Friday, 19 July 2013

Rogue Legacy (PC)

rogue legacy title screen pc
Today I feel compelled by fate to take a quick look at genealogical Rogue-lite Rogue Legacy (not to be confused with PlayStation 2 JRPG Rogue Galaxy, which is something presumably very different.)

All I know about this game is that it's supposed to be ridiculously difficult and that someone thought it was worth gifting a copy to me just so they could watch me suffer, so I imagine this is mostly going to be screenshots of me getting my ass kicked on the first level and crying.

Though you won't actually see the crying part show up in the screenshots.

The game as it turns out is actually a platformer, not a top down roguelike like you might expect, and it starts with a brief tutorial to get the basics out of the way. Nice of it to teach me how to walk before it expects me to run (figuratively speaking)

Okay I get that I'm supposed to press 'X' to attack, but uh... there's no monsters here. I'll need something to hit first before I can get my violence on. Wait, you don't suppose it wants me to kill the King do you? The final lesson is how to commit regicide?

With the prologue tutorial over with I'm given a brand new hero (with a face this time) and dumped in front of a castle. Well if there's anything I've learned from the Castlevania series, it's that nothing but pain awaits anyone dumb enough to cross an ominous video game drawbridge. But look at my hero marching around with his sword held high, he's so damn stoked to get in there and start slashing at things. He'd be gutted if I didn't at least pop inside and cut up a couple of skeletons.

Well this place looks cosy, and surprisingly well lit. Which is good because the castle gate just slammed shut behind me, sealing me inside. The giant yellow door in the background is also firmly closed, but that's probably for the best as I'm assuming it leads to the final boss. It definitely has a aura of finality about it.

Man, this room looks really familiar somehow, like I've been here before in another game. Even the way I can crack the candles open for coins is giving me deja-vu. Wait, I think I know what it might be reminding me of...

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PSX)
There is no way that Rogue Legacy didn't take some inspiration from Symphony of the Night or its many sequels. Even the way I crack open candles to collect the treasure within is similar, though in Castlevania they drop hearts to fuel my special weapon instead of coins to fill my bank account.

Rogue Legacy is slicker than Symphony though and I'm able to get around a lot faster; it doesn't feel as sluggish or heavy.

Oh wait, maybe it's not Symphony I was thinking of at all. Perhaps I was actually thinking it looked like the castle in Superfrog...

Superfrog (Amiga)
Hmm, I suppose I do have the game's froggy background music looping around in my head right now. It seems I'll never truly be free of the Superfrog soundtrack.

But how does Rogue Legacy compare to Superfrog? Who even cares?

There's an open door on the right of the entrance hallway I'm in and I'm going through it.

Holy shit, I'd only poked my head inside for two seconds before it was nearly taken clean off by a stream of bullets targeted right where I was standing. I can't even see what's shooting at me from here!

This room sucks, I'm going back to the entrance!

Yeah, I'm not going back in there. No chance. Though it is the only possible place I can go, so that does kind of limits my options.

My minimap shows that the room is surrounded by three other exits, so maybe I can run in, quickly drop down, then escape out through one of the other doors at the bottom before the blood tear bullets can even catch up.

If that map on the back wall shows how the castle is laid out and those dots by the name refer to the difficulty level, then I'll want to be heading right towards the forest and absolutely positively not down and to the left.

Oh shit oh shit, it just stripped away all my health in seconds! I've only got 10 hp left and it's the second room in the bloody castle. I need to get the fuck out of here fast, and that door on the bottom left is seeming incredibly inviting right now.

Oh good it's those skeletons from Castlevania that like to throw pieces of their own corpse at you and they've got friends. Well I'm fucked.

Still, I had a good run I think: I made it three rooms into the castle and earned 20 coins.

And so ends the adventures of Sir Lee, the Feeble Knight. He's permanently dead now, but it's okay, as one of his kids can return to the castle and have another go at it themselves.

I've got three characters to choose from here, each with a different randomly generated class, trait and spell combination. Like Lady Blair here has the Dwarfism trait, which gives her a disadvantage when it comes to getting onto rollercoasters, but presumably also gives her the benefit of being really hard to hit.

I started off back outside the castle again and this time decided to see what was over to the left side of the screen. Turns out that there's not a lot over here right now, though there might later be if I can raise enough coin to pay for it. I've inherited all the cash that Sir Lee raised on his run (somehow), so I just need to get hold of another 30 gold and I've got myself access to phat loot.

Uh, what the fuck? Can you get out of my way mate, I'd like to raid the castle.

It seems that Charon (the mythological ferryman of the dead himself) has decided to charge in advance these days, seeing as death is pretty much certain for anyone who steps inside the castle. And the toll is... every bit of cash I have on me. I don't just mean he charges 20 gold, I mean he strips you of every bit of cash you have in your account and leaves you absolutely penniless.

So it seems that if I want to buy anything from the shop, I'll have to raise all the cash I need in a single trip. Bummer.

This time around though I plan to kick ass. My current character only has half the health of the unfortunate Sir Lee, but he's called Sir Hero and has an amazing beard, so I don't really see how I can fail here.

That's interesting, I can see all the stats of of the enemies on screen when the game's paused, which kind of gives away the fact that the painting over there is going to try to murder me at some point.

Also, this is an entirely different room than last time I was here (there's no eyeball spraying bullets at me for one thing.) It seems that this is your standard auto-restructuring chaotic demon castle, just like Drac's place in the Castlevania games, except I skip ahead to the next arrangement each death so I get an entirely different procedurally generated layout every time I visit.

And then I managed to get surprised by the evil painting anyway, then finished off by a targeted fireball attack from off screen. Sir Hero's final score: two rooms into the castle and 10 gold in the bank. At this rate I'll get my next dude killed in the entrance hallway.

My next hero barely made it any further before being caught in a bullet hell ice shard attack by a bloke in a cloak, though he did earn a massive 240 gold along the way from a hidden treasure chest, so I can finally unlock the blacksmith now.

Unlocking the blacksmith dropped a tower on my lawn, bringing with it fantastic new purchasing opportunities! Funnily enough they're all about upgrading character classes and increasing health rather than buying weapons like you'd expect from a blacksmith. Every new item I buy expands the catalogue, so I'm getting one of everything while the money lasts. No point saving any of it.

Oh there's the blacksmith, sitting out here in the rain. My character has slots for a weapon, helmet, armour, bracers and a cape, but sadly I've already spent all my cash so I can't buy any of them. I'll need to find blueprints in the castle before he'll have anything good to sell me anyway.

Annoyingly everything he has to sell has a weight to it, so I also have to keep paying to upgrade my carrying capacity if I have any ambitions of equipping decent gear.

A Fairy Chest Challenge room, huh? Well I am curious what amazing treasures I'd find in that chest, but there's no way I'd ever make it across without taking gruesome spike damage. These green things can only be opened into platforms by performing a down-attack stabbing move at the exact right moment in the exact right place, and I've consistently messed up the timing every other time I've encountered them.

The game defaults to making me press down and attack together to activate the down-attack move, which seems sensible enough but makes it even more of a pain in the ass to get right in action. Fortunately there's an option to make it so that pulling down alone is enough to trigger it, which works so much better I have to wonder why the other option even exists. I'm still not dumb enough to actually attempt this though.


SEVERAL TRAGIC LOSSES AND TWO CHARACTER UPGRADES LATER.


I've finally made enough progress with my level 5 character to learn that these pedastals on the floor are actually Castlevania: Symphony of the Night style teleporters that let me warp to any teleporter room I've already visited. (Level 5 meaning I've bought 5 upgrades, there's no XP in this).

In fact this game is a Metroidvania style game all over, though there is one big difference I've noticed: the enemies stay dead when I kill them, at least until my dude's untimely death and the arrival of his heir. So it is possible to make large areas of the castle safe to travel through.

Treasure! Fantastic amazing treasure! I'll be getting some good upgrades with this. Well, my descendant will anyway. None of the genetic traits actually carry over to the next generation, but all of my purchased upgrades will be inherited.

I've got a pretty good idea where that door up there in the background leads, and I want none of it. Because I am a coward. Also I'm having trouble just holding my own against regular enemies right now and I'm not exactly at full health; a boss fight would destroy me instantly.

Wait, it costs 360 gold just to upgrade my health now? Surely there's some mistake, that was only 120 gold a second ago. Oh no, I've just figured it out; every purchase I make here raises the price of EVERYTHING in the manor. That's horrifying, why would they even do that?

At least I get to keep the items I buy, unlike the money, so I have a real incentive to spend everything I have before re-entering the castle. But if I spend the last of my cash on cheap upgrades, that just pushes the expensive upgrades even further out of reach. It's a cruel cruel system.


SEVERAL LEVELS LATER.


I'm starting to get my head around this now I reckon. Things got a bit 'bullet hell' back at the start, but it turns out those guys I ran into were actually rare special enemies. Most of this castle is a lot more manageable, especially now I've learned what each enemy type here does.

Okay that purple star thing is a stationary turret firing off bullets at a constant rate, so if I'm mindful of it and don't blindly throw myself in its line of fire I'll do okay. The red mage on the other hand is an immediate threat as he's targeting me directly with three fireballs at a time. So I need to dodge the fireballs, run forward and take out the star turret, then close the remaining distance on the mage and take him out as well before he starts firing again. Hopefully they won't take more than a couple of swipes each or else I'll need to move my ass elsewhere before it gets set on fire.

And then finally  there's the rubbish knight, which just stomps around being useless, attacking any hero careless enough to get in his range. I might try taking him out with a few of those bloody down-attacks on his head once the others are dead, as I really need to practice the timing.

Of course once I take a few steps forward the screen might scroll across to reveal one of those ice mages, who shoots off icicles in a circle, or a spearman who fires a wave forward along the ground, and then I'll just have to adapt on the fly. Either way my main priority here is to avoid getting killed by the rubbish knight, as that'd just be embarrassing, and it only takes a few mistakes to end a run.


FOUR UPGRADES LATER.


I thought I'd go check out what was down in the ultra dangerous dungeon, seeing as I'm a badass and all now. I mean there must be some awesome treasure down here right? And I need to bring back hundreds each trip now or else I've just wasted my time.

What I found was variations on the same enemies I've been fighting up to this point, only with supercharged attacks and way more health. They can take off over a fifth of my health with every hit and I can barely scratch them! Even if I was skillful enough to last more than 10 seconds down here, it doesn't seem like I'd have much fun killing any of these guys with my current gear.


LATER.


No enemies in this room, I just have to get my ass over to the chest without killing myself on the spikes lining every wall. Would've been easier if I didn't have the trait that makes me gigantic...

...meanwhile the dwarf trait lets me run through secret passages in the walls like this! Well that was entirely pointless. Man, I've been seeing these passages everywhere around while I'm regular sized, and they usually lead off to some kind of treasure I can never get to. Now I actually have the ability to get through the tunnels I'm finding nothing. Typical.

The website claims that "Every time you play you get a little stronger. Never back to square 1." which is kind of misleading as it makes it sound that even a shitty run will get you an upgrade, when it actually requires a fair bit of skill to survive long enough to scavenge the amount of cash required during a trip. If you aren't getting better at playing the game you can't just grind to success.


LATER.


rogue legacy vertigo trait upside down screen
Now I have the dwarf and vertigo traits, and I'm fighting a pair of super charged minibosses! Joy.

It doesn't actually get bullet hell like this as much as I've made it seem; most of the floating wizards I've found only fire off a few easily dodged projectiles and they're easily dealt with as long as I don't take on too many at once and get overwhelmed by projectiles. Each of the enemies seems really well designed actually, with predictable behaviour and visual and audio tells to indicate when an attack is coming. This means I can hear bullets coming in from off screen, and they've even given me little markers on the edge of my vision to let me know from which direction they coming. Plus I can see a reasonable distance around me so I've a fair chance to dodge and with my new movement upgrades I'm actually fairly good at it.

Oh plus did I mention I've got magic attacks of my own? I barely use them so I keep forgetting they're there, but I've got Castlevania style special attacks powered by mana. Though like my health  the mana comes in a very limited supply and the enemies don't drop refills.

You know, I can't turn this off until I go get a picture of that boss, so I should probably stop screwing around and just get it over with.


HOURS LATER.


Rogue Legacy Khidr boss
That's the second biggest eyeball boss I've ever seen!

Of course this guy would turn out to be a giant version of the eyeball that shoots blood teardrops at me, who else but my oldest nemesis would be facing me behind the boss door? Luckily it's easy enough to learn his routine and dodge his bullet attacks as long as you're not entirely inept, then you just hack away at him in the moments in between.

Unfortunately I am entirely inept, so he kicked my ass in about 10 seconds. Still, I took off a good third of his life there! So with some quick maths I can calculate that... 100 levels from now I'll be tough enough to permanently damage his eyesight.

Rogue Legacy game over
Lady Faye II says it better than I could.

Still, I actually slayed a good few enemies that time. The trick to it seems to be to equip gear that gives a tiny bit of health back per kill. It's the only real way to support a lengthy run in this place, as the castle is really stingy with the health items.

Well I could turn the game off now, but I think I'll make one last run. Just one.


BUT THEN...


Rogue Legacy clown carnival tent challenge
What the fuck? How did this guy make it so deep into the castle and survive for so long?

I bet you're the real last boss aren't you? I bet you'll be waiting for me behind that big yellow door ready to spray waves of deadly custard pies my way.

Actually I've figured out your game mate, you're the guy running the shop outside aren't you? Raising the prices just a little bit more with every purchase until I need to bring back hundreds, and then later thousands of coins each trip just to upgrade my carrying capacity very slightly and equip the next sword. You weren't happy with just killing off one hero were you? You wanted to kill off entire generations of them.

The game started off in the year 760AD... it's 3013 right now, a full millennium into our future. If my maths are right that means that around 75 of my heroes have fallen so far, and hundreds more will fall before this castle is beaten. But I'm not going to fall for his schemes any more, I'm ending this right now, by walking away.


So what did I think about Rogue Legacy? Well it was fighting an uphill battle from the start to impress me as 'ultra-difficult', 'no lives' and 'perma-death' aren't features I generally look for in a video game, but the challenge isn't actually unreasonable once you've collected a few upgrades, and as they carry over so each new character is basically just an extra life for the last, just with a different class and traits. So it's actually more like a procedurally generated Castlevania game in practice, and the castle can even be locked down to prevent it from changing. You don't even have to finish all the bosses in one insanely badass run, as once they're dead they stay dead forever (until new game+ that is).

To be honest, the hardest struggle I've had in the game so far is turning the damn thing off. I'm hopelessly addicted to it right now. Gotta keep trying to get a little further to get just that little bit more money and grab the next upgrade.

The game is a whole bunch of good game design decisions tied together with imagination, dumb jokes, excellent controls and great presentation. Consider it recommended if anything about it seems even slightly appealing to you.

    


And just as suddenly as it began, the writing stopped. But if you want to add some more of your own text underneath and share your opinions on the game, my writing, this site etc. then you're welcome to leave a comment in the comment box.

5 comments:

  1. I HAAAAAAAAAAATE THIS GAME ITS JUST AWWWWWWWWWWWWWFUL!!!

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  2. Honestly I like this game it's almost like crack in the from of video game.

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  3. Looks fun! Thanks for the review.

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  4. I really liked this game (it ended up being the first game I've played on Steam that I ended up getting all the achievements for).

    I like your reviewing style as well.

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  5. The moment I saw that first screenshot I thought "Hang on, that looks like Superfrog. I think Superfrog may be some sort of incurable experience virus; no one can forget it.

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