Rogue Legacy came fairly early in the life cycle of the eighth generation of consoles. It offered charming accessibility with a large progression system and a sense of replayability. It was just what was needed out of the indie market while triple-A studios got used to the tech in front of them. It didn’t really do much to optimise the new hardware but it also didn’t need to. It had its niche and I’m confident many players look upon it fondly – even some five years on today. Retrospectively, this brings us to an important question – “Was Rogue Legacy as great as we think, or did it just come at a good time?”
The answer is yes, Rogue Legacy is still great.
Rogue Legacy has a simple yet incredibly charming mix of old and new school art. It feels like an HD version of pixel art and this works very well. It retains the charm of old games without the blockiness or lack of clarity, and both items and enemies are clear and well-defined; something which is an absolute must for games where you can die very quickly. It needs to feel punishing but not unfair. Dying, before learning for the next time, is the best way of organically teaching you the ropes. If you die from undefined objects, you have nothing to learn from, thus it feels cheap.
This moves us to the combat, and in Rogue Legacy this doesn’t have a huge amount of depth, but it is well-designed to feed you new controls, allowing you to learn how it works. You start with nothing but movement, an attack, and possibly a spell. These can be changed to include more spells and attacks but should you so wish you can also add a dash feature, a double jump or a floating mechanic for when you fall. This often drastically changes the way you deal with combat. The addition of a dash or two might make you more comfortable with a “run and gun” style combat. This is heightened by the fact the shoulder buttons work as a directional dash; rather than pointing in a direction to dash, you can move the opposite way you are looking, pushing the skill ceiling up another floor.
This is something Rogue Legacy plays with well. There’s consistently some goal or boss that’s just a little bit out of your depth and so it encourages you to go back in and learn how to overcome it. This is made even greater by optional bosses later on. As well as your standard bosses, there are those you can take on with certain gear and a specific level, meaning the only thing stopping you from beating it is you and your lack of skills.
Rogue Legacy also has multiple upgrade systems. Most kills (and the destruction of some furniture) will net you gold and the majority, if not all, of that which you net throughout a run is lost when you take on another run – you are encouraged to spend as much of it as you can. The things you can spend that gold on range from permanent upgrades to your character to new equipment, whilst the upgrades move from more health, more carry weight, or less gold taken off of you for starting new runs. The equipment on the other hand tends to affect your abilities. Different pieces of armour might give you a dash or double jump feature. There’s a nice back and forth between these two categories as you level up your equipment load to justify having heavier armour.
This is all made even better with its character system. In most rogue-like titles, your base character is always the same, making the very start of each run very similar. Rogue Legacy is not most rogue-likes. When you die on your run, your actual character dies and you then take on the form of their sire, hence “Rogue Legacy”. This brings along with it the typical differences like stats and spells, but also strange differences like IBS and dwarfism. These small little traits work well to personify the characters.
This, in a nutshell, is what works so well. Rogue Legacy just oozes charm, from the characters, to the design to the art style. Every run is filled with small differences and makes you latch onto this weird family tree of characters. The fact that it came out, originally, almost a decade ago – before launching on Xbox One in 2015 – and still manages to capture the hearts of players is a testament to what this small team of nostalgic devs could accomplish. It’s fair to say they made a legacy.
If you haven’t yet played Rogue Legacy on Xbox One then head on over to the Xbox Store and make a start. It’ll only set you back £11.99.