The roguelike adventure genre is no stranger to the Nintendo Switch, with a new game in the series seemingly releasing every week. With the success of these titles, perhaps the most surprising part of Rogue Legacy getting ported over is that it took so long. It originally released back in 2013 on PC and was brought to the PS4 and Xbox One shortly thereafter. Despite its age, Rogue Legacy holds up remarkably well and is a fantastic fit for Nintendo’s hybrid.
You play as the descendants of the legendary Knight Johannes. Your goal is to explore the ever-changing castle and discover the secrets hidden away behind the golden doors at its entrance. Each time you perish, a new descendant with a set of unique traits shows up to challenge the castle. Traits can range from your character being color blind, to having O.C.D, to even them having vertigo, which will cause the entire game to be played upside down. Most of the traits are there to add an extra layer of challenge to playing with that character, however, some traits give you good benefits. ADHD increases your character’s movement speed and dwarfism makes your character small enough to crawl into small secret passageways.
Each time you die you will lose that character load out and the entire layout of the castle will change, making each run unique from the last. Progress isn’t measured by how far in the castle you explore, nor how many enemies you kill, but rather how much gold you collect. It’s a vital resource for overcoming the challenges of this castle. You have access to a skill tree in the form of your own castle, and the more money you invest in it the more you unlock. You can gain new character classes, upgrade base stats, and obtain better abilities that will make each character stronger than the last. You can also purchase new equipment and runes that unlock special abilities for your character. The only catch is that every time you go try the castle again death takes all of the money you have left over, so you must use all of it that you can or else it’ll be wasted.
As with any good roguelike, you can expect this to be a very difficult, although not impossible game. You will need to do a hefty amount of grinding to unlock the skill tree abilities, but in the end it will come down to your skills as a gamer. Stats can only take you so far in this game, and you’ll need to memorize enemy patterns and put your skills to the test if you hope to succeed. Health is vital in this game, and even getting hit once can screw up an entire run for you. Practice makes perfect, so expect to die a lot, but just try to keep improving your gameplay skills and you’ll hopefully continue to make it further into the game. Some may dislike immensely difficult games, but it works so well here. Each playthrough feels more fun and rewarding than the last, making you interested in playing through the castle over and over again. The mix between the challenging gameplay, growth of your skills, and grinding the skill tree all add to the immense replayability of this game.
At first glance, the story of the game would seem to be the bare basics, and you would be right. However, the more you explore the castle the more secrets you’ll uncover. Hidden randomly throughout some of the rooms are journals. These were left behind by some mysterious traveler who came to the castle for a cure for his father’s sickness. Over the course of the game, they will reveal some tricks and secrets about the castle, while also revealing more information about this mysterious traveler and his family. While the story seems so basic and unimportant on the surface, it soon becomes one of the most rewarding aspects of the game that pays off with the ending.
If you enjoy exploring in your games, then you’ll love this one. The castle is always changing its layout with each new character, keeping the exploration feeling fresh and exciting. The enemies are tough in this game, and the further into the castle you explore the harder they get. There are 4 main areas of the castle: the Castle itself, the Forest, the Maya, and the Darkness. Enemies and traps will become much more difficult in the new areas you discover, making the exploration that much more treacherous. The castle has many secret areas hidden throughout, all of which will greatly reward you for discovering them. Some will provide you powerful equipment, some will give you runes that add more abilities, and some will just reward you with a ton of gold. Needless to say, it pays to check every corridor and room to see what’s there.
The biggest disappointment with Rogue Legacy is its soundtrack. The music doesn’t leave a big impression and most of the tracks are very forgettable. Other small issues crop up as well. Sometimes if an enemy is close to a wall their attacks can clip through and hit you. While this would be a minor issue in normal games, this becomes a big problem in a game where every hit counts. That makes for a very unfair disadvantage for you, especially in areas where your movement is severely limited due to either traps or enclosed spaces. The grinding can also get a bit tedious towards the end of the game. Each time you purchase something from the skill tree, the cost of every other item goes up. That means that if your trying to earn a specific item but were short of its cost by a few coins, then you would either have to purchase something else and have the other items price go up ever higher, or just give all your gold to Death and try earning the money again. While grinding is fine early on, it’s definitely troublesome towards the end game.
Still, those criticisms don’t detract from the game too much. There’s plenty of fun to be had here and after all of these years it still remains one of my favorite roguelikes. The emphasis on exploration and the persistent skill tree level-ups make for a tough, but fair challenge that should appeal to those who are fans of the genre and also to old-school gamers who grew up with the tough-as-nails NES games. The portable nature of the Switch makes this one of the best versions of the game to purchase.
Rogue Legacy Review
- Graphics - 7/107/10
- Sound - 5/105/10
- Gameplay - 9/109/10
- Lasting Appeal - 9/109/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
Rogue Legacy is a roguelike that does everything so right for its genre. It has a unique premise, an interesting depth in its challenge, and immense replayability. It has some very minor flaws, but those pale in comparison to everything this game does right. It’s a wallet-friendly game with content worth double what you’ll pay for it.