Somewhere between a roguelike and a traditional action platformer, Rogue Legacy takes all the staples of the newly popularised roguelike genre and combines it with more accessible and somewhat forgiving mechanics to create an experience that, while hard as nails, doesn’t feel quite so fiendishly unfair as some of its more decidedly unforgiving compatriots.
For those unfamiliar with the genre, roguelikes are traditionally characterised by high difficulty, permanent death and procedural level generation – all of which are present and accounted for here. The big difference in Rogue Legacy is that, not only does it play like a side-scrolling action platformer (and a very good one at that), but it also allows the passing on of your collected gold and progressions to your heir who, in family tradition, takes up the same quest, only with additional knowledge and items obtained from the last run.
What truly sets Rogue Legacy apart from its peers though, and has subsequently provided the mainstream success that so often alludes games in this genre, is the random traits that accompany each subsequent heir. Rather than being nothing more than a slightly upgraded version of their father, your playable offspring can come with any number of positive and negative ailments that help to keep repeat play from becoming overtly stale.
Despite the need to replay the same four areas over and over again, each run, thanks in large to said ailments, always feel decidedly unique. Whether it be ADHD, which imbues your heir with extra speed or colour blindness, that sees the game play out in black and white, each new character trait, while not necessarily hugely effecting on the gameplay, does ensure that the experience doesn’t descend into the realm of unrelenting grindyness.
Your new character could have little more than irritable bowel syndrome, but even the sight (and sound) of your new hero farting his away across the stage does have a way of ensuring that death, while inevitably annoying, does at least come with potential benefits.
Of course, as is the genre tradition, the procedurally generated stages also assist in alleviating any sense of potential repetition, and in this case, really outline the strength of the core mechanics. It may well be a simple game on paper whose controls consist of little more than jump, attack and a basic magic ability, but this is an incredibly tight game that, despite randomly generated stages, always feels suitable for the platforming required…..well, nearly always anyway.
Beyond the unique character traits and a selection of character classes to choose from, collectible blueprints that unlock new weapons and abilities ensure that you feel considerably more prepared for the not inconsiderable challenge that awaits each time you start your quest anew. Death will often come quickly and without warning, but with the gold collected allowing you to upgrade your abilities for the next run through, Rogue Legacy does a better job than most of encouraging consistent progression. Honestly, if you let it, Cellar Door’s fantastically brutal adventure can turn into something of an obsession. Consider yourself warned.
Rather than ever feeling hard for the sake of being hard, Rogue Legacy stands as an enjoyably challenging experience that, thanks to its solid mechanics and unique character traits, is infinitely more accessible than your average roguelike experience. The occasional case of the randomly generated levels not quite fitting together combined with some relatively uninspiring boss battles keep this from true greatness, but despite these minor issues, Rogue Legacy arguably stands as one of the very finest gaming experiences currently available on the PS4.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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