A Breath of Fresh Heir – Analyzing The Potential Of Rogue Legacy

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The permanent death of a character is an idea that’s recently taken hold of my imagination. To invest your efforts into a digital avatar only to have them fall in their prime is a daunting experience. It’s tense, rage-inducing and often painfully unfair, but when things go to plan you’d be surprised at the camaraderie forged between player and pixels.

Shamefully, the notion of ‘roguelikes’ (a subgenre defined by permadeath and level randomization) is something that seemed to slip me by entirely. I may have dipped my toes into FTL and Spelunky, but I’d lost characters long before that, and I’d lost them in places you might not think.

The ‘Nuzlocke’ challenge within the traditional Pokémon RPGs involves – amongst other things – the permanent release of a Pokémon whenever it’s forced to faint. No pomp, no ceremony, if it faints it’s gone and you should have trained harder. The potential of losing my battle-hardened critters led to some of the most intense Poké-battling this side of Sinnoh, and it’s an ideal that I’ve chased ever since.

This is where Cellar Door Games enter the bargain. Although normally found stalking Kongregate and Newgrounds (delivering such games as Don’t Shit Your Pants and I Have 1 Day) the team at Cellar Door have a new title waiting in the gaming purgatory of Steam’s Greenlight service. The randomly generated 2D platformer, Rogue Legacy, looks to scratch my character loss itch, and do so in such a unique and interesting manner that it’s worth a few seconds of your time just to check out.

Unlike many of its roguelike brethren, Rogue Legacy does not fully adopt the notion of the player characters’ permanent death. Instead, it employs what it dubs as a ‘rogue-lite’ approach. If the character you’re controlling dies then that character is gone for good, but with their death the torch is passed on down the line of adventurer ancestry. So instead of a sharp kick back to square one you continue on in the shoes of your original characters offspring.

Now here’s where things get really interesting. Each character born has the chance of assuming one of ‘a ton of unique traits.’ Such traits include dyslexia (making it harder to read signs), gigantism (making your character larger), dwarfism (making your character smaller), and colour-blindness (sapping the game of all colour).

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As well as these peculiar traits you can also mix up your characters by taking on a range of different classes. First up there’s the Knight, which we can assume will be the standard damage-soaking brick shithouse normally granted that moniker. Then we have the Assassin who looks to confuse foes by darting in and out of invisibility. Finally there’s the Shinobi, a class that seems to be focused on short bursts of teleporting speed. The Greenlight page itself lists a grand total of nine different classes to choose from. Couple this with the procedurally generated levels spawning a new castle with every life and it seems impossible that any two playthroughs will feel the same.

The gameplay looks to take inspiration from a wealth of 2D classics but an obvious candidate for key influence looks to be the Castlevania franchise. Many of the enemy designs wouldn’t look out of place within Symphony of the Night or Aria of Sorrow: flaming skulls belch fireballs while shambling skeletons throw bones in a very Castlevania fashion. The player must track down secrets and utilise secondary items to topple some fiendish traps. With all that in mind, I wouldn’t be surprised if we were expected to crack out a Belmont-style whipping festival on a fanged monstrosity in the castle’s final room.

The problem with an open service like Greenlight is that it produces an experience similar to panning for gold in a well-used sewer system. And yet, Rogue Legacy looks to be one of those rare glimmers of brilliance floating among a stinky torrent of zombie-themed muck. It employs a unique idea and situates it an environment that channels some of the heavyweights of 2D gaming. I’m definitely extending my digital thumb in support. So why not show them some love on their Greenlight page? With a little luck we can all look forward a future laced with flatulent knights and colour-blind assassins

Want to see Rogue Legacy on Steam? Get on their Greenlight page and let’s make it happen: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=136969358

  • Adam Brown

    A beautiful assessment of a game that sends a shiver of excitement up my spine the more I hear about it. Hopefully it will get a large following as the game is done, and is just banking on fans greenlighting it. For you, I give a hear, hear! Here’s to all the gay dwarf knights and I.B.S. OCD mage’s to come!