Monday, August 4, 2014

Review: Rogue Legacy

Rogueing seems to be the most popular genre on the planet at the moment, and the positivity and hype behind this made it a day-one buy for me. What we have here is a fast-paced, RPG-lite, castle-stormer, where every time the hero dies, their offspring takes up the gauntlet. Different characters, each with a quirky ranges of characteristics, ailments or personal issues add to the variety, but once in the castle, its swords and spells out until your inevitable doom.

Lives might last a few seconds or a few minutes, depending on how the random level unfolds. If you run straight into a boss or a roomful of minor fiends on an early run, then you're toast, often literally. A few levels up the ladder of near-endless improvement and you'll have the extra health, armour and damage dealing capabilities to deal with most creatures. Then its down to your agility, reflexes and luck when it comes to staying alive in the platformer-like levels.

But, when was this ever a fun game mechanic? Die and go back to the start again? Even early arcade games started picking up from waypoints or where you last died. Rogue Legacy tries to jazz up the back-to-camp mechanics with the opportunity to reinvent your character, improve your Lord or Lady's statistics and equip them with new gear via the blacksmiths or a sorceress. It's clever, but not quite perfectly executed.

You can also keep going returning to the same level layout, for a price, so its not as big an issue as it could be. However, what isn't easily resolved is the waste. Your hard-earned cash gets tipped away, even if you are just a few coins short of an update, upgrade or charm. Eventually, you can limit the damage of even this crappy mechanic, but it seems a horrible waste, in these eco-friendly times.

Into the Rogue Legacy Lair

Where's the market or Inn (a star of practically all RPG or adventuring games) to pep you up with some cheap food or potions to keep you playing a little longer? It seems like a really obvious omission, perhaps an oversight, or a valid decision to keep up the reload rate? With it, the game would be awesome, instead it remains modestly fun, but slightly soulless and rat-trappish as you look for a big pay-day.

Treasure chests are the key to upgrading doling out decent sums of cash, templates for weapons or charms for spells. Find these and you feel a run is worthwhile, but you can easily crash through a number of offspring in having a good stretch. Beyond the castle are a forest, the misty Maya, an underworld and other mazes to liven up the quest.

Each plays host to one master demon or boss who must be destroyed to help open the main door to the throne room which you pass at the start of every level. Finding them is one task, defeating them is quite another, and its here where the ability to replay the same level comes in handy. Find a demon near a teleport or the start and you can grind through, learning the creature's moves and fire patterns to develop a winning strategy. I guess once you break into the throne room, something else will kill you and it'll be back to the start again.

I do appreciate the overarching theme of rebirth, enjoy that you can make characters fly, that dwarves can get into places giants cannot and the game's other tricks. Miners can find more gold, and other classes skill's all have their place in your tactical progression. Perhaps in the super-high levels, things become less brutal, but dying for the sake of progress somehow is deeply counter-intuitive. Even when the Lich class comes along, life never seems to get much easier.

On the plus side, the simple layers of progress are well done, the visuals are cute in their classic style and quirks like the Circus and Jukebox put a smile on your face, no matter how hard the going is. The final nark is the constant Cross-Save efforts on PSN, whenever you come back from the loo, it seems to have disconnected and takes a few second buggering about restoring itself.

Just a few fixes, and this would be a work of fiendish genius. Perhaps you can overlook the trouble I had with it, and add an extra point or two. Also, there's probably a perfect upgrade path listed on some spreadsheet for the PC version, if you want to save some effort. I suppose the key here is that I'm still playing it because I want to do better, and finish it off. But am I throwing my heart into it, like in Borderlands or the years spent in Diablo? Not quite.

Score 7/10
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Price: £9.99 (PSN, currently £7.99 for PS+)
Dev: Cellar Door Games
Progress: 40-something

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