Guest Author - James Shea
A super-difficult dungeon-crawling action game, "Rogue Legacy" offers a twist on the usual "lives" system - when a character dies, they are instead replaced by a descendant.
"Rogue Legacy" is a "roguelike Metroidvania", which in non-gamer speak essentially boils down to "it's a 2d action-RPG with random maps and character death". You play as not one character, but instead an entire lineage - dedicated to conquering a mysterious magical castle even as it claims dozens of your line. You play as a character, delving as far into the dungeon as you can, gathering gold, and defeating bosses.
When you die (and you will - the game is monumentally difficult), your descendant picks up the reins. You are allowed to choose from three potential candidates, each with their own name, class, secondary weapon and characteristics. The gold acquired by your character is used to upgrade your family estate, which provides ongoing bonuses to all of your characters such as improved health, strength, etc as well as new abilities and classes. However, the castle also magically rearranges itself between visits (though you can stop this by paying out some of your gold before you enter).
The random characteristics that descendants can have are all "medical" in nature - unnecessarily so, in fact. Simple labels like "speedy", "small", or "large" would have sufficed, but the game instead chooses to use "OCD", "dwarfism" and "gigantism" for no real reason. This is not an objection to the use of "big words", but instead to the trivialization of those issues that it represents. In any case, the traits can provide benefits (stronger, faster, tougher, able to remember where everything is on the map) and downsides (blurry vision, colorblindness, backwards weapon usage). In some cases all your choices will be less-than-optimal and you'll simply have to do as well as you can with that character before they die. In general, death is inevitable - every hit your character takes will be difficult to undo, as healing items are rare and finite. Most of the time you're simply trying to earn as much money as you can in order to buy upgrades on the outside.
In general, "Rogue Legacy" is a well-made but frustrating game. The idea behind it is good, but the legacy system basically amounts to "random characters when you die". The game handles decently, but not great, which isn't quite good enough when dealing with pixel-perfect difficulty requirements. The graphics are charming and stylized, although there's some difficulty with regards to hitboxes (i.e. where on an enemy counts as "contact"). It's a neat and addictive game, but its format means you can basically pick it up, play a life, and then stop when you're done. In general it's well-made, but its difficulty means that it's not recommended for anyone who's not willing to put up with an immense amount of frustration.
We purchased this game with our own funds in order to do this review.