. The basic hack and slash combined with some slow burning RPG elements add little depth. They're not bad, but they're not good, either. One saving grace is that for a Vita game, the flaws don't have to be endured through a long playthrough and visits to Rogue Legacy after awhile can be cathartic due to its new level design in each playthrough.