Review: Rogue Legacy (PS4)

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Title: Rogue Legacy
Format: PlayStation Network Download (740 MB)
Release Date: July 29, 2014
Publisher: Cellar Door Games
Developer: Cellar Door Games
Price: $16.99 *Cross-Buy
ESRB Rating: E10+
Rogue Legacy is also available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, PC, Mac and Linux. It is a Cross-Buy, Cross-Save title.
The PlayStation 4 version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

Gameplay:
Rogue Legacy is a rogue-lite game where you explore a castle trying to beat five bosses. By the time you have finished reading that sentence you have probably died and are in the process of picking your new heir.

For those not familiar with rogue-lite games, the general concept is to progress through a randomly generated castle/dungeon collecting treasures and kills until you die. Then you select an heir, level up, continue the journey, die, die, die, and die some more, until you beat the game. Now this may not sound like it is enjoyable, but it is very addicting and you feel a real sense of accomplishment when you achieve something.

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The basic gameplay consists of a mash between Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. you move along sections of a map like a platformer, while trying to kill any enemies you encounter. Each life is more like a run through the maze than a traditional life. This makes the game seem more like a race to improve your civilization instead of seeing how far you can improve one individual character.

A basic run consists of entering the castle and exploring your way through it trying to collect as much gold as possible. As you explore the castle you will encounter various enemies, treasure chests, traps, and surprises. Don’t expect to play the game without dying, I’ve actually lost count of how many times I have died.

Once you die you have to select a new heir out of three choices. Heirs can be different classes than what you were playing before, though most of the classes feel the same, especially early on. Besides choosing the class, each heir has special genetic traits that can impact the gameplay. Some are very minor, others have a drastic effect. Some examples of these effects include: being color blind so the screen is in black and white, gigantism where you are super-sized, dwarfism where you are very small and able to get to some areas that you wouldn’t be able to go if you were taller, and vertigo where the screen is upside-down.

When you first start the game you are fairly underpowered and need to build up your character, though that is a misnomer since you are in reality building up your family tree and not just individual characters. You can purchase upgrades with gold that you find as you explore the map. Any upgrades that you purchase are kept even after death.

Besides boosting stats of your character you can unlock new classes, shops to buy better weapons or magic runes, and the ability to lock down the map. Unfortunately you can’t just keep your gold and save up for an upgrade, each time you die you can purchase upgrades but the second you go back into the castle you have to pay the Grimm Reaper all of your gold (though the percent you pay can be decreased by upgrades). This makes runs through the castle frustrating when you die with 790 pieces of gold but the cheapest upgrade is 800.

As you explore, the map is divided into four sections. Even though each adventure in the castle is randomly generated, each section is in the same general direction. To aid in exploring the map you can discover portals that can teleport you between discovered portals. Again though each time you enter the castle after dying, the map is randomly generated, so nothing is in the same place. You can choose to lock down the map if you have purchased the Architect.

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However if you choose to lock down the map and keep your progress, there is a tradeoff you only earn 60% of the gold you discover. Each time you enter the castle you have the option of locking down the map, however that greatly affects your gold collecting. Not only are you only making 60% chests won’t randomly regenerate, meaning ones you have already opened will stay opened. Usually it is best to only lock down the map when you are going directly to a boss otherwise it severely limits your ability to upgrade your character.

Other things that help you in your journey are magic spells that are part of your heir’s make-up, though you can change spells while searching the map. Some spells are short range defensive while others are long range offensive projectiles. While fairly typical fare, it is important to make sure that you pick spells that fit your style of play, so experiment early on with the different types when selecting heirs.

You can also purchase various equipment and weapons that help with your quest. Again most of it is pretty typical but use items that suit your style. If you like to hack and slash try to use equipment that gives you health for each kill for example. Finally there are runes that you can purchase that grant you special abilities like double jump or dash. The runes can be stacked to increase their effect. Double jump is one to purchase early one.

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Visuals:
Rogue Legacy visuals hark back to an earlier time in gaming, only with a shiny coat of HD goodness. At first glance it looks like a souped-up game from the 80s. Each section of the map has its unique look and feel to it. However you start to realize the beauty of the game when one of your heirs is farsighted and the screen blurs around your character but is still crystal clear farther away.

The subtle visual effects of this game are quite impressive, whether it is from the flash of lightning to the flickering lights in some of the dungeons. One final note about the visuals, if one of your heirs has either of the traits The One or Dementia, select that person just once, it is worth it.

Audio:
There’s a good but not great soundtrack in Rogue Legacy and the sound effects are fine. Each section of the map has its own sound which helps keep you immersed in the game. There are a few traits that spice up the sound of the game though. To me I kept getting so sucked into the grinding that the sound just drifted away to the background.

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Online/Multiplayer:
The game features Cross-Save. Other than that there is no online or multiplayer. One thing that would have been nice to share online is your family tree. It would be fun to compare your heritage with other people.

Conclusion:
This was a really hard game to rate for me. On one hand it is incredibly difficult and frustrating. You die a lot and depending on how far you are in the game, you can have runs result in just wasted time. Even though the game is Cross-Buy I would never want to play it on my Vita for fear of throwing it in frustration.

On the other hand this game is a reminder of how games used to be, where it was a real accomplishment to succeed in it. This game isn’t for everybody, but if you want to enjoy one of the best games I have ever played I would highly recommend getting this game. Ultimately you don’t think about the countless deaths, you remember that time you overcame your first boss.

Score:
9.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Damon Bullis

Damon Bullis

I’m a gamer from back in the days of Telstar Arcade, Atari 2600, and Intellivision. I currently have a PS4, PS3x2, Vita, PSP, Xbox One, 360, Wii U, Wii, and a N64.

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  • Makai Ookami

    There is basically no reason why anyone can’t beat the game.

    Even if you are terrible, eventually a lot of the bosses will fall to you if you just power up strength, health and defense enough.

    Heck you can even get Critical percent and Critical chance up. Just don’t unlock any of the classes you don’t have to if you are terrible at games. At best, it’s a challenging grind that makes you feel amazingly accomplished.

    At worst, it’s a grindy grind, that will still probably make you feel amazingly accomplished… Whether you beat the game at lvl 80, or 200. With 1 child, or 1,000.

    Not sure how the main NPCs live for that long though. XD

  • ChazzH69

    I was itching to do this review but wanted to see someone else give it a shot. I have become hooked on these rogue-lite games ever since I sunk my teeth into Spelunky:

    http://www.psnation.com/2013/10/27/review-spelunky-psnpsv/

    I love the genealogical twist to the game, where you pick a successor to try and better your last attempt. Each one having their own traits which can change the entire game or just end up being funny.

  • Damon Bullis

    Makai, I agree in theory that there is no reason somebody can’t beat the game, the problem is how much frustration are they willing to go through it in order to beat the game. My girlfriend played it for 10 minutes then refused to keep playing it because it was too frustrating for her. Normally she plays games like Skyrim. That frustration level made the game hard to review because I had to balance my review of the game vs how most typical gamers would react to it. Hopefully I did a good job.

    Chaz, I would love to hear your thought about the game. Normally I don’t play these types of games because I normally play games to escape the stresses of my life. Thankfully I did play this game. I was surprised at how addicted I was to progressing. Each of my lives slowly melded together into a meaningless blob whose sole purpose was to defeat the game.

  • I love it on my PSVita as its a great pick up game that I can put down and come back while on the couch or when I go to poop