Back when the original Rogue Legacy was released, indie games were already an established sub-industry of sorts within videogames. Half a decade before, critical and financial successes like Braid and Limbo had helped pave the way and show the public that having a huge budget or even a publisher weren’t requirements for a game to hit it big. They just had to be good.
Cellar Door Games’ first stab at roguelites wasn’t just good – it was amazing. So much so that it took brothers Teddy and Kenny Lee nearly a decade to come up with a sequel. The incredibly creative formula that Rogue Legacy of having you play as generation upon generation of heroes who continuously build upon the family core strengths all the while playing up new quirks of their own helped give it undeniable charm and personality that really set it apart from other games in its genre.
After spending two years in early access, Rogue Legacy 2 officially reached version 1.0 in April, and now it finally makes its way to the Switch. To all accounts, it’s a superior game to the original, even though it’s not necessarily THAT different from what came before it. And in all honesty, it really didn’t need to change anything at all. But it does, in some very smart ways.
What Rogue Legacy 2 does so ridiculously well is very smartly adding subtle extra layers of depth while preserving what was done masterfully in the first place in the original Rogue Legacy. It’s a game that keeps on giving each time you dive into it, regardless of how long a run might take you. Failure isn’t something to be dreaded nor is it a tool to hammer in any mechanics that would otherwise depend on trial and error.
Instead, by failing, you’re merely providing your future attempts with more chances to be “the one”, either by buying more permanent equipment upgrades and building facilities into your lair that provide stat bonuses for future generations. And by exploring the randomly generated levels, you’re also unlocking gameplay features such as the double jump and air dash, to name a couple, that are also permanent going into new characters and runs.
But my favorite new inclusion in Rogue Legacy 2 is by far its overall progression structure. The main objective in the game is defeating six estuaries, who guard each of the six biomes within the platforming maze of Rogue Legacy 2 in order to open a set of golden doors and challenge the final boss. Unlike the first game, though, which had you tackle bosses in any order you wanted, there’s a built-in challenge marker within 2, letting you know just what you’re getting into before actually diving in.
And while you’re certainly welcome to try and get supposedly harder areas early, you’re often barred by the fact that you need specific items and permanent skill upgrades from previous areas. This might sound like a negative, but it isn’t – once you kill an estuary, you don’t necessarily have to do so again in later runs, unless you want to grind resources.
That means that once you have all six of them down, you’re more free to jump straight into the end game from the very get go of a new generation. Some might find themselves turned off by that seemingly artificial gate when it comes to needing specific skills before reaching later areas, it’s the way Rogue Legacy 2 has to ease you into learning and naturally getting good at the game before moving into bigger and badder challenges.
Another element of the game that can get into people’s nerves at least initially is the way new perks are added into Rogue Legacy 2’s rotation. At the outset, once you first run into a new perk, you don’t know what effect it’ll have on you, whether it’s good or bad, until you pick the darn thing up. Potentially, if it’s a more of a gamble-oriented one, giving you a disadvantage in favor of buffing a specific part of gameplay, it can ruin a particularly good run.
Then again, once you run into a perk, it’s unlocked for good into the extensive randomly delivered deck of possibilities of each run. And the more you play, the less you’ll end up getting surprised by. That doesn’t prevent you from running into annoying and frustrating situations along the way, but given the structure of Rogue Legacy 2, even if you do, it’s incredibly quick to start a new run over anyway.
Rogue Legacy 2 also adds a wealth of new character classes. By far my favorite, the cook is a (pun intended) beefy addition, armed by a frying pan that can deflect enemy projectiles and can cook a meal that provides a heal and refill of mana to boot. The pirate, which comes way later down the upgrade tree, is also fantastic mainly because it’s a well-rounded melee and ranged class that is a jack-of-all-trades and can be quite deadly in the hands of a much more skilled player than mine.
Having the chance to play, for instance, a rainbow-colored peace sign carrying colorblind barbarian with the added perchance of having uncontrollable farts is an experience of its own that only Rogue Legacy 2 is able to provide. Yeah, runs such as that are bound to be short, and are as expected, positively hilarious. On the flipside, it’s possible to tackle it much more seriously, regardless of the legacy you start with, amping up your challenge by messing around with the House Rules and really making it difficult, too. Or go with the very opposite. You’re bound to find your sweet spot eventually.
The Switch version of Rogue Legacy 2 comes bundled with the Fabled Heroes update that was introduced to the game a while after retail release. It boils down to a healthy number of extra options when it comes to easing or making your time even harder, as well as often requested features like skill tree reroll. There’s also a number of balance changes to every one of the classes within the game, along with new weapons, enemies, and even what the devs have come to call a complete rehaul of the engine. Impressive to say the least.
Having the opportunity to finally play Rogue Legacy 2 has certainly been amazing and given its legs, it’s likely I’ll be merrily playing it ways into 2023. Cell Door Games has brought the series ever closer to perfection with this entry. Some might roll their eyes over the previous statement due to a few nags when it comes to its initial moments, sure, but those are merely temporary, really.
Rogue Legacy 2 is a thoroughly recommended pick-up for just about anyone, and now that it’s on the Switch, that’s even more the case since it becomes a portable “just one more run affair” alongside other modern classics like Hades and Loop Hero. You should waste no time in adding this game to your game library, it’s well worth it!