Rogue Legacy 2 Early Access Review: Back at the Castle Gates
The original Rogue Legacy was a lovely little platforming roguelike perfect for both quick gaming sessions or longer, more intense dives. It released all the way back in 2013, however, and Cellar Door Games is finally back with a proper sequel in Rogue Legacy 2.
It's out now in Early Access and, even in its extremely early stages, certain aspects of it are very strong. The bones of the game are solid, even if much of the content is yet to be implemented.
If you want a difficult but fair platformer with some fun randomization aspects, Rogue Legacy 2 is a perfect fit, even if it's not dramatically different from the original.
Rogue Legacy 2 Early Access Review: Back at the Castle Gates
At its heart, Rogue Legacy 2 is an old-school, 2D platformer with roguelike aspects added on. You hop and slice your way through procedurally generated rooms, overcoming enemies and zipping between ledges over perilous spike traps. Your ultimate goal is to defeat the boss of each zone, eventually making your way into the final battle. Your immediate goal is to collect treasure.
Each time you die (and you will die a lot), you'll find yourself back at the castle entrance with all the gold you accumulated on your previous run. You'll use that to buy upgrades and equipment that will then be available on every subsequent run.
Eventually, your characters will become exponentially stronger, slicing up foes in a single swipe and laughing off damage that once sent your health bar plummeting. This will let you go even longer and further without dying, allowing you to buy even better upgrades for the next run.
It isn't just the levels that are randomly generated, either. At the start of each run, you'll have a few randomly generated characters to choose from, too. They aren't totally arbitrary, but aspects like their classes, spells and abilities, and traits are all drawn from a random pool of options.
The framing device for Rogue Legacy 2 is that each character is the heir to the previous one. This essentially means that you're sending an entire family tree through the wood chipper in a quest for gold and glory.
Positives and Negatives
The traits you can choose from are the lifeblood of Rogue Legacy 2, helping to shape each run from the onset. Some traits are inherently powerful and unlock special abilities. Some are funny, while others are simply cosmetic. Some are downright debilitating, and many of the extremely negative ones offer massive percentage increases to how much gold you accumulate. This makes every trait combination worth considering, as taking an underpowered character into the fray and still getting a decent run can reap huge benefits down the line.
The downside to this system is that some of the traits just... suck. There's one that throttles all your attacks and abilities with a really long cooldown. Unlike the fun "Pacifist" trait that makes you rethink the way you approach the game, this one just reduces everything to a slog.
There is also a pair of traits that makes either close or far away objects blurry, and it literally hurt my head to look at. After a few times of trying to struggle through, I wound up refusing to play a single run with a character who had either trait. Hopefully, these are aspects that get ironed out as the title moves through Early Access.
Just like the original game, Rogue Legacy 2's platforming feels very good. You can jump high and easily maneuver your character through obstacles and areas, but many of the rooms have dastardly fireball traps or inconveniently located spikes. Often, obstacles like these can be entirely ignored if you just want to work your way through the room, as there are tons of branching paths to follow and secrets to find.
However, since most runs are about gathering as much treasure as possible, you're going to be tempted by that treasure chest just past all those enemies.
Luckily, you've got a lot of tricks up your sleeve, too. As you progress through the game, you'll start to unlock new abilities, like an air dash and a Super Mario World-esque damage-dodging spin jump. When everything comes together with proper planning and execution, you'll fly through rooms like a sword-wielding pinball, slicing through enemies completely unscathed. Other times, something will go wrong immediately, and you'll be quickly sent packing back to the castle entrance.
Luckily, Rogue Legacy 2 is designed so these restarts are rarely frustrating, especially if you tend towards the challenge and bonus gold of those negative traits.
Work In Progress
Though the platforming in Rogue Legacy 2 feels like a solid upgrade over the original game, it is also symptomatic of the game's biggest flaw: it feels a little too similar. After just a few hours of Rogue Legacy 2, the lines began to blur to the point where it feels a bit more like Rogue Legacy 1.5 than a true sequel.
Part of that could be that the game is still in very early Early Access. For example, the developers ultimately hope to have five or six distinct "biomes" in the final game. As of right now, they have what they call "1.5 biomes."
The first is a pretty standard castle, which feels and looks very similar to the original area in the first game. The ".5 biome" has a unique look but not many unique enemies and the game offers a sneak peek at a third biome that is also unique. However, it's a bummer that the first area feels like a copy of the first world from the original Rogue Legacy.
There are tweaks throughout, but the classes, enemies, bonuses — everything — feels very, very similar to the first game. For some, that's not going to be an issue at all. However, if you already wore out your welcome in the original, you may want to hold off on Rogue Legacy 2 to see if the new content does anything to tickle your fancy.
Cellar Door Games says there will be major updates every couple of months or so (there's even a patch countdown indicator on the menu screen), and that they hope version 1.0 hits about a year from now.
Some folks love participating in the Early Access process, and Cellar Door Games has proven to be a savvy studio that listens to fan feedback and remains pretty transparent. However, don't buy Rogue Legacy 2 on its EA release date and hope for a complete game — there's a lot of stuff that isn't here yet.
Rogue Legacy 2 Early Access Review — The Bottom Line
- Rock-solid platforming
- Customizable difficulty through character traits
- Improves on many aspects that made the original good
- Feels a bit too similar to the original
- Content is lacking severely at the moment
I love the original Rogue Legacy, and the sequel feels great. If you just want more, and upgraded at that, then it's a slam dunk for you. However, if you're turned off by "unfinished," then you may want to hold out on this one.
It doesn't hide the fact that it's Early Access, but it is still extremely early on. We have no doubt that new content that makes its way into Rogue Legacy 2 will be high quality, but some gamers will definitely want to wait until a few more patches have come through.
[Note: Cellar Door Games provided the copy of Rogue Legacy 2 used in this Early Access review.]