Rogue Legacy is an indie platformer that has been around on PC since June 2013. Last summer it saw ports finally hit home consoles when it became available on the PlayStation Store for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PS Vita. Xbox One gamers though haven’t had a chance to play the highly regarded title until now. Toronto-based developer Cellar Door Games trusted the port to Abstraction Games, the team who were responsible for the PlayStation versions of the game, but does the Xbox One version hold up?
The first thing you will notice when you load up and start playing Rogue Legacy is that it does not look like a game that is already two years old. This is thanks to its retro look that takes a very similar approach to Shovel Knight, in attempting to harken back to the days of 8-bit and 16-bit platformers that were tough-as-nails. Although plenty of games in recent times have decided to go down the ‘old-school’ root in an attempt to gain nostalgia points, Rogue Legacy does it well. Character designs for your heroes and the enemies are interesting while the environments never become dull despite their relative lack of diversity.
In terms of the music, Rogue Legacy again takes its cue from the SNES era of gaming with a collection of fast-paced tunes that fit perfectly with the chaotic combat and exploration. You may find the choice of songs repetitive at first as the music will not change significantly until you progress but this system works well as it seems to be a reward for making your way through the castle. There is little in the way of sound effects though, with just your standard assortment of explosions, cries and weapon sounds to accompany the on-screen action.
Where Rogue Legacy really comes into its own though is with its gameplay. You start off the game with a brief tutorial that teaches you about the basics – namely, how to jump, attack enemies and generally explore your surroundings. After that, you are on your own. While the game is obstinately a platformer at its most elementary form, what makes Rogue Legacy stand out is its roguelike features.
Most modern roguelikes, such as Spelunky and The Binding of Isaac, task you with completing a certain goal without dying. Your death marks the end of the adventure and you have to start all over again without any sort of progression other than a deeper understanding of how the game works. Cellar Door Games have taken a different approach with their title. Every single playthrough counts because the gold you accumulate each run can be spent on upgrading your next hero.
This works through a system whereby your play as a descendent of your hero every time you die. The system allows you to essentially upgrade your character with new powers, better health or a larger pool of mana as you continually progress through the game. With an expansive array of upgrades available, you can tailor your hero to the way you want to play in a way that most roguelikes simply do not allow, making Rogue Legacy truly distinctive to its fellow platformers.
Cellar Door Games claim that they took inspiration from Dark Souls for the way that you progress through death. However, they have also seemed to see the From Software series as something of a marker for just how difficult games should be. Rogue Legacy is tough and you will certainly die a lot. It won’t be uncommon for runs to last just a few minutes before you meet with death, nevertheless you will rarely get frustrated as you constantly get a sense of progression from your upgrades and new gear. Very few runs will feel completely wasted which helps to keep you engaged enormously.
The goal is travel through the castle, defeat the four bosses that have taken up residence in the four main locations and then battle the final boss. It’s a simple sounding task that ensures you can remain focused as you play. Things are kept fresh as the castle layout changes every time you die, meaning that you never have exactly the same challenge in terms of enemies and obstacles.
There are other ways that the developer have tried to make Rogue Legacy markedly different from other games. The most obvious is the fact that all of your heroes come with defective traits. Some have little effect other than causing a slight change in gameplay or visual, such as color blindness (it makes the screen go into black and white) or vertigo (this flips the screen upside down).Others though have more significant effects that can both hamper and boost your skills. Some might make you harder to kill while others make you faster, although it’s always important to keep the drawbacks of a particular trait in mind at all times.
There are also a variety of hidden extras scattered throughout the castle you will be exploring. These come in the form of treasures, easter eggs and nods to other games. It’s clear to see the effort and love poured into the game by Cellar Door Games when you come across a reference to Skyrim, Magic the Gathering and World of Warcraft.
Overall, Rogue Legacy is an incredibly challenging game that requires plenty of patience and skill to complete. However, thanks to a rewarding progression system, a variety in enemies and a host of humorous references and extras, it never becomes too frustrating. There’s also plenty of replay value thanks to a New Game + system and the fact that there is so much to explore and find. If you enjoy platformers and roguelikes, then Rogue Legacy is a game that you can’t afford to miss.
Rogue Legacy is available on the Xbox One to buy from today. It is priced at $14.99 / £11.99, although those with an Xbox Live Gold account can take advantage of 20% off for a limited time.
This review was based on a retail copy of the game that was provided by Cellar Door Games via an Xbox Live code.