Rogue Legacy 2: The Same But Better
Rogue Legacy quickly became one of the biggest indie hits of the decade when it was released in 2013. Cellar Door Games' roguelike paved the way for other games like The Binding of Isaac. So when a sequel was announced, it was much anticipated by many. Rogue Legacy 2 launched in Early Access in 2020 and has now seen a full release for PC and Xbox platforms.
The first game sees you play a character with random traits and abilities, traversing a dungeon that shifts with every run. Every time you die, you can choose between three new heirs to carry on the journey, although these undoubtedly have different skills or disadvantages. It makes every attempt at beating the game a very different experience and keeps the gameplay feeling fresh.
Rogue Legacy 2 is a continuation of this basic concept rather than a revolutionary step in a completely new direction. That’s great news for those who love its predecessor, but Rogue Legacy 2 has to prove that half-step is worthwhile. Fortunately, it manages to do so (for the most part) and does more than enough to justify itself in a crowded roguelike market.
Rogue Legacy Review: The Same But Better
The most basic gameplay in Rogue Legacy 2 will be familiar to anyone who played the original release. You again assume control of a hero who battles through a procedurally generated dungeon full of enemies. You collect treasure and explore the different areas along the way.
The goal is largely the same as well: defeat a series of bosses to unlock a door that leads to the final boss. You can again use gold accumulated during each run to unlock permanent upgrades, slowly improving heirs for subsequent runs.
You should expect to fail — fail a lot. Rogue Legacy 2 is not designed for you to quickly blast through the entire dungeon and reach the final boss as quickly as possible. Everything is out to kill you, whether it’s the horde of enemies, the pitfalls, or the traps that lie around every corner. Progress can be painfully slow at times, with dying just a few rooms into the first area being common.
Yet there’s always a sense of progress when playing. Rogue Legacy 2 has the uncanny knack of never causing any frustration. Sure, you might die quickly, but you can spend gold to improve your stats every time you get back to the hub. There’s no huge leap in terms of abilities, but the little improvements quickly add up and give you more and more confidence to tackle more formidable enemies and new locations.
The number of upgrades available might seem overwhelming at first, though they add some interesting new ways to improve and are pretty easy to understand.
Rogue Legacy 2 also gives its heroes both positive and negative traits like the first game. Gigantism makes you a much bigger target and can make it challenging to navigate tighter spaces, while vampirism provides some healing with every attack. This time around, there are lots of new traits, and all of them either give some advantage or drawback, although even the negative traits come with a gold boost to make them worthwhile.
So while Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, for example, might make fighting much harder because of the cooldown for attacks, it might be a good trade if you want to get a quick source of cash.
Similarly, there’s a greater range of classes to choose from. The sequel has 15 different types of heroes to unlock, and some of the new ones that have been added to the fray really mix things up. There’s now a ranger that can shoot arrows, a chef that can brew meals to heal themselves (and has a frying pan to deflect projectiles), a samurai-like ronin class, and a boxer. The variety of classes is one of the best features of Rogue Legacy 2, and the game rewards you for experimenting and trying out classes you might have reservations about at first.
Perhaps the most significant change in Rogue Legacy 2 is the inclusion of a spin kick. Platforming has been given a greater role in the sequel, and the spin kick is essential. It allows you to bounce off enemies and obstacles without taking damage, opening up new ways to move around. Mastering the spin kick is important to avoid damage and reach areas that would otherwise be inaccessible.
Feeding into this are the hidden heirlooms scattered in each of the seven areas. These provide you with new special abilities that are permanently unlocked. One of the first is the ability to dash while in the air; others let you double jump or use the spin kick on incorporeal items. Unlocking them often involves taking part in a difficult platforming challenge, putting everything you have learned to the test, adding yet another dimension to the game.
One of the best additions is a new host of options known as House Rules. These allow you to shake up some of the mechanics. They can involve relatively simple things like reducing enemy attacks or increasing strength to more complex changes that can turn off contact damage when you run into monsters and make platforming easier through a flight toggle.
While experienced players will likely not touch House Rules that much, it's a great accessibility tool for those who are not as confident or familiar with roguelikes, ensuring people of all skill levels can find some enjoyment from Rogue Legacy 2.
Rogue Legacy 2 is a vast improvement in presentation over its predecessor. While it has a similar style, the pixelated graphics of the original are thrown aside for a more pleasing hand-drawn look. This has given the developer more scope for exploring traits such as Synesthesia, which shoots vibrant colors onto the screen. It also allows the more varied locations to shine and be more distinctive; each area has its own atmosphere. The new art style is certainly a big improvement in that respect.
Rogue Legacy 2 Review — The Bottom Line
- The same great gameplay with lots of improvements and additions.
- Great art style that ditches the pixelated visuals.
- Bigger variations in classes, traits, and abilities.
- House rules and new game mechanics are welcome inclusions.
- No way to look back at what each hero achieved.
- Some things are not explained perfectly.
Ultimately, anyone who played and enjoyed the original Rogue Legacy is going to love this sequel just as much if not more. Everything that made the first game so great is here, though it is all bigger and better than ever before.
With a host of new classes, traits, and abilities along with some welcome changes to gameplay mechanics, Rogue Legacy 2 is everything you'd want in a sequel and one of the best roguelikes available.
[Note: Cellar Door Games provided the copy of Rogue Legacy 2 used for this review.]