Some might say the run-based genre of roguelikes and roguelites is getting a little over-saturated. I’d say those people were wrong, but right as I was about to say it, I was killed and had to start over again. Having died and been reborn hundreds of times attempting to prove them wrong, I’ll just say that we should leave the question open to discussion. Regardless, we should probably talk about Rogue Legacy 2, the latest in the genre and sequel to a much-beloved Metroidvania-platformer-hack-and-slasher from 2013.
The world’s in bad shape, beaten down by fanatical tyrants housed in a giant, ever-shifting castle. What’s a knight to do? Well, kick some tyrannical butt, of course! Okay, so let’s call the bravest and most powerful knights available…and, well, I guess that’s you. We’re done for. I mean, er, good luck! Surely if you can’t do it, your heirs will! Right?
What are you waiting for? There’s a castle to plunder! Get in there and start looting, bashing and boss-battling! Much like the first game, Rogue Legacy 2 really capitalizes on the best parts of both the platformer and run-based genres. It’s tough as nails, with merciless enemies and traps designed to kick you back to the character select screen, but with careful play and an observant eye you can improve and progress.
The big gimmick in these games, of course, is the genetics system that results in different traits assigned to each heir as you die and progress through the generations. A character might be huge, small, colorblind or more, and while any of these may or may not be helpful, the less beneficial options tend to at least come with a gold bonus. They’ve also got unique spells and abilities, as well as a class from a pool of unlockable options, that mixes up how they play.
Oh, right – this is a roguelite, of course, and (much to my chagrin after years of fruitlessly battling the term) that means we’ve got meta-progression. During each life, you’ll earn gold coins that can be spent to improve your own abode after you die. This unlocks new classes, stat improvements, facilities and more, allowing you to take your easily-killed newbie heroes and turn them into…slightly less easily-killed veteran heroes. You’ll still die a lot if you play poorly, don’t worry. Death will be unavoidable.
Those unlockable facilities, meanwhile, offer further improvements in the form of equippable options. Heavier gear tends to have more impressive results, of course, but you’ll also pay the price in terms of Resolve, a per-run currency that can be spent on power-boosting relics found in the castle.
Along with its obvious roguelite elements, Rogue Legacy 2 also owes a lot to Metroidvanias. As you progress through the castle, you’ll claim magical heirlooms, earning new abilities that carry over between lives. You’ve got a dash, a double jump and various enhancements to your starting ability set. As with most games of this sort, these provide both access to new areas and combat enhancements; it’s a lot easier to dodge stuff with a better dash or more jumping power, after all, and there’s also a real sense of improvement as you earn lasting rewards for improving at the game.
Rogue Legacy 2’s aesthetics amount to a refinement of the cartoon style we saw in the original game. Characters tend to be adorable rather than threatening, though there’s something to be said for many of the impressive bosses. Each area of the castle is also unique and interesting to explore, lending a sense of variety to the game. That’s great, but the real bonus to this style is that it doesn’t ask too much of your machine, so you’re bound to see pretty good performance regardless of what platform you’re playing on.
It’s a tough adventure that asks a lot of patience from players, but Rogue Legacy 2 is charming and captivating enough to keep even the most wobbly knights battling through the castle. You might die – you will die, in fact – but with each death you’ll unlock a little more and get a little better. That ever-present sense of improvement makes this one a worthy sequel to the 2013 original game and a must-play for any fans of any of its myriad genres.