The Amazing & Astonishing RPS Advent Calendar: Day 12

By RPS on December 12th, 2013 at 10:00 am.

Here it comes, with its lazy eye and its gammy leg. Take a seat before you do yourself an injury, you poor thing. Sit down and do what you so love to do – tell us about your family.

It’s Rogue Legacy!

Alec:

Can I be a little bit of a party-pooper for a minute? Not full pooping, mind. Just part-pooping. Demi-pooping. Fractional-pooping. “Pooping.”

Okay – I think Rogue Legacy is throwaway. I don’t think it can hold the slightest candle to Spelunky or The Binding Of Isaac, games I go back to and back to and back to and back to and back to and back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to. Rogue Legacy was just one weekend.

A great weekend, for sure, starring the poppiest, most accessible take on roguelikelikes (no, I don’t have a better name for them, and no I am not faintly interested in arguing about etymology) I’ve played yet. I don’t say ‘throwaway’ as a negative. We need throwaway too, because most of the world doesn’t want to be streaming their perfect Spelunky runs. Rogue Legacy features just as much failure, but it doesn’t require much learning, it’s straight in and then straight back in come the swiftly-following death, and it has clear, covetable, achievable permanent upgrades (paging Dr Skinner, as I’m very much aware I seem to be doing in every other article lately) to strive for and quickly achieve, to keep pushing you on to play, as opposed to Spelunky’s more nebulous, more personal goal: be better, get further, work harder, feel better.

It’s an easy* good time, and while it’s at least as death-prevalent as its peers, it doesn’t have quite the same punitive quality. That’s why I’m fond of it – when the question is ‘do you want to have a good time?’ rather than ‘do you want to test yourself?’ Rogue Legacy is there for me. The random remixing of mechanics and abilities as your hapless descendants suffer assorted deviations, minor and major, keeps its blade from dulling too. Appropriately, this is a Christmas Cracker of a game – I’ll always have a pretty good sense of what to expect when I pull it apart, and while full belly laughs are unlikely, a smile and a gentle surprise is always guaranteed.

* I don’t mean by this that the game is easy, because it isn’t, particularly. However you can jump right into the thick of it without difficulty.

John:

I’m no good at Spelunky. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy Spelunky – I’ve sunk a considerable amount of time into it, and even so only reached the third world once, which lasted for about 14 seconds. But I’m good at Rogue Legacy.

I think the main reason is that it lets me be good at it. Legacy’s progression, letting you incrementally improve the available skills of your infinite progeny, breaks all the rules of its apparent genre, and in doing so creates something fantastic.

But that’s not to say easy. In fact, the game is peculiar for being far harder at the start than it is a good few hours in. The first few runs will be pretty futile, just a chance to gather enough cash to boost some stats, until you can be stable enough to get farther. Then you become THE KING OF THE GAME until the first time you step into a second realm. And then you realise just how much work you still have to do.

I read recently that some, when faced with a choice of three offspring they don’t like the look of, will deliberately kill a character straight away to get another choice. Dirty, dirty people. A huge part of the fun of this is the suicide run with the weakly character, seeing how much gold you can scoop up before popping off. What a waste, to just kill a child like that!

I also love it for its breeziness. It’s so light-hearted, packed with silly jokes, and lovely and chunky. There’s no darkness, no brooding furrowed foreheads, and it’s all too rarely that you can celebrate that. Also, farts! If you can select a character without IBS, then you’re a far worse person than me.

Adam:

If I read the back of box – front of digital store page? – description of Rogue Legacy, I’d imagine it to be a far looser game than it actually is. Superficially, it belongs to the same school as Spelunky, the upcoming Catacomb Kids and a host of other semi-randomised perma-death platformers. Where it differs, from Spelunky at least, is that it presents the business of jumping, running and trap avoidance as a primary skill to master.

Because every room is hand-designed, your little character is facing individually crafted challenges rather than mad libbing a solution to some terrible dilemma with only a skull and an unfortunate pug to hand. Some rooms will thwart you a thousand times, causing you to turn back and check another part of the castle as soon as you enter them. I normally prefer my platformers to be fast and flowing, more Rayman than Meat Boy, but Rogue Legacy’s compact levels, armies of spikes and approach toward the foothills of Bullet Hell had me enthralled for a week.

It’s a properly devious platformer and unlike its more varied brethren, Legacy provides the satisfaction of mastering a specific room, knowing that you’ll be able to twitch your way through it whenever it’s encountered again. It’s a game about solutions and progress rather than creating stories about the time you accidentally blew yourself up, fell through a hole in the ground and bounced into a spike trap.

I think the deliberate construction of the rooms probably tickles the puzzle centre of the brain like a man scratching a Basset Hound’s belly, which may be why it appeals to clever clogs John so strongly. The improvised anarchy of other roguelite platformers is somewhat missing. Before I played, I thought the generational traits would be Legacy’s stand-out feature, but it’s the relative tightness of the structure, in levelling as well as levels, that holds the game together. When I finally beat it – and that was before I beat Spelunky – I felt like I’d climbed a mountain. Mighty.

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47 Comments »

  1. Meat Circus says:

    I remember an angry NeoGAF thread that the gay trait has no meaningful effect on the game’s mechanics.

    I agree with the above, though. Fun as it is, it doesn’t show a fraction of the emergent complexity of your Spelunky.

    And I’m deeply sceptical of the value of a progression system in Roguelikelikes whose nature is anything other than practice makes perfect.

    • realitysconcierge says:

      I believe they switch the food and mana given to you from the statues.

      • Meat Circus says:

        Switches the sex of the statues, doesn’t it? So a lesbirogue will have female statues in her castle.

        • lowprices says:

          I’m actually slightly saddened by the news that the gay trait has any effect. I thought it was just in as a nice little comment.

          Highly enjoyable game regardless, but, as others have said, it hasn’t held my attention like Spelunky. Or Risk of Rain, as it happens.

        • The First Door says:

          I believe it switches which of the statues gives you what thing, food or mana. Also, it might change the ending? But I’ve never got there, so I have no idea…

    • SominiTheCommenter says:

      Like the racism slider on Ben There, Dan That?

    • sandineyes says:

      At first, I was afraid to pick a character with the ‘Gay’ trait. I was worried it was all some horrible joke, and that they wouldn’t produce any offspring, thus ending the game when they died.

  2. realitysconcierge says:

    I think the ability to jump in for a quick jaunt and the skinner box effect has kept me coming back to it to date. I just jumped into the new game plus and man was I in for a surprise. It was like going from 8th to 9th grade!
    Also, I was really sad while RPS was down.

  3. noom says:

    I had a similar experience with Rogue Legacy. Loved it for a week, then uninstalled it and didn’t think about it again; the attic and basement areas just proved too frustrating for me to really make any progress in. Great fun while it lasted though.

  4. MuscleHorse says:

    It’s fun up until the point you realise that it’s just another grind. There’s no real skill or ability you learn as you play – just ever increasing numbers. On another note, while nothing wrong with them in general, there’s something quite bland about the artwork that just feels dreary.

    • Oozo says:

      I think that the permanent updates are a problem in another sense as well: In BoI, Spelunky or (to a lesser degree) even FTL, your luck can change. Maybe not at every moment, but there is always a chance of you getting an item that could turn a miserable run into the final run that makes you beat the game.

      There is no such thing in Rogue Legacy, and how could there be? Being lucky to get a combination that makes the game a breeze is acceptable as long as it is very rare. As soon as the updates are permanent, though, it’s a wholly different story. So all the can give you are, after the first wave of new classes unlocked, very, very small updates. It’s why I lost interest in the game: There was no chance left that one simple run would change everything and lead me to exciting new places, or items. It just turned into a slog.

  5. huldu says:

    I’ve had a similar experience with spelunky, isaac and rogue. You play them for a little bit, a few hours, then you’ve *played* them for life. I just don’t find any of them very interesting at all. I’m not saying they’re bad games but they’re nothing I’d waste days or weeks playing, that’s for sure.

    • Baboonanza says:

      The attraction of Spelunky and Isaac is a combination of exploration and improvement. It really is a great feeling to get good enough at a game like Spelunky to actually beat it, and then you have even harder challenges available.

    • mouton says:

      Isaac kept more for over hundred hours and would keep me more, had I not stopped myself forcibly.

  6. Baboonanza says:

    I’m not sure this would even be on my list to be honest, it was addictive for a short time but once you realise it’s essentially a grind for to get your stats up to beat the bosses it loses all it’s charm.

    The key problem for me is the dungeon itself, there just isn’t enough interesting randomness involved. It doesn’t have the interesting mutations that change game mechanics like The Binding Of Isaac or deep risk-reward calculations and clever level layout of Spelunky. All the ‘random’ dungeons are layed out in roughly the same way and are constructed from a limited set of room templates.

    I wouldn’t even call it a roguelikelike. The only things it has in common with a roguelike is the random dungeons that aren’t very random and permadeath that isn’t permadeath at all.

    • Philotic Symmetrist says:

      I think I’ll include my rant in support of your comment; my rant might get lonely otherwise.

      It’s not a Roguelikelike; no I don’t care about sticking to every High Value Factor of the Berlin interpretation, it’s just that it really doesn’t have even a semblance of permadeath. Dying leads to levelling up, buying gear and resetting basic enemies (not bosses), it has the same effect as resting at a bonfire in Dark Souls combined with a shop.

      This.is.not.permadeath.

      If the term roguelike becomes accepted as referring to the genre that it is currently used to describe then at that time Rogue Legacy could be called a Roguelikelike (though Roguelite would always be a better fit for Rogue Legacy) but currently roguelikelike is used to describe games which many of us feel should simply be called roguelike.

      There may be a way for a game to be a roguelike without true permadeath (if the equipment was temporary like I initially thought it would be that would be a start) but this is not that game; there just isn’t any significance or consequence to failure (and there is no in-run progress either).

      Edit: this isn’t a comment about the quality of Rogue Legacy at all, I actually rather enjoyed Rogue Legacy; I reached New Game+4 or +5 I think.

  7. Jams O'Donnell says:

    I super want to play Rogue Legacy, but it’s really not the kind of game I seem to find time for on the PC any more. Apparently a Vita version in the works though and it seems ideal commute fare. I’ll get that version!

  8. aoanla says:

    To be honest, I have entirely the opposite feelings on Rogue Legacy v Spelunky to Alec.

    Rogue Legacy has a brief period where you feel like you’re suddenly “a lot more powerful”, sure, but you also (at least I did) end up with a horribly frustrating period soon after where everything is too expensive for you to buy with the money you can pick up on a haul. That feels considerably more punitive than Spelunky’s mechanic because, although it reduces to the same effect as Spelunky (you have to replay with “the same benefits” each time), Rogue Legacy is showing you stuff you could have bought in addition. (Plus, I felt like I reached a skill plateau with Rogue Legacy at some point, which contributed to the above problem, while with Spelunky I can usually see one or other thing I’ve slightly improved on over each attempt.)

    • MellowKrogoth says:

      I had the same experience, my progress slowed down to a crawl suddenly, probably my skill ceiling. I guess it’s also because at that point of the game you’re supposed to start locking the layout of the castle to farm a particularly lucrative castle, or until you have a character with the right abilities to pass a certain high-reward room.

    • kalirion says:

      The biggest wall I came across was when I beat the final boss and reached NewGame+. Suddenly my badass genes couldn’t even make it to the first boss…

      Through perseverance and a lot of running past monsters, I managed to get to NewGame+2. Oops.

  9. Gassalasca says:

    I absolutely agree with John. Spelunky and Binding of Isaac couldn’t hold me longer than a couple of days; Rogue Legacy had me going back to it.

  10. jingies says:

    I played this for a while, maybe a week or two, before I hit a massive plateau; after a while I simply wasn’t good enough to get enough gold on a run to afford any meaningful improvements and what gold I did acquire was mostly thrown away at the start of the next run.

    Enjoyed it, but didn’t go back after the first flushes of love departed.

  11. Bluerps says:

    I don’t like Isaac that much, because the mountains of poo and mutilated babies put me off, but I like both Rogue Legacy and Spelunky a lot. I think I’m more likely to go back to Spelunky, but I can’t say if that is because I actually like it more, or if that is because I started playing it only recently so that it is more present in my mind right now.

    • Shieldmaiden says:

      I have the same problem with Isaac. I find the look of the game incompatible with the roguelike gameplay. I don’t want to go and play more of it, it’s unpleasant and ugly (as in what is being depicted, not the quality of the art) and it significantly impacts my enjoyment of it.

      • Philotic Symmetrist says:

        Ditto; Binding of Isaac just makes me feel somewhat uncomfortable. And something I find really frustrating with that is that if it had a different art direction (same quality of art though, I like the style but not the theme or the technique not the style…I hope you get what I’m trying to say) then it would be a brilliant game to show to friends (and younger gamers) but as it is it’s not really the sort of thing I’d want to show to anyone.

    • The First Door says:

      I much prefer Rogue Legacy to The Binding of Issac and it isn’t just because of the things you mentioned. I got genuinely annoyed at how bad the control scheme felt in Issac (although I’m sure plenty will disagree). It felt like an artificially limited twin stick shooter to me and I often felt like I died because of the controls rather than because I did something silly, which instantly kills that sort of game for me.

  12. Capt. Eduardo del Mango says:

    I enjoyed Rogue Legacy immensely. I have no desire to go back to it now I’ve finished but I’m more than happy with the 14 hours I got out of it.

    I’m hopeless at platformers – Spelunky’s apparent difficulty has put me off trying it, but the ‘legacy’ mechanic makes Rogue Legacy much more accessible. It’s easy to get to grips with, the challenges in the game telegraph their intent fairly obviously and aren’t too underhand, and that legacy mechanic lets you try, try and try again. I get the impression that it’s pretty ‘lite’ for a Rogue-like(-like-like) but for someone like me it’s perfect.

    Further it’s incredibly charming and I’m massively amused by the concept of the traits system.

    If you can tackle Spelunky or Super Meat Boy then Rogue Legacy might be a bit beneath you, but for a novice like myself it was perfectly pitched and I greatly enjoyed the time I spent with it.

    • aoanla says:

      I dunno, I don’t consider myself particularly gifted at platformers either, but I found Rogue Legacy felt harder than Spelunky.
      In fact, one of the reasons I dropped Rogue Legacy was because it ended up feeling like I couldn’t improve enough to make more progress in it, while I’ve never reached that point of plateau at any point in Spelunky…

      (What I’m saying is: you’re probably good enough at platformers to play Spelunky too!)

    • MarkB says:

      The great thing about Spelunky is that you fucking up horribly is fun ad you can respawn almost immediately. So while you are terrible at first you can just keep playing and having fun and then suddenly you are pretty good. (Then you get to the next world and you are terrible all over again and the cycle of life continues).

  13. Lambchops says:

    I’m with Alec on this, I enjoyed it (I ploughed more than a weekend into it – despite not completing it due to being too inept to defeat the Tower boss) but it doesn’t have the same lasting appeal as Spelunky or BoI (at least before it bloated itself with too many add ons) and becomes a grind rather than a constantly challenging experience that you keep returning to. I sincerely doubt I’ll play it again.

    Still well worth getting, very entertaining until you’ve had your fill and up there in my game of the year list.

  14. derbefrier says:

    Love this game though I haven’t even managed to kill the second boss yet. I do play it fairly casually. I honestly didn’t like spelunky that much and kinda regret that purchase. Speaking of metriodvania type games I recently discovered a little gem called Valdis: Abyssal City. Its pretty fantastic and I highly reccomend it if you like those types of games.

  15. Fenix says:

    Allow me to mirror Alec’s Meer’s opinion on this game. I enjoyed it a lot, but it never was Binding of Isaac to me. It was fun while it lasted, but it didn’t last as long as I expect a Roguelilke to last. Also, the platforms you had to activate by stabbing downwards mid-air were the WORST.

    • Lambchops says:

      I’d erased those horrible platforms from my memory (fortunately once you’ve got a few upgrades there’s only a few rooms where you are forced to use the damn things). Terrible mechanic that.

  16. zaphod42 says:

    Alec, how does it feel to be so wrong?

    I’ve logged more hours of Rogue Legacy than even other AAA games that were released this year. Its just so… FUN. There’s no BS linear story to get in the way and slow you down, just constant amazing action.

    Maybe its not your kind of thing, maybe you didn’t like Symphony of the Night. But this is the best Castlevania game that’s been released in a decade.

    • MarkB says:

      Hmm I just posted my anti-Rogue Legacy rant, finishing off with declaring pretty much any Castlevania game to be superior and then I see your post calling it the best Castlevania game in a decade. I think we may be required by law to have an internet fight.

  17. MarkB says:

    I remember being insanely excited for this game. Then I found out that everything that sounded great in theory was pretty crap in practice. Alot of people have pointed out that the game requires grinding for upgrades, which is not very fun and bogs the game down. That’s pretty bad already but when you factor in that most of the upgrades are thoroughly boring (+3% damage?! Awesome!) and yet semi-necessary for progression things get pretty miserable. On top of that the randomization makes boring worlds, the children system generally just prevents you from playing the way you want and the combat and platforming is just not very fun compared to the competitors.

    It is more accessible than games like Spelunky, but there are better accessible games in the genre, like pretty much any Castlevania game. (Semi-related PSA. Buy Volgarr the Viking, it’s the best 2D side-scroller I’ve played in a while and it’s on sale, not very accessible though)

  18. Vinraith says:

    Rogue Legacy struck me as a neat progression system in need of a much better game.

  19. Mman says:

    The problem I had in the end is that it basically has no endgame; after you new game+ a couple of times and have most of the upgrades the game just makes enemies spit more shit at you until it gets nigh-unavoidable, so it becomes a platformer bullet-hell without any mechanics tailored for that, and the high-hp classes become the best hands-down. The game needed the enemies or levels to require way more strategy or something, rather than just making enemies bigger with harder to dodge projectiles.

  20. ain says:

    Ugh, terrible game.

  21. Urthman says:

    Weirdly, I found the squeaking that the character’s armor makes when walking intolerable, like fingernails on a blackboard. It’s the only time a sound effect has ruined a game for me.

  22. EOT says:

    I’m incredibly shit at RL. I played about six hours over two different save files and fairly quickly hit a skill wall whereby I would be unable to make any progress because I would never be able to afford the next upgrade.

    I also felt there there was some really odd latency in the controls, especially when attacking, that really spoiled my enjoyment of it (though I’ve heard that massively increasing the deadzone on the left stick on your controller makes the movement more satisfying).

    I’m not sure whether I’m just mad cuz’ I’m bad but I’ve put 30 hours into The Binding of Isaac never getting further than The Depths 1 meaning that I’ve nver even gotten to Mom, nevermind beaten her, but still feel that I could get better, and could beat her. But RL leaves me feeling completely worn down.

    Tl;Dr I suck at games.

  23. PopeRatzo says:

    I get the joke, now can you please start the real advent calendar?

  24. Deadly Sinner says:

    My only problem was that there isn’t enough variables (traits, rooms, special items, etc.) to get me through the whole game. I’ve played for about 10 hours, and I have seen almost everything many, many times. Contrast that to Binding of Isaac, where I’ve played about 50 hours and I haven’t seen everything. I can clear the rooms easily in Rogue Legacy, it’s just the boss fights that I have to grind for.

  25. Philotic Symmetrist says:

    “Where it differs, from Spelunky at least, is that it presents the business of jumping, running and trap avoidance as a primary skill to master.”

    So jumping, running and trap avoidance is not the primary skill in Spelunky?

    ummm….what???

  26. fish99 says:

    I picked this up about the same time as Spelunky and just after beating Super Meat Boy, and …. unfortunately it didn’t compare well. The combat has no weight, and the movement doesn’t have that dynamic feel and momentum those other two games have. Spelunky is also much more exciting because every game is different and it gives you lots of options, constantly weighing up risk versus rewards.

    Also in Spelunky and Meat Boy, you only beat those games by getting better yourself, not by leveling your character.

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