Rogue Legacy 2 — The Prodigal Child returns again and again

Seven years on from the release of Rogue Legacy it has a sequel. As Rogue Legacy 2 launches into Early Access it’s time to find out if the developers can strike gold twice within a genre that they helped define.

I’ve been thinking about Rogue Legacy a lot recently, a little conversation about Spelunky got me reminiscing about how games like that and the first Rogue Legacy were forebearers for their game types. Nobody had actually made games which explored the concept of persistence in that way, or indeed, what would happen if Rogue met Mario. In the strange way that the Video Game Industry works, we’re getting sequels to both this year, starting with Rogue Legacy 2, which hits Early Access this year.

When it comes to sequels there are no set rules, games have flipped which faction you are, jumped millennia into the future, or just started out in an entirely fresh setting with entirely new mechanics. Rogue Legacy II keeps things close to home, deepening the formula of the first and adding in a couple of traversal twists, but otherwise keeping things very familiar.

For those who haven’t played the original, Rogue Legacy challenged you to journey through an expansive castle, defeat bosses, unlock abilities and lift a curse. The big thing, however, was that it was tough — too tough to complete in one run — and so you would inevitably die and be given a choice of characters from the next generation of your family to continue your attempts to lift the curse. You keep the gold you gain, and you can use it to upgrade your own keep (which permanently alters the world and upgrades your characters’ base stats) buy equipment, equip abilities and more, and then you head back into the castle again. Oh, and the castle’s layout has changed. Each character can be one of a variety of classes (once you’ve unlocked them) but they also had traits, like IBS or Giant, which affect how they control or interact with the world.

Rogue Legacy 2

As I said before, Rogue Legacy II builds on the first game. As a matter of fact, that entire last paragraph adequately explains the sequel as well as the first. That’s not to say there hasn’t been a lot of changes though.

In the Early Access build that I’ve been playing its clear that the developers are honing in on a more Metroidvania feel to the game. You’ll discover artefacts which give you extra abilities, and you’ll also have to complete puzzle-platformer style challenges in order to unlock them. Structurally the world is different too, partially due to these challenges, but also due to how the traversal works. In the first Rogue Legacy, you could do a downward stab which would allow you to, effectively, bounce from enemy to enemy. In the sequel, the downward slash is essential to how you move around, as a matter of fact, you’ll have to use it in every run, including pacifist runs.

It’s not just that though, the dash is back and integral to certain puzzles, and there are also things like wires which move you around areas quickly. There’s inevitably more of these to be found in the areas which will be added in as it continues through Steam Early Access.

Beyond this there’s, generally, more of everything and the classes have been further separated from each other in play style. Each class has it’s own weapon now, which gives room for an archery based class – which completely changes the run. New traits further widen the differences and their effects are hidden until you’ve used them for the first time, adding a little bit more risk-reward to things when paired with the Universal Healthcare unlock which means you’ll get a boon to your earnings based on the negative perks your character is straddled with.

To conclude, Rogue Legacy 2 manages to build on the successes of the first with some clever new ideas, but most importantly with more of what made the first fun. If you were a fan of the first then the only reason I can honestly think of for holding back on grabbing this is a possible aversion to Early Access.

Rogue Legacy 2 is available now on PC, via Steam Early Access.

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