Review: Lead your heirs through the devilishly hard Rogue Legacy

The roguelike genre, which tests players' patience with intense difficulty and dungeon exploration, is now being turned on its head. Cellar Door Games innovated the genre by fusing it with an action platformer. The end result is something incredibly addicting that will have you both invested and cursing at its mere existence. Welcome to Rogue Legacy.

At first glance, you might mistake Rogue Legacy for a Castlevania clone. In fact, those two share a lot of similarities. It features 2D exploration with similar map layouts, where you're fighting various monsters and undead beasts with your weapon and magical skill. It's platforming bliss, as you jump, dodge and fight your way through multiple floors. It's when you dig deeper into the game, though, that you start to realize how many complex layers there are to its gameplay, and yet it hides this complexity beneath a completely approachable aesthetic. The walking animation alone will have you grinning from ear to ear.

However, Rogue Legacy functions just as a roguelike and, as such, possesses the same high level of difficulty you come to expect from the genre. After your character's inevitable death, you'll be able to choose from three prospective children to carry on your legacy and to then explore a completely new castle that's randomized. The catch is, these children can either come with various stat boosts or some truly funny deficiencies.

Rogue Legacy

Your next character can suffer from dwarfism, making them tiny and susceptible to knockbacks, or be colorblind and play out their life in black and white. Don't even get me started on vertigo, where you play entirely upside-down. Your offspring can even suffer from IBS, which will make them randomly let out a fart, or perhaps have Tourette's and spout some $#@! while whacking away at enemies. It's a hilarious premise that will oftentimes have you experimenting with various combinations just to see the effect, even if it's just for laughs.

But choosing your heir is also tied to their class. Barbarians will have much more health but weaker attacks, Shinobi are extremely agile and have high attack damage but are easily slain, and Mages have a high mana pool, allowing them to use their spells more often. It won't make sense to stick to a single class, as some are better at dispatching bosses with their increased armor, while others can clear a room with a single hit thanks to high damage. It'll take careful consideration for which one you'll take next, though even that's a game of chance since the class is tied down as a random stat for all future characters.

And sometimes the game will just offer up three children that are all Mages; the choice is easy there.

Rogue Legacy

Trust me when I say the game is hard. Sometimes, the lifetime of a single character can be mere minutes, if not seconds. The enemies are ruthless, and studying their attack patterns is the ultimate key to success. To help you get increasingly better, any gold acquired from your run can then be used to purchase various upgrades for your lineage's castle, which incidentally levels them up and unlocks new classes. You will also be able to invest your gold to the Blacksmith for better equipment, an Enchantress for runes to enable skills like double jumping or dashing, and a character that can lock the previous castle's layout, letting you further explore its intricacies and unearth more treasure. The catch is that you only get 70% gold that way.

Replaying the game, constantly getting better at reading enemy patterns, and raising your base stats are the keys to success. Don't let the adorably retro aesthetic fool you here; Rogue Legacy is a hardcore game down to its roots, one that you'll inevitably pour hours upon hours into. Just try not to throw your controller at the wall.