Back in 2013, Cellar Door Games knocked it out of the park with one of the better roguelike action-platformers of its day in Rogue Legacy. The game challenged players to explore a series of randomly generated dungeons as much as they could before dying. The twist is that once you die, you don’t pick up the same character, but instead pick up control of an heir in a growing pile of corpses on each descent into Rogue Legacy’s punishing depths. In 2020, Rogue Legacy 2 has picked up the roguelike mantle and aims to move it forward meaningfully. The game is only in Steam Early Access right now, but the foundation is in place for another fantastic journey of lineage-driven action-platform gameplay.
Dastardly dungeons that will do you dirty
The grand scheme of Rogue Legacy 2 is quite similar to its predecessor. As a knight, you enter an ever-randomized dungeon to pillage its rewards, fight its enemies, and go as far as you can go to defeat the boss of a given realm. In Rogue Legacy 2, this is improved upon in several ways. The first and most obvious is insight. Throughout each dungeon you can discover story bits painting a picture of what’s going on, but also relating to that particular biome’s secrets. It might tell you where a fake wall is hidden, about a secret treasure and the abilities it can grant, or even provide you with clues to the boss of the biome. Both the extra story context and clues are a great addition to the usual romp through dungeons, especially since sometimes you need certain items to decipher various insight and clues.
On the character-oriented side of things, the biggest change is the revamp of classes. In the first game, there were classes with different attributes, but you were still pretty much aesthetically the same knight with their sword running about with different abilities. The classes in Rogue Legacy 2 are vastly functionally different. The regular knight returns with sword, shield, and various magic and genetic attributes depending on the heir at hand. That said, you can unlock new classes that each have their own attack style. The Ranger can fire arrows and summon platforms into existence for instant high ground fighting. Meanwhile, the Barbarian features an axe, a slow attack on the ground, a spinning multi-hit attack in the air, and a temporary enemy-freezing shout, all combined to create big damage. Only Knights, Rangers, Mages, and Barbarians were available in our run, but it’s so cool to see classes so improved.
You’ll have to bring your A-game to win over the dungeons in any form. The roguelike factor of Rogue Legacy was downright mean in the first game and it isn’t any more forgiving in Rogue Legacy 2. Every ounce of health lost is a crucial bit of life you’ll probably wish you had further down the line. Thankfully, permanent improvements return where when you die you can take any gold you collected and spend it on upgrades like attack, defense, magic, and the aforementioned unlocking of classes. You can also unlock a blacksmith who will let you craft and equip weapons from blueprints found and an enchantress who will let you equip runes you discover with special abilities like restored HP per kill. Throughout the dungeon you can also find Heirlooms that give you permanent special abilities like the dash if you can complete a Heirloom's associated challenge, which is a great new way to introduce a crucial function of mobility from the original alongside other unique upgrades.
Put on some fresh new genes
One of the most interesting aspects of Rogue Legacy was how it handled death. Instead of playing one character and making them stronger, once your current character is dead, you choose a new one from a randomly generated set of three heirs. Each heir can have a number of genetic traits both bad, good, and benign. Tunnel-vision could obscure much of the view high above and below your character while ADHD might cause your hero to move faster. Meanwhile, Nostalgia coats the gameplay screen in Game Boy-esque green and black-toned pixilation - more of a quirky one than bad or good.
The same is true in Rogue Legacy 2 with many traits returning, alongside some fun new ones. You could get your hands on a feather-boned trail that causes your character to float slowly down after a jump or fall. You could also get Super IBS (more potent than the original IBS which is also here), which replaces any hero skill with a large, explosive, and deadly fart. A fun benign one makes your character and enemies you encounter leave a color trail behind like funky streamers. These new and returning traits mixed with the new class system make randomized heirs in Rogue Legacy more fun than ever. I found it interesting to discover each quirk and figure out what fit my classes best, or intentionally take on challenging traits with the offer of bonus gold gained for selecting them.
Accelerated lineage made better
At the time of this writing, Rogue Legacy 2 only had 4 classes, one and a half dunegons, and one boss ready to play, but I’m rather happy with how it’s shaping up. Cellar Door Games has taken the best and sometimes frustrating parts of the original Rogue Legacy and improved upon almost all of them pretty thoughtfully. With a final launch slated for early 2021 and plenty of updates including new classes, dungeon biomes, bosses, enemies, and more planned every couple months on the way, I’m happy to keep soaring up the family tree in anticipation of what adventure lies ahead. Want to know more or play for yourself? You can currently find Rogue Legacy 2 in early access on Steam.
TJ Denzer posted a new article, Rogue Legacy 2 hands-on preview: The family cemetery runneth over
It's really good so far, fundamentals are great but it's very light on content. Not really great for replayability the way that other roguelites are, since there's so much emphasis on permanent progression same as the first one. I think it's a "wait for 1.0" game for most people.
It is early access, though , of course. More content can be expected.
But I think there is actually a fair place in games for non-infinitely replayable rogelikes. Ones that you can keep grinding to advance the metagame that at some point you "complete" that and thus you "win", and all that's left are high score tables and daily runs, baring DLC updates to the game. If that's a good strong 20-40 hrs or so of game, and for ~$20-25, hey great.
Yeah, so far they're talking two months apart for major updates and minor updates with new stuff, fixes and balance in between. It won't be long before we see a lot more come to the game.