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Thanks to the horribly drug that is a Steam Mid-Week Sale I was able to get my hands on Cellar Door Games’ breakout hit, Rogue Legacy about 2 months ago. I was trying my darnedest to hold out until January and buy the game for my underused Playstation Vita but I’ve heard too many positive things about the game and I loves me a sale. This game is definitely worth 4 times what I paid for it.

I’ve seen many web publications describe Rogue Legacy as a ‘Rogue-like,’ but since I never heard of the game Rogue those comparisons fell on deaf ears. A more console-gamer-friendly label for this game is a Medtroidvania. It has the familiar look and playstyle of the classics of the NES and Genesis, you run from room to room in a 2D view inside a castle filled zombies, skeletons, spike traps, flying eyeballs while finding powers and power ups.

The first twist comes in that instead of saving at statues of angels or a in a pod, you go as far as you can in the dungeon and when you die that character is gone forever. After the game over screen you choose from a small pool of possible heirs that your last character somehow had time to spawn before entering the castle. The children are cobbled by a random selection of available classes, spells and traits and so  choosing between them is as strategic as timing jumps over traps. Will you choose an Arch Mage who can cycle through multiple spells, but is near-sighted? Or the dwarf Hokage with massive attack but who has vertigo which flips the entire screen on its X-axis? Maybe you’ll get lucky and you’ll get a Barbarian Queen with a huge HP pool who has Peripheral Arterial Disease – which makes floor spikes completely ineffective.

Each time you enter the castle it will be with a practically new character which it fitting since the castle will also be different each time. The mechanic that gives the game it’s Roguish namesake is a completely randomized dungeon that changes the layout of traps, rooms, bosses, enemy types, chests and everything else whenever you enter with a new heir.  The gold you collect before your next death is carried on by the son or daughter you choose and you can buy stat power ups, new classes, armor and runes as you see fit. But whatever you don’t spend is paid as a toll to reenter the castle for another round of fun. The true goal of this game is staying alive long enough to get enough gold to buy the things you want.

 

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“Well how the heck am I supposed to beat the game if everything resets when I die?” You might ask. And the answer is, however you want. The game gives you the tools to decide how you will play. You can find just enough to unlock a class and set of armor you like and then memorize the enemy attack patterns and trap speeds ala a Megaman game, and just rush to the nearest boss, or you can grind it out, amassing huge stock piles of gold and becoming powerful enough to stomp on every weak enemy. Or something in between.

What makes this game such a success is that you always WANT to go back in to the castle. The controls are simple, the visuals are  simple but  clean and and the gameplay is addicting. Oh! You were only 56 coins away from getting that new helmet you wanted that lets you gain health with every kill!  Guess you better go back and start all over but this time, not use an air dash when there are Ice Wizards around.

 

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What I most love about the game is the customization of in-game aspects and a similar freedom with how you literally approach the game.  Of the two dozen or so possible traits I quickly found my tactical favorites like P.A.D and dwarfism getting around easier, Hypergonadism for perma-roid strength that lets me knock back pesky enemies,  O.C.D. which restores MP when you do what comes naturally and destroy chairs and candle sticks in the rooms. I also found some just for fun faves, like Nostalgia which gives everything a sepia coloring, like a flashback scene in a cartoon – or the Gay trait which has no gameplay effect at all!

I’m able to play the game how I want and just grind away, collecting stats and items for 30 minutes to and hour at a time, before choosing to actually attempt to progress in the story.  I’ve seen other players choose to become better  at mechanic level and avoid enemy attacks and plow through the game at lower levels. My style would’ve been even  more suited to the PSV’s portability but I do not regret getting the PC version and may even buy it again if the Vita version has some bonuses.

This is definitely a must buy for lovers of Metroidvanias, Rogue-likes, Megamen or any 2D platformers, who don’t mind (or  maybe even love) a bit of grinding. It’s charming, fun and very addicting.

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