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Before I was drowning in roguelikes like the greedy fat kid in Willy Wonka’s chocolate river, even before I gave classics like Spelunky and The Binding of Isaac a chance, the original Rogue Legacy was one of the first roguelikes I ever played. It introduced me to the genre, and I remember having a great deal of fun with it, and it has since been lauded as a shining example of the genre done right. However, since it first came out in 2013, there has been a massive influx of excellent roguelikes, each one innovating on the last and bringing something new and compelling to the table.

It’s real!!

7 years later, can Rogue Legacy 2 stand its ground and maintain its ‘legacy’ as a top-tier roguelike? Or will it be outshined by it’s younger siblings? Unfortunately, we won’t know until it’s full release in like a year’s time, but let’s see what it offers so far, in the Early Access version.

A Legacy To Uphold

Gotta carry on the suicidal family legacy I suppose

For the uninitiated, the original Rogue Legacy blew up in popularity thanks to its ingeniously fun gameplay hook – the trait system. What this basically means is that each time you die in the game, you get to choose from 3 of the dead guy’s successors, each a different class and possessing unique traits from the others. These wildly impactful traits made each run exciting and discovering new ones constantly kept you going back to the game no matter how many members of this tragic suicidal family tree you’ve gotten killed. But we’ll get to the gameplay later.

First off, the visual overhaul is obvious. From the pixel art style graphics of the original, Cellar Door Games have moved on to a more sleek and sexy 2.5D art style this time around, and it definitely shows. The visual polish gives an old suit of armor a fresh coat of paint and makes the game a real treat to watch, even for backseat gamers.

U Can’t Touch This

Both the clean UI and the map design are easy on the eyes, the animations are smooth and satisfying and the character/enemy designs are more adorable than ever. Though some may prefer the original pixel art style, there’s no doubt that there’s been a ton of effort put into making Rogue Legacy 2 as pretty as it can be and in my eyes, it definitely is a significant improvement over its predecessor.

The music is decent and serves the gameplay well, but it’s not really memorable. For me personally – no disrespect to the composers – music in roguelikes is definitely the least important aspect since I usually turn it way down and listen to Spotify instead anyway.

Now that the visuals and sound are out of the way, and there’s not much of a story to speak of (though the devs have said they want to take it seriously), let’s get to what matters: the gameplay.

Same-Same, But Different

Archer ftw
Eenie meenie miney Archer!

Rogue Legacy was known for its genealogical aspect, and obviously, that’s still the main hook of the game this time around. Currently, there are 4 classes to choose from: the Knight, the Archer, the Mage, and the Barbarian. The Knight is a balanced melee character, perfect for first-timers. The Barbarian has more health than the Knight, but can be a slightly riskier choice as they can only attack while standing still.

The Mage is probably my least favorite character and in my opinion, the most useless one to be honest. Though mid-range and with a huge mana pool, Mages are very squishy and hard to play as especially at the start of the game. I found myself struggling to aim with the mid-range attack and dying far too quickly. Besides, every other class can use spells too, and the mana potions aren’t all that rare so it almost feels like every class is a bit of a mage anyway, making the Mage class itself redundant and ineffective.

The Archer is by far my favorite class, and I’d argue, objectively the most fun to play. It’s extremely satisfying to massacre everyone in the room with your long-ranged attack, staying away from danger, and archers have a unique ability to create temporary platforms in thin air – so you can make your own high ground. Obi-Wan would be proud!

Plus, it’s just more fun to play, as it requires you to manually aim at the enemies, rather than just go close and mash X like the melee characters and this extra level of player engagement definitely makes the gameplay more compelling.

I’m disappointed to say that most of the classes play a bit too similar for my taste. Looking at something like Hades, where the weapon you choose significantly changes gameplay while still remaining incredibly fun, Rogue Legacy falters in this department. Maybe it’s just a matter of preference but as I said, the Knight and Barbarian play too similarly and just aren’t super fun, the mage is just redundant, and the only fun class is the Archer.

The Gamble of Traits

Rogue Legacy 2
Oh nice Gandhi is in this.

Getting to what the franchise is known for – the traits. They may be good or bad, but are consistently interesting and change gameplay in a very significant way. From nearsightedness to dying in one hit, being colorblind or just blinded by nostalgia, to having vertigo that flips the screen so you have to play upside down, there’s a nice selection of unique traits – 40-something of them to be precise – on offer in the current version of the game.

Why even bother choosing to play as someone with a miserable trait you ask? Well for one, because it’s fun and challenging- learn to live a little homie. And two, because $$$. The more disadvantageous a particular trait is, the more bonus gold you will be awarded at the end of a run. Dying in just one hit seems like a stupid trait to go for, but the +150% gold does seem pretty darn tempting doesn’t it?

However, a lot of the traits seem to be rehashed from the original, and in my time so far, I haven’t run into anything new, super crazy that made me want to gush about it to everyone else like I used to with the original.

Still better than Bird Box

Let’s not forget though, this is still in Early Access, so this could change in time, and I have little doubt that it will. The devs promise to add more traits, abilities, and even whole new classes! Here’s hoping the Mage receives an overhaul too.

Speaking of content yet to be added to the game, it’s important to note that this game is in early, Early Access. there’s currently only one biome that’s fully playable. What’s currently there will only take you a few hours to get through – I’ve explored the first biome completely and have unlocked almost everything in the upgrade tree in about 6 hours of gameplay.

Heirlooms and NPCs

Rogue Legacy 2
A happier Barbarian you’ll never find

What I loved most about Rogue Legacy 2 is the new heirloom system. As you explore the castle, you’ll come across heirlooms which, upon successfully completing a challenging level, will grant you an ability. The first one you get will likely be the dash, and I highly recommend you get this as early as possible because it makes the game twice as fun, and allows you to explore more of the castle. As someone who enjoys fast gameplay and a focus on constantly being on the move, I honestly wish the dash was just included by default at the start of the game, but hey, the challenge level was fun enough that I didn’t mind having to work for it.

In addition to the castle upgrade system of the original – which allows you to spend your now-dead predecessor’s gold to unlock new classes, more health, armor, etc. – there are also 2 NPCs in the game now – a blacksmith and an enchantress. The blacksmith provides better equipment if you find the blueprints for him, which increases your defense and attack, while the enchantress upgrades the runes you may find.

Rogue Legacy 2
Oh that’s where they must be hiding all the content

In most other roguelikes, like UnderMine for example, (psst check out our review) there’s a progression system that makes it so that each run no matter how bad, gets you an amount of gold that you can use which makes each run worth it. Rogue Legacy 2 seems to be a slightly more hardcore (or at least, frustrating) game in this aspect. It’s important to note that this will of course change at the full release, but as it now stands, it’s not super great. You get so little gold in the beginning few runs, you’re forced to grind runs, super short ones because you die after a handful of rooms as your health is just that low.

Early Access Impression

Rogue Legacy 2
The no. 1 tourist destination!

In its current state, ‘Rogue Legacy 1.5’ is a more appropriate title. It’s more of the same, but prettier, with NPCs and heirlooms. If you’re unsure that you’ll enjoy it, there’s no harm in waiting a couple of months for some more content. What’s that? You wanna get it anyway? I don’t blame you: more of the same is certainly not a bad thing in this case.

For those like me who really loved the original and have been waiting for a sequel for 7 years, willing to get in on the ground floor and potentially even be responsible for whole traits and classes in the game, Rogue Legacy 2 is a no-brainer. Rogue Legacy is back with a solid foundation and more potential than ever, and I for one welcome it with open arms.

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