There’s no doubting that the original Rogue Legacy was good, but it was also limited in scope. The game was created by a team of two brothers who had funded its development all by themselves. It may be a great story for aspiring indie developers to follow, but a lack of resources restricted how ambitious their creation could be. This is not the case with its sequel, Rogue Legacy 2.
Rogue Legacy 2 has been created under very different circumstances. This new rogue-lite game has been in development for four years with a team several times the size of the previous. Such a huge increase in resources and time has allowed the developer Cellar Door Games to produce a far more substantial game than it did back in 2013.
That’s not to say the developer is looking to reinvent the wheel though. At its core, Rogue Legacy 2 shares an awful lot in common with its predecessor. This is once again a 2D rogue-lite platformer with plenty of Metroidvania-inspired mechanics. The primary form of progression still revolves around exploring, fighting, and ultimately dying. The torch gets passed to your heirs, who get stronger after each generation. And both have the player take on dungeons with a big boss awaiting them at the end. Those familiar with the first game already know exactly what they’re getting into.
Choose your class
Even though the makeup of Rogue Legacy hasn’t changed, that doesn’t mean the sequel has nothing new to offer. That’s very far from the truth. The scaled-up development has enabled Cellar Door Games to improve just about every feature present in the original.
Take the new class system, for instance. In the first game, classes often blended into each other with the differences being largely superficial. Generally, just picking the class with the most health was the way to go.
However, in Rogue Legacy 2 your choice of class in each life can make a huge difference. Each class has a unique weapon, abilities, health, mana, and varying stats. Most classes play differently from one another and require practice to master. It adds a whole new dimension to each run as match-ups with enemies are much more complex than in the past.
Each fight will vary based on what class you pick. The Barbarian hits hard, but their Labrys ax locks you into an attack for an extended period. Misjudge the time you have and that difference could easily end a run. Similarly, the Mage’s passive saps mana, which makes it possible to spam magic abilities. This lets you stand back at a safe distance, but comes at the cost of reduced health. If an enemy does get close then you could be in serious trouble.
The downside to the new class system is that I feel as though traits are now a secondary feature. Traits were always an iconic part of Rogue Legacy, as they helped give the game more character. The trait system is still there, and some of them are impactful. But you are more likely to pick an heir based on their class now than any traits they have. Although, some traits do give extra gold, which makes them useful for grinding.
Every run is different
In the first game, the biomes had similar layouts throughout. They were mostly just reskinned and used the same procedurally generated environments. This, combined with the overlapping classes, meant that Rogue Legacy failed to offer much in terms of run diversity. It was true especially when compared to other great rogue-lite/roguelike games of the time like Spelunky and The Binding of Isaac.
This glaring weakness has been addressed in Rogue Legacy 2 with biomes now differing greatly from one another. Each biome has its own unique rooms and heirlooms to gather. The heirloom system is a big deal, as gathering them grants you a new ability. From double jumping to dashing in the air, these heirlooms open up a lot of new possibilities for boss fights and platforming segments.
Rogue Legacy 2 has a linear system where you have to work your way through each boss one by one to unlock the Throne Room Doors. Within each biome you can explore freely, but skipping to a later biome is pretty much impossible. At least not without getting destroyed by literally everything in sight. Plus, if you don’t have the necessary heirlooms, there will be some impossible rooms anyway.
Personally, I’m all for this more structured progression model as it aligns closer to what you’d see in most Metroidvania games. However, there’s a genuine argument to be made that it somewhat takes away from Rogue Legacy 2‘s rogue-lite qualities. How enjoyable this new system is may come down to personal taste. Some series veterans may be put off, but I reckon the majority of players will prefer it. It’s more cohesive, as goals are often set for you rather than the game leaving you to choose what to do next.
As hard as you want
Anyone who has played Rogue Legacy will know that it is a very difficult game. Unlike most rogue-lites, it actually gets harder as you progress. The upgrades obviously help, but they serve more to even the odds than they do make the game any easier. That’s fine for those looking for a challenge, but it resulted in Rogue Legacy feeling less approachable.
Improving how approachable the game feels has clearly been a focal point of Cellar Door Games, as Rogue Legacy 2 is a lot easier. Or, to be more precise, it can be a lot easier. The new house rules mechanic allows users to tweak values in-game to strengthen themselves or weaken enemies. This means that, for the first time, Rogue Legacy is playable for those with disabilities, older folk, or just players who don’t have the time to grind. If you happen to want even more of a challenge, it works both ways. You can crank up enemy health or make yourself get one-shot by everything. There’s an option there for everyone.
The hardest part of Rogue Legacy 2 is undoubtedly its bosses. The bosses in Rogue Legacy were mundane, but the epic battles in Rogue Legacy 2 are a huge improvement. You’ll need timing, platforming, dodging, and a whole lot of damage to get through them. I think this is where the heirlooms come into their own, as the abilities they provide allow for more complex fights. And as always it’s deeply satisfying when you finally beat a boss and get to move on to the next biome.
So many pixels
Rogue Legacy had a charming pixel art style that is common in indie games. It’s relatively easy and affordable to implement even with a tiny team as long as you’re willing to put the time in.
It looked good, but I’m happy that Cellar Door Games went for something new in Rogue Legacy 2. The developer opted for a cleaner, illustrated style for the sequel. In terms of quality, it reminds me of a similarly impressive indie game like BattleBlock Theater. It’s aesthetically different of course, but the production levels are comparable. I wouldn’t say Rogue Legacy 2 is the best-looking indie game out there, as Ori and the Will of the Wisps exists, but it has taken a huge leap in its visual presentation.
What a sequel should be
A recipe for a great sequel is simple: take what the predecessor does well, continue doing that, and improve the things that weren’t executed to the same level. That simple design philosophy is exactly what makes Rogue Legacy 2 so appealing. The heirs mechanic was smart and worked well, but the classes lacked diversity. So Cellar Door Games kept the heirs, but reworked each and every class. Everyone liked the presence of boss fights, but they weren’t different enough from one another. So naturally, Rogue Legacy 2 ups the boss variety by taking advantage of the new movement mechanics introduced through heirlooms.
Just about every so-so feature from the first game has been improved and now offers more than ever. For this alone, I can confidently say that Rogue Legacy 2 is a superb sequel that both newcomers and franchise fans alike will love.