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Rogue Legacy 2 review: A rich bloodline forged in the fires of failure

Cellar Door Games has infused even more delight into its rogue-lite adventure of generations with the official launch of Rogue Legacy 2.

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Rogue Legacy did a lot of things very well. It helped to establish a unique style of rogue-lite action-platforming and did it with a very lighthearted and fun medieval fantasy-fiction style. So how does Rogue Legacy 2 top that? More of pretty much everything. This sequel action platformer to the beloved Rogue Legacy packs in a wealth of enjoyable additions to the formula to make its hard-as-nails quest another delightful generational rogue-lite adventure.

A fallen kingdom waiting to be pillaged

In Rogue Legacy 2, you play a family that has struck an accord. Your powers, riches, and glory will be passed down to your children at some mysteriously terrible cost. In turn, you set out to explore the kingdom of Agartha, searching for treasures within and challenging its many enemies and bosses to combat as you unravel its secrets. One of the more interesting aspects is that the story doesn’t end when you are done with the supposed final boss. No, a more sinister secret awaits in New Game + quests, along with modifiers that make the challenge even more harrowing. In this way, the game has a pretty incredible amount of replayabillity in both its gameplay and narrative.

The most notable returning factor to Rogue Legacy 2 is that you will die. A lot. However, with each death, you choose an heir to carry on the adventure. Players of the first game will remember how classes and traits were selectable from among the heirs, giving new characters interesting ways to play and either boons or burdens to carry. Rogue Legacy 2 expands heavily upon both.

This game features up to 15 unlockable classes and they’re mostly fantastically different from one another. The ranger fires arrows and can create ivy platforms to dodge pitfalls and make unique firing perches from which it can give its arrows special exploding poison effects. Meanwhile, the boxer can attack with normal attacks and upper cuts, building up a combo meter that gives them crits. Then, they can let loose with a haymaker that does damage based on their combo stacks for potent damage. I think my favorite was the bard. They fire out music notes with each normal attack that hang in the air. Then they can spin kick off those notes to make them blast out area-of-effect damage in a sort of dancing mechanic.

Each class is pretty fun and brings interesting gameplay elements to the board, though by the time you unlock all of them, some of the early ones like the regular knight feel dull by comparison. Add randomized spells that are applicable across each class and you get play styles that will change with each new step into the kingdom. That’s not even including the fact that inside the kingdom are hidden relics that can further augment your abilities with special traits like high critical rates on basic attacks or being able to stand on spikes. Each relic takes some resolve from you as well, which can decrease your overall health, so there’s a decent risk/reward system of bonuses there.

Speaking of risk/reward, there’s also the traits. Rogue Legacy 2 adds a ton of new traits to the game, both good and bad. You can have a Cartographer trait that gives you a full layout of the randomized levels at the cost of not being able to see where you are in the map. You can also be a Vegan, making meat that would normally cure you instead hurt you greatly. You could also just have Dwarfism and be a very smol cute little warrior guy. The difference here besides having more traits to explore is that Rogue Legacy 2 greatly incentivizes taking a character with bad traits by attaching a gold bonus to them. The worse the trait, the higher percentage of gold you will get with each pickup of loot. It's a very cool system that makes exploring mostly funny, but sometimes dire traits far more palpable and often majorly rewarding.

A quest of inches

Battling your way through Rogue Legacy 2 is a metroidvania affair. Each biome has secrets to explore and a narrative in regards to the monsters, situation, and boss that runs the roost, all polished up in a gorgeous new art style. It’s always randomized when you die, so you likely won’t discover all the secrets in one run. Moreover, some of the levels can’t be completed without certain special items called Heirlooms that add to the Metroidvania style. Finding these Heirlooms unlocks special abilities like air dashing or being able to hear the words of spirit orbs scattered about. When you get them, they are attached to you permanently across deaths, allowing you to do more with your heroes no matter who they are. Guiding it all is a bopping little soundtrack that is fun to listen to depending on whatever biome you’re in.

There are also ways to take the randomness out of Rogue Legacy 2 and ensure you don’t have to start from scratch each time. Normally, when you die, you have to start at the first biome and work your way through a randomized layout again. However, with certain bonuses you get on your quest, you can eventually unlock the ability to keep a map layout the same or make it so teleporters throughout the biomes you’d normally have to find to activate are just always activated and ready for your use right from the get-go.This lets you skip going through the first biome and get right back to whichever one you left off at with ease. It's also a fantastic bonus as opposed to just having to work your way through each area all the time.

Of course, these bonuses feel all the more important when you consider the fact that Rogue Legacy 2 is just plain hard and mean sometimes. Because everything is often randomized on each run, some rooms and the enemies therein just feel plain unfair and can cut an otherwise fine run to ribbons in a jiffy. I felt disheartened more than once by having a great run, only to end up in a room full of spikes and specialized enemies putting out bullet hell attacks to turn my once hearty warrior into cooked Swiss cheese. That meant going back to the beginning, picking a new heir, and taking the gold I had to improve my camp and unlock bonuses like new classes, extra health, and other boons. Then I put myself back together and tried again because I’m no quitter.

That said, don’t feel bad if you don't have my stubborn patience. I won’t judge you, and neither will Rogue Legacy 2. The game features an entire accessibility menu built for those who don’t want to be pummeled to a pulp relentlessly. We’re talking about options that increase player health, reduce enemy damage, allow players to have more gold, or even fly through difficult platforming sections, just to name a few options. Of course, the game suggests that you finish a playthrough before you access these difficulty-adjusting options, but it absolutely does not keep you from them, which is great for players of all skill types and patience. I really think this is a neat addition that will allow more players to see what Rogue Legacy 2 has to offer without getting entirely frustrated or overwhelmed.

The future is in your hands

The original Rogue Legacy was an incredible step forward for rogue-lite games. It helped to establish a lot of cool elements that games after it would mimic in many ways. I wouldn’t say Rogue Legacy 2 reinvents the wheel here. Instead, it polishes that wheel to a sheen, gives it fresh treads, some fancy spinners, and makes it an all-around better version of the wheel we knew and loved. If you loved the first Rogue Legacy, then Rogue Legacy 2 is very likely to capture your heart as well. If you’re jumping into this series for the first time at Rogue Legacy 2, you’re in for one of the most fleshed out, fun, and varied rogue-lite action-platformers that the genre has to offer.


This review is based on a digital PC copy of the game supplied by the publisher. Rogue Legacy 2 comes out on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC via Steam and the Epic Games Store on April 28, 2022.

Senior News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player and writer with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. He found his way to the Shacknews roster in late 2019 and has worked his way to Senior News Editor since. Between news coverage, he also aides notably in livestream projects like the indie game-focused Indie-licious, the Shacknews Stimulus Games, and the Shacknews Dump. You can reach him at tj.denzer@shacknews.com and also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

Review for
Rogue Legacy 2
9
Pros
  • All new varied biomes full of story and secrets
  • Excellently improved art style
  • 15 character classes to play
  • Bad trait gold bonuses provide great risk/reward
  • Fleshed out New Game +
  • Accessibility menu allows for massive difficulty adjustment
  • Solid soundtrack
Cons
  • Some early classes feel dull
  • Randomization can kill a run fast
From The Chatty
  • reply
    April 28, 2022 10:00 AM

    TJ Denzer posted a new article, Rogue Legacy 2 review: A rich bloodline forged in the fires of failure

    • Zek legacy 10 years
      reply
      April 28, 2022 12:37 PM

      I've been playing EA for a long time and it's really good! Kind of wish I could start from scratch since they've rebalanced so much and I'm almost maxed out. Maybe I will.

    • reply
      April 28, 2022 1:38 PM

      Whoa sweet, Ive had this for a while in my library but never played it, looks like they made great progress from early access

    • reply
      April 28, 2022 1:45 PM

      Damn no PS5/Switch version? :(

    • reply
      April 28, 2022 5:43 PM

      Conan how well does this run on the deck? If you have it

      • reply
        April 28, 2022 5:44 PM

        Reddit says it runs really well

      • reply
        April 28, 2022 10:28 PM

        It's basically perfect. It auto-set everything to the right res and good video quality, and the controls just work.

    • reply
      April 28, 2022 10:27 PM

      I've already put 28 hours into it including early access. And like 10 hours this week on the Steam deck.

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